The creative economy and the growing “arts worker” movement

Posted on: January 13, 2021

“A life in the arts … constitutes honest-to-goodness work. And yet planting this truism in America’s consciousness has proved such a thorny challenge that a whole new labor movement has been spawned,” writes Peter Marks in Friday’s (1/8) Washington Post. “Built on the concept of the ‘arts worker’—an immense labor category representing 8.8 million Americans … this movement asserts that the arts are as foundational as farming or manufacturing. And its focus is not so much public relations as it is survival… There is political power still to be tapped in this sector … dramatized in December. Included in the $900 billion stimulus bill signed into law was an unprecedented $15 billion aid package [‘Save Our Stages’] for live entertainment venues threatened with extinction by the nearly year-long shutdown…. The new artist activism … started with the notion of painters and parking valets, concert violinists and concessionaires all contributing as arts workers—and making up about 4 percent of the nation’s employment…. ‘Just by adding the word “worker” to a regular rank-and-file artist, we hope that that gives artists more of a sense … that the art they create is worthy of a living wage,’ says actor Carson Elrod.”