Soup lines, like those at the Church of Holy Apostles in New York City, have seen a surge in queues as those suffering from economic hardship come to the realization that being picky at the grocery store just isn’t enough to afford a daily meal anymore.

Depending on what soup or bread line you find yourself waiting in, you may be standing next to brilliance as a growing number of artists find themselves beaten down by the economic downturn.


In the art community, financial issues are as common as the canvas they paint on. Although there are artists who manage to support themselves solely on the sale of their work, the vast majority supplements their incomes through temp work, or working in fields such as graphic design or teaching.

But at a time when 1 in 10 Americans find themselves out of a job, it’s becoming increasingly harder for an artist just to get by on odd jobs – let alone their craft. What’s more, in cities like New York where you would expect artists to still receive some nominal level of support, the good will of area cultural organizations are no match for a poor economy.


New York City’s cultural organizations have suffered from cutbacks in funding from local government and private corporations and foundations. In addition, working artists find themselves without representation as agencies tighten belts.

As a result, there’s growing pessimism among members of the art community.

Jackie Battenfield, a visual artist and professor of professional development classes at Columbia University told the Gotham Gazette that she predicts that the high cost of living in New York and waning job opportunities will result in a decrease in the number of young art school graduates moving to the city.

Though that remains to be seen, the fact that such a prediction is floating around speaks volumes.

I can personally remember being in school and seeing the first programs to be cut all rooted in fine arts. I’ve seen several talented artists defer their dreams of living for their art after being faced with the harsh realities of the real world.


The effects of the economy have undoubtedly trickled down to the art community, but how will it affect each of us? The less art we see the more we suffer culturally. Don’t we all need a little innovation and creativity in our lives?

Leave your comments below. And if you’re an artist yourself, I’d love to hear from you.


Email me at

Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.

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