Artists, They Aren’t Making The Community Any Worse

Title of the post today is intentionally leveraging a statement in a study conducted by Jennifer Novak-Leonard and Rachel Skaggs for the National Endowment for the Arts of public perception of the arts during Covid. It was the topic of an interview/post with Sunil Iyengar who heads up research and analysis at the NEA.

The full quote is:

Nearly two out of three respondents shared the opinion that, quote, “Artists who work or live in their area make it better to live,” and roughly one third affirmed that it doesn’t necessarily make communities better, but artists certainly don’t make them worse.

The encouraging takeaway is that people have a positive view of the artists across all demographics:

In 2022, however, over half of adults expressed the perception that artists uniquely contribute to U.S. communities healing and recovery from the pandemic. Fifty three percent in open-ended responses offered specific ways that artists promote that healing and recovery. I will say, Jo, that one of the surprises of the study to me is that it found virtually zero differences in social or demographic characteristics as playing a factor in the likelihood of respondents to identify positively with artists.

As the authors say, quote, “Most adults in the United States across its many socio demographic groups and perceptions of artists, roles, and communities view artists as being able to contribute to the healing and recovery of communities directly and positively from the pandemic.”

Another interesting takeaway from the research is that people are equally likely to view artists as hobbyists (30%) as they are to perceive them as wage earners (27%). I may have to seek the report out to discover what the perceptions of the other 43% are. Perhaps a combination of some hybrid perception and/or not having any opinion on the matter.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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