The Artist Pie Chart

With tax day fast approaching, I thought I’d share a peek with you at last year’s income pie chart.

I’m not sharing bottom-line nitty-gritty dollar-sign numbers, but I did want to reveal the array of income streams that I engaged in last year, the percentages each pulled in 2023, and set a few goals for this year and the years ahead.

poster/flyer for an event with the Women's Caucus for Art. three art works are included on the flyer, featuring work from left to right by the following artists: Zehra Dogan, Jay DeFeo, Lottie Reiniger; two abstract artworks and a silhouetts of a girl wearing a dress looking into the air at two falling leaves, are presented side by side on a turquoise background in the top three-quarters of the flyer beneath the event title: Women in the Visual Arts, and the bottom quarter of the flyer includes the event date and time of 2-4 pm on Sunday, April 21, 2024 at Main Street Studio in Fitchburg, MA on a black background. presenters of the three artists, from left to right, are listed at Cicek Beeby, Alana Garrigues, and Nicol Wander

the pie chart reveals that my 2023 income came from:

art awards (5.5%)
library (part-time work) (73.4%)
original art (12.8%)
workshop facilitation (8.2%)

Why a pie chart? Where does it come from?

There are a few things that inspired me to share.

  • One is a recent podcast episode called “Financial Transparency in the Arts” from the Beyond the Studio podcast in which co-hosts Amanda and Nicole talk exact numbers and break down their income last year, both how they made their money as artists as well as how last year compared to previous years.
  • One is a conversation that began at an autumn weekend retreat with Artists U x MASS MoCA Assets for Artists in which the founder of Artists U, Andrew Simonet, shared the ways in which he grew his income from his dance company (and subsequent creative endeavours) by focusing on small shifts each year. He would aim to generate larger pieces of pie with creative income, while not shying away from other work that paid the bills and reduced the stress he would have felt with all-eggs-in-one-creative-basket.
  • One is a recognition in my own practice that over the years I have cobbled together income from so many different artistic skills, and a reminder to myself that building financial stability and sustainability as an artist is possible. It’s not only possible… it is more likely if I track it, set goals, and loosen my goals on specifics in favor of looking at income generation holistically as specifics shift.
  • One it that it gave me a chance to reflect and plan (and do my taxes). And it’s interesting to think about how granular I might want to get about income streams. (Do I want to separate art commissions from original art sales? Workshops from other type of group facilitation? How will it vary each year?)
  • One is seeing lots of fellow artists share pie charts on their social media, which I find infinitely interesting and inspiring.
  • And finally… I think it’s helpful to show that right now, I’m balancing a few things to generate income. I think it’s good to reveal truths around that, and I also think it’s good to archive it for myself so that I remember this moment in time.

Where did I make my money?

In 2023, I divvied up my income into four categories, as you can see in the pie chart below:

  • part-time work at the local library
  • art-related awards and prizes
  • original art sales (including commissioned work)
  • creative facilitation

Financial Goals…

As much as I love my part-time work at the library and intend to stick around for many years to come, I would love to see my art income dwarf my library income. I’d like to see the percentage of library income to move more into the 10-15% range and see my art-related income grow significantly beyond it.

I’m looking to create additional revenue streams within my art business, looking to diversify (steadily and intentionally) ways to make money there.

I’m looking to grow each piece of the art pie that exists, in terms of bottom-line dollars. I love facilitation. I love making original art. I love working on commissions and collaborations. I love connecting with people through the medium of art.

One thing I also plan to track in coming years is the overall size of my pie chart as it increases (and perhaps sometimes decreases) year over year.

Why? Because I want it to grow, and I want to watch it grow.

Why? Because I believe that art and creativity matter A LOT in the world, and I believe that financial support and sustainability for each individual artist matters in keeping the energy of the collective arts alive.

I also want to acknowledge that money allows me to invest in the most incredible things: health, food, home, garden, nature, other artists, dreamers. When I am financially supported, I can support myself and others. I can make choices best aligned with the world I wish to see: a world of wild creativity, rest, joy, making, community, and abundance.

At this point I don’t see myself putting specific numbers out there for all the public to see, but who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be as brave as the hosts of Beyond the Studio.

Speaking of brave:

I want to be brave about my financial ask.

I want to live in a mindset of expansive possibility where the goals that I have today are so tiny compared to what I will discover is possible.

I want to receive enough ‘no’s’ to know that I am pushing myself to the edges and proposing scary things, and I want to receive enough ‘yeses’ to know that my work is aligned with the people, places, and spaces I seek to connect with.

I want to walk into the scary.

Meet me there? Join me there? Encourage and push me to help me get there?