Lean times for artists; what will it be like when the economy recovers?

No one goes into art expecting a huge payday. But in the worst recession in two-plus decades, many diversions have morphed into “non essential” spending. Art among them.

Claire Thoen, a St. Paul artist who’s part of our Public Insight Network, recently offered a vantage point on what she’s seeing.

Looking at what she sold at a recent art fair compared to what she sold at the same fair last year, she wrote:

Last year I sold two large prints and one original. This year, all sales, except for two small prints, were in cards. So I can see that people are being very careful with their money…. people are still spending money but each purchase is smaller.

An issue for artists is whether or not we can make more money at the show than the show costs us. Last December when the Great Recession was really taking hold of the collective imagination, I participated in Skandia at the Landmark. The entrance fee for attendees was $5 for adults $3 for children so a family of 4 would have to pay $16 just to get in the door. The attendance was sparse, to put it kindly.

I imagine many artists must be, like I am, trying to figure out whether or not to sign up for this art fair or that one . . . It would be – as of “the quality of mercy – not strained but [as of] a gentle rain from heaven” if the organizers of art fairs showed that they were attuned to the current climate but none have indicated that they will be reducing fees.

Back at the start of the year a few dozen of our network sources in theater and other arts shared their thoughts about where things were headed with arts and this economy. It was a mixed bag with most saying it would be rough but ultimately this was a great place to be an artist and the public would return.

To me, the unanswered question is whether the recession will change the economics of art here permanently. When the economy recovers, does the demand return to pre-recession levels? Will art fairs, theaters and other venues need to cut prices and offer incentives to win people back? What happens if they don’t?

Share some thoughts below or tell us a story about what the economy’s like around you these days.

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