What is a living wage for an artist?

I've been having conversations lately about compensation, support for the arts, the value of the arts, and other such subjects. For me it's really helpful to think about how to put real numbers onto what we do. So I've started asking people what it would mean to make a "living wage" as an artist.

Obviously this is dependent on how old you are, whether you're single or have a family, where you live and other variables.

But I'd be so curious to know what that phrase means to you - please write me (aaron@thinaar.com), or leave a comment here to let me know what you think.

Remember - this does not have to be income entirely derived from art-making or art-doing. But what would it cost you, as an artist, to live decently where you live.


Anonymous said...

Considering that my life insurance, 401K, and health insurance would all have to be paid by me, it would be very high. I would be in the high-risk pool for health insurance and would certainly have higher medical bills, because I could not get the amazing insurance I get now. In addition, I cannot get life insurance on myself outside of the group pool at my work because of health issues. I certainly dream of working on my music and theater full-time. I practically do that now in addition to my f/t job. But my art pays me just a few grand a year. I would need at least 50,000 to get what I would need to keep my home and replace benefits from my job. Seems impossible.


I'm a theatre artist based in Dallas and right now I have a bunch of help. I moved out of my apartment last year and am living in a spare room at a relative's home in the suburbs. I've used this situation to travel with my shows to festivals all over the place this past year, which i don't think would have been possible if I were paying for rent, (full) utilities and such. Dallas has a relatively low cost of living (compared to NYC, Chicago, LA, etc.) so I can "make a living" without too high a number in mind. In fact, the actual number would be around $20,000 a year. I'm single at the moment, which will change in 2012 (I just got engaged!). I could live and create on 20K, though that's the severe base line. I'd build in another 5K for emergency, travel, etc. to be safe. This would, by no means, be STRIVING, only SURVIVING. I presently make below 20K, but 90% of my income is theatre-related. I used to live in NYC and even doubling 25K to $50,000 seems like a low number if I were answering the same question there. Anyway, nice to be part of the discusion.