Report: City’s arts and culture sector is strong

BY GABE HERMAN | Manhattan has for years been getting harder for many artists to live in because of rising prices, as this paper has often covered. But a new report says that the overall arts and cultural sector — both in the city and in Manhattan — is doing well, with good employment numbers and wages.

After a request from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the city’s Independent Budget Office released a study this summer showing that from 2014 to 2017, the city’s arts and cultural sector saw employment increases of 2.7 percent, a bit above the overall city average of 2.3 percent. The study included independent artists, but also others, like theaters, theater and dance companies, performing arts and museums.

The Bowery Mural Wall continues to feature a rotating selection of art. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

The study found that annual wage growth was also better within arts and cultural groups, at 5.9 percent, versus the city as a whole, at 4.4 percent.

The Big Apple had about 3,900 arts and cultural organizations in 2017 and more than 44,000 employees. With total wages of $3.3 billion in the city’s arts and culture sector, the average artist / employee was thus paid $75,183, according to the report, indicating that more than just starving artists were included in the survey.

The highest portion of jobs within the sector were in the “Theater Companies and Dinner Theaters” category, which had 26.5 percent of the city’s arts and culture jobs. That was followed by museum jobs, with 22.2 percent of the sector’s employees, and arts promoters with facilities, at 14.8 percent of the jobs. Independent artists, writers and performers were the next biggest group, making up 8 percent of the sector’s jobs.

Manhattan is the center of the city’s arts and cultural scene, at least based on the jobs data. The borough had 80.7 percent of the jobs, and 87.7 percent of the sector’s wages.

The sculpture “Brick House,” by artist Simone Leigh, on the High Line’s newly opened Spur. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

After the report was released, Brewer said of the findings, “Manhattan continues to prove to be a hub of artistic and cultural life, and I am happy to share this good news about the sector’s growing employment and wage levels.

“The fact that the arts and cultural sector is growing faster than the citywide average,” Brewer added, “highlights the importance of arts and cultural organizations in our city, not only as a means of entertainment and enrichment, but also as a vital element of our ever-changing economy.

“I have always fought for the arts’ place in our city,” she said, “and I hope this data serves to raise more awareness for the role that the arts and cultural sector plays in both our economy and society at large.”

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