How Do Working Artists Live?

Waitress, by Gregory Perez (Flickr)

Waitress, by Gregory Perez (Flickr)

A few days ago, Hyperallergic put out an article, “How Do Working Artists Live?” to announce a new book by Sharon Luden, Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists. I just ordered a copy for myself. This is a question that I have always wondered — how do other artists make money to pay the bills and also find time for a serious art practice? And what about other aspects of life? Like say, having a family? How is that balanced with everything else?

I, personally, have a 9-5 job that gives me full healthcare and other benefits and a steady and fair income. I find the work that I do to be rewarding and meaningful. I have a graduate degree in social work and could not imagine working somewhere for that many hours a week if I found the work to be pointless or simply a means to an end.  I have thought about perhaps freelancing as a teaching artist or a writer, but I would worry too much about benefits and the steadiness of income. Plus, I  am not tenacious enough to to keep after new gigs. Everyone is different, however, and some people are completely uncomfortable with the idea of being bound to a 9-5 job.

Zagat’s article House Secrets: 9 Artists, Writers & Actors in the Biz profiles creatives and gets their take on the benefits of working in bars and restaurants. It provides some interesting perspectives on how these artists work and live. I grew up in the restaurant industry and an old roommate of mine served tables. Between his terribly worn out feet and my unpleasant memories of serving food to people for most of my pre-teen and teen years, this is not a path I would like to go down. But it works well for some.

How do you work and live?


On a related note, there’s an upcoming event called Building a New Art World: Rethinking Conventional Practices. It will take place on 12/14/13 at the International Center of Photography in NYC. However, according to the website, there is an option to watch the event via the Internet. Here’s a little more of what they have to say about the event:

“We are concerned for the viability of artistic practice in today’s unsympathetic environments—emotionally and economically. It is time to take action. It is time to examine cultural production from the perspective of the artist in order to multiply what is working and radically rethink what is not. It is time to shape an artworld we want—an artworld that fosters empowerment and honesty to create truly rich and sustainable creative practices.”

We hold a similar vision here at Artist Stories. How do you work and live? We are seeking written or video submissions for our upcoming online library, a social justice project, and would love to hear from you.

One response to “How Do Working Artists Live?

  1. Pingback: ICP-Bard Symposium – Building a New Art World: Rethinking Conventional Practices | Artist Stories·

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