Explore the Results of our Creative Business Survey
“What conditions do creatives need to be successful in Charlotte?”
Everything Charlotte Is Creative (publisher of The Biscuit) has done over the past seven years has been about exploring that question.
- What obstacles must Queen City creatives contend with?
- What does Charlotte’s creative community have going for it? How can we amplify that?
- What resources are readily available, and which are lacking? How can we remedy that?
- What makes the difference between success and failure (and happiness and dissatisfaction) for local creatives?
- How can Charlotte lead the way?
- How can we address the challenges we face?
Ultimately, for creatives to not just survive, but thrive — to start, build, sustain and grow a full-time creative career — what conditions need to exist in the Queen City? Of course, that led us to more questions. So we started asking other creatives.
MAIN PHOTO CREDIT: Dionna Bright
WE STARTED WITH A CONVERSATION AMONG CREATIVE FRIENDS
How to build a creative career is a topic we explore almost every time we engage in conversation with an arts and culture group or with independent creatives. But, to dig into the topic deeper, with the help of Hue House and others, we pulled together an informal, 3-hour Zoom session of 40+ representatives of small local arts organizations and independent creatives in April 2021. The session was conducted by the team at EY wavespace.
To end the session, the group established five guiding principles to inform what is needed for local creatives to start, build and expand their careers in the Queen City:
- ONE: Increase access to affordable community spaces that nurture and showcase creativity
- TWO: Embrace input, influence, and organization from the broader creative community
- THREE: Create and leverage resources and incentives that support the creative community in scaling their businesses/offerings
- FOUR: Establish and grow equal and equitable opportunities that support a highly diverse community
- FIVE: Create and champion mentorship and business training for creatives
These principles resonated with us. This was incredible qualitative information that squared up with our experiences Charlotte. Stories, anecdotes and opinions are good … but, when it comes to driving real change and securing the understanding and support of community leaders, they’re even better when paired with quantitative statistics and data.
We had work to do.
HERE’S WHERE UNC CHARLOTTE’S URBAN INSTITUTE COMES IN
The EY session led us to continue our research with the team from UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute – beginning with an online survey available to all creatives in Charlotte in the fall of 2021. With financial support from Reemprise Fund and the Arts & Science Council, we asked creatives of all experience levels, backgrounds, creative disciplines and sizes to tell us about what it’s like for them to be engaged as a full-time or part-time creative in Charlotte.
We collected more than 800 submissions; 643 met the eligibility criteria. Some of the information confirmed and quantified what we already knew. Some of it was brand new. Some of it was encouraging. Some was not. All of it tells us that Charlotte’s creative community has a lot going for it, but we have work ahead of us.
The report goes into great detail, but here are a few key takeaways:
- Nearly half of the respondents had a personal income under $40K.
- Most (85%) survey respondents had health insurance, but 72% stated that their employer’s insurance benefit is an important factor or the main reason they stay in their “day job,” perhaps keeping them from engaging full-time in their creative business.
- Most (61%) respondents indicated that 50% or less of their income comes from their artistic or creative work.
- Within respondents, there was no significant correlation between years of experience in the creative community and financial stability.
- Most respondents (56%) were satisfied or extremely satisfied working as an artist or creative in Charlotte. 44% were indifferent, somewhat dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied.
- The main difference between being satisfied or dissatisfied working as an artist or creative in Charlotte is connection. Respondents who were “extremely satisfied” with their creative career often credited the support of their local creative networks as a source of their satisfaction.
And, when asked, “What conditions would improve your ability to make a living as an artist or creative worker?” the top answers were:
- Affordable workspace (60%)
- Affordable health insurance (51%)
- Benefits other than health insurance – e.g. retirement, unemployment, sick time (46%)
- More business training opportunities (38%)
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? WE TALK.
Both the EY document and the UNC Charlotte survey give us a great deal to think about and act upon. But, they aren’t “magic bullets.” They offer data and direction, but not solutions. They are moments in a longer conversation. The hard part is ahead, not behind.
We hope that both reports will be a baseline we can build on. And, the data is yours as much as it is ours. Read it. Think on it. Use it. Challenge it. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to speak more about it. We’ll be organizing follow-up conversations over the next year. If you’d like to be involved, let us know.
The City of Charlotte is also in the midst of developing a long-term, comprehensive arts and culture plan. To build the plan, they are organizing a number of community conversations. While this effort is not ours to direct, it is a critical part of realizing Charlotte’s amazing creative potential. We want this plan to be as robust, expansive and encompassing as it can be. That will only happen if they hear from you and all the creatives you know. Learn more and sign up here.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. We may have miles to go before we sleep, but it’s a journey well worth taking.
All good things,
Matt Olin & Tim Miner
Charlotte Is Creative
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