Creative Capital Artists Look Back: Program Evaluation and Report

Creative Capital Artists Look BackIn the summer of 2015, Creative Capital, in conjunction with Ann Markusen (Markusen Economic Research) and Anne Gadwa Nicodemus (Metris Arts Consulting), launched a survey of artists who received awards from 2000 to 2013 to explore the impact of its support on the artists’ creative work and professional success. The following is an Executive Summary of the survey results, written by Ms. Markuson and Ms. Nicodemus; a full PDF of the survey report is also available for download.
Creative Capital awardees overwhelmingly report that receiving the award and access to services have increased their overall visibility and their relative position within their artistic fields. Artists who received awards in earlier years were more likely to report highly significant visibility gains (63%) compared with those in the last three award rounds (41%), suggesting that award benefits may be cumulative over time. Lower rates for recent award years may also reflect the impact of the Great Recession (2008-2012) that fell particularly hard on artists.

The vast majority (79%) of artist respondents have increased their annual incomes since their awards, some substantially, from both arts and non-arts activities. A majority (57%) have increased their financial patronage of the arts, albeit mostly modestly, by contributing more generously to arts nonprofits, purchasing art, and patronizing performances and screenings. However, the majority report persistent challenges in initiating or enhancing retirement savings—only 28% have succeeded in doing so. On balance respondents have modestly increased time committed to payroll jobs—some have sought and achieved teaching positions in higher education. Of the 37% of respondents for whom this has been a goal, 44% have earned teaching positions since their award. Of these, 45% affirm that the award was important to this outcome.
When asked to share how much revenue they had raised in total through their arts projects and practices since the Creative Capital award, respondents report an average of $257,000—collectively, $29.3 million. These revenue streams include grants, fellowships, donations, sales, royalties, performances, commissions and art-related wages. Assuming these responses are representative of the whole group of awardees, the total additional revenue raised by all Creative Capital awardees is on the order of $94.5 million. Since many of these artists will continue to raise funds to support themselves, their families and the creation of their artworks, the returns to Creative Capital investments in these artists will continue to accrue into the future.
When asked to evaluate Creative Capital’s services, responding artists gave the Artist Retreats offered by Creative Capital their highest rankings. A community-building effort, the Artist Retreats bring together new awardees, some who are in their second and third years, as well as alumni, professionals, and Creative Capital staff who provide services and act as ongoing consultants. Awardees present their projects to the larger group and participate in an array of workshops introducing career-supporting services. Responding artists praised the Artist Retreats as opening up many serendipitous avenues of connections, information flow and support that have had powerful impacts on their career development.
Awardees value highly the connections they have made through their Creative Capital experiences. When asked if they have made person-to-person career-enhancing connections through Creative Capital, 85% responded “yes.” More than half of respondents have collaborated with other awardees. Emerging Fields artists were more likely than others to frequently collaborate, while performing artists were most likely to collaborate occasionally. The arts professionals who Creative Capital makes available to awardees as part of its suite of services have made significant contributions to the careers of 28% of respondents and modest contributions to another 57%.
Heightened visibility and field stature often result from access to new forums, presenting work in new formats and reaching new audiences. Since their awards, 50% of respondents have presented in new venues/formats often, and another 45% occasionally. Most responding artists have reached new audiences: 42% often, and another 50% occasionally.
A solid majority of artist respondents (61%) affirm that gaining representation and/or management has been a goal of theirs. Creative Capital offers artists coaching to help find galleries, agents and managers who will further their careers. Some 40% have succeeded in gaining representation since their Creative Capital award.
Creative Capital convenings encourage artists to expand the character and impact of their work by aligning it with efforts in non-arts fields such as science, social work, health care or criminal justice. Some 49% of responding artists report that they have pursued this goal, and of these, 85% have been successful. Artists in Emerging Fields were most likely to seek such alignments.
Creative Capital awardees also participate in their fields by serving on grantmaking panels, participating in relevant conferences and supporting nonprofit organizations. Of artists responding, 73% report increasing such involvement, with performing artists more likely to do so than those in other disciplines.
Artists report that their awards have enabled them to alter their distribution of work and personal time. About half of respondents have increased the shares of time they devote to creative practice and career maintenance, the latter including grantwriting, negotiating contracts and other arts administrative tasks. Some 43% are spending more time building audiences, including marketing, branding and social media efforts. Overall, these variations reflect the freedom and tools afforded to artists by their Creative Capital awards to shift time towards what matters most to them for career building and quality of life.
Creative Capital’s investments in artists have important payoffs beyond those reported by individual awardees. Many respondents reported sharing what they’ve learned with other artists, institutions, colleagues, family and friends, producing a leavening effect on the art worlds in which they participate.
Creative Capital is an ambitious and successful experiment. The awards offer financial support to pursue creative work as well as opportunities to learn from colleagues and collaborate with artists and others in non-arts fields. The Retreats help them develop career-planning strategies bolstered by an array of services and professional staff available to them over the period of their awards. The findings of the survey offer insights for other nonprofit and public sector artist support initiatives. They may also inspire artists everywhere to pursue their dreams and to find partners, audiences and patrons for their work.
Download the full survey report

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