Why We Do What We Do

From Artnet News:

The National Endowment for the Arts has just issued Women Artists: 1990-2005 (the full text is downloadable here), a 17-page study about the status of women in the arts. The title of the report is mildly deceptive, in that Women Artists really tracks the challenges faced by women across all the creative professions — including, among other things, “actors,” “writers and authors” and “announcers.” Also unfortunately, “visual artists” are inexplicably lumped together in the survey into a single category with “art directors” and “animators.” However, the report does make some valuable points:

* The category of “art director, visual artist or animator” is the closest of all the creative professions to achieving gender parity — it is 47.4 percent female. For the curious, the field with the lowest concentration of women was “architect,” with only 22.2 percent. By far the highest concentration of women was to be found among “dancers and choreographers,” at 75.9 percent.

* The median annual earnings for women listed as “art directors, fine artists and animators” is $29,000. Median earnings are $36,000 for men in the same fields. Thus, on average, women in the visual arts earn 81 cents to a man’s dollar.

* Despite being equally represented in the field, female “art directors, fine artists and animators” are far more likely to have only part-time employment. According to the NEA’s findings, close to 40 percent of women are part-timers, as opposed to just about 20 percent of men.

* Women Artists reports that earning discrepancies increase for older women — quite substantially so. “In 2003-2005, women artists aged 18 to 24 earned $0.95 for every $1 made by young men artists. This ratio fell to $0.78 for artists aged 35 to 44, and to $0.67 for 45-to-54-year-olds. Women artists aged 55 to 64 earned only $0.60 for every dollar earned by men artists in that age group.”

* The median age of women working in the “art director, visual artist or animator” category is 46 — five years older than the median age for men, which is 41. Strangely, the trend among architects is the opposite: The median age for women is 38, six years younger than the median age of 44 for men. (A guess would be that this is due to the relatively recent inroads females have made into architecture, having increased their representation by nearly seven percent in the brief time span covered by Women Artists.)

* The percentage of what women artists earn relative to men varies regionally. In the report’s words, relative to what men make, “female artist earnings were highest in New York and New Hampshire (85 percent in both states), followed closely by Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, where the ratio was 84 percent.”

* And yet, perhaps the quirkiest generalization from Women Artists is the following: “women artists tend to concentrate in low-population states.” As percentages of the total, the number of women artists is highest in Nebraska, where it approaches 60 percent, followed by similar high concentrations in Iowa, Alaska, New Hampshire and Mississippi. The percentage of woman in the creative labor pool is lowest in California (42.6 percent), Michigan (42.9), New Jersey (42.9), Florida (43.3), Texas (44.2) and New York (45.8).


About Women and Their Work Gallery

Known for its pioneering spirit, embrace of artistic innovation, and commitment to Texas audiences and artists, Women & Their Work Art Space is a one of a kind statewide non-profit organization. Voted “Best Gallery” numerous times in the Austin Chronicle Readers Poll, Women & Their Work Gallery showcases exhibitions of contemporary art throughout the year and presents performances, readings, film screenings and educational outreach programs.
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3 Responses to Why We Do What We Do

  1. b.s. says:

    If this is justification for y’alls mission statement, then you’re going out of business.

    That’s pretty disingenuous to say women earn 81 cents on the dollar vs. a man artist, then say in the next breath that there are 20% more part-time women in the profession. Seems like parity may be near, but I’m sure there’s more reasons to keep doing things.

  2. The N.E.A. study isn’t a justification for Women & Their Work’s mission statement–that mission was conceived thirty years ago.
    But the report does reflect how unequal representation/earnings for female artists remains an ongoing problem.

    There has definitely been progress over the past thirty years, and I can understand how easy it might be to think women artists have won all their battles. But as reports like the N.E.A. study and Eleanor Dickinson’s gender statistics show, women artists still simply don’t get the visibility and money that their male counterparts receive.

    It’s a complex problem with no easy answers. Women & Their Work remains committed to addressing this issue by providing a forum to promote superlative contemporary art made by women. Stop by the next opening to see what we mean! Leslee Fraser’s sculpture show No Sure Footing opens Thursday, January 15, 2009.

  3. Pingback: Why they do it. | Glasstire

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