Above Ground: Information on Artists III Special Focus New York City Aging Artists

Research Center for Arts and Culture,
04 December 2007, USA

'Above Ground' is the first needs assessment of aging artists in New York City. The report finds that aging artists, who have learned to adapt their whole lives to sustain their work, offer a great deal as a model for society, especially as the workforce changes to accommodate multiple careers and baby boomers entering the retirement generation.
The study is the first of its kind to understand how artists – who often reach artistic maturity and artistic satisfaction as they age – are supported and integrated within their communities and how their network structures change over time. Contrary to the stereotype, aging artists are passionate about their work and experience joy, introspection and humor in relation to it. They rank high in life satisfaction and self-esteem, and 91% would choose to be artists again. Not at all isolated, 77% communicate daily or weekly with other artists. These artists are resilient and have an ongoing engagement with both their life and art.
For this study, 213 artists age 62-97 and residing in the five boroughs of NYC were interviewed in English, Chinese and Spanish. The 210-page report analyzes data from these interviews in the areas of retirement, satisfaction, social networks, income, discrimination, education, health insurance, legacy planning, careers, identity and professionalism. Recommendations include:

  • using artists’ networks to disseminate social services for the aging
  • investigating more flexible models of retirement benefits (for both artists and other freelancers)
  • adapting rent laws both for seniors and for younger artists who help to create intellectual and creative capital; and
  • valuing the creative contribution of older artists to the human community.

Though the full report is available in English only, an Executive Summary is available in English, Spanish and Chinese.