According to a study by economist Karol Jan Borowiecki, entitled “The Origins of Creativity: The Case of the Arts in the United States since 1850,” the higher your family income growing up, the more likely it is that you’ll become an artist. To be exact, for every extra $10,000 in total family income, a person is about 2% more likely to go into a creative occupation, especially when factoring in the possibility of access to financial support from your family.
It might seem like it’s obvious or self-explanatory that if you have support, it feels safer to take a risk. (As a side-note, it’s sad that we as a society seem to have all decided that being an artist—be it visual art, written, musical, or performance—is inherently a risk.) Having a safety net can seem appealing, but as CHF Executive Director Elizabeth Hulings has pointed out, it can also be dangerous. Since most of us don’t have generational wealth to fall back on to support us, how do we even out the playing field?
Find a way to build a structure for yourself. You can’t control if your art is bought, or if the piece you’re working on now will be the one that can get you that residency. But you can control your goals and what you’re doing to make them happen. Set clear targets for how many hours each week you promise to be in your studio working, and how many are set aside for entrepreneurial development, such as developing your professional networks, financial planning, and honing your sales strategy. You can create something more dynamic for yourself than just a traditional safety net: an agile and resilient business. Don’t let the presence or absence of family money center your problems (and your attention). Let art be the center.