Arts and the Workforce

An area of focus for the American Academy’s Commission on the Arts

The Commission on the Arts, convened by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, prioritized recognizing the value of artists and supporting the creative workforce. The artists, scholars, activists, and leaders serving on the Commission shared a conviction that there should be an emphasis on understanding and supporting the infrastructure necessary for artists to create and make a living.

The Commission on the Arts issued a report offering recommendations that acknowledge and support the important place of artists as part of the American workforce, and propose to support creative workers.

“This report calls on governments at the national, state, and local level, as well as leaders in philanthropy and the arts itself, to recognize the essential nature of artists’ work in creating a vibrant and innovative democracy.” — David W. Oxtoby, President of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Art Is Work: Policies to Support Creative Workers is the Commission’s answer to the question “How can we better recognize the value of artists in our national policy in order to enable the essential work they do?”

Principles for Policies to Support Creative Workers
Name and include artists in federal policy.
Artists need representation at a federal level, preferably at the executive level, and they need to be explicitly named as a category in legislation and policy. That is the only way to ensure that new federal policies aimed at building our workforce, supporting the economy, and strengthening society will include artists as vital members of the workforce, builders of the economy, and maintainers of community.
Recognize how creative work happens.
Many work-related policies and safety nets are written for a long-lasting single employment relationship that is no longer standard for the general workforce and was never standard for artists. Artists need policy that recognizes as standard independent contract work, multiple employers, entrepreneurship, and inconsistent income—and supports workers accordingly.
Center equity. 
The value of artists to America will never be realized without the full participation of Black, Indigenous, and other artists of color. Yet they have been under­resourced and underrecognized. Women artists, artists with disabilities, and rural artists have likewise often been underrecognized. Artists need anti-racist policies that equitably fund, train, and support them.
Think locally, share nationally. 
Much of artists’ vital work is locally rooted and supported. Policy and funding solutions must recognize this. Funding mechanisms at the national level need to be shaped in a way that supports and amplifies local mechanisms and programs. However, increased national-level sharing of successes and supports is clearly also needed.
The Commission on the Arts is focused on arts education and support for the arts and artists.