Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Industry Outlook

As long as the visual arts continue to be an outlet for creative expression, people with artistic skills and dreams will continue to work in this field. The large number of art exhibits, galleries, and Web sites will continue to offer employment opportunities to skilled visual artists. Those who aspire to a career in this field, however, should recognize that although the possibilities of success exist and can be fulfilling, the potential for disappointment is also real. About 60 percent of artists are self-employed, and those who are not tend to work in the advertising, computer, film, publishing, and software industries. The employment picture for graphic artists is clouded by fierce competition and an abundance of applicants, for both salaried positions and freelance work. Fine artists and crafters often find it difficult to support themselves financially by their artwork alone. The visual arts are a highly subjective area, and success depends a lot on the aesthetic perceptions and choices of the audiences who view works of art. Another job option for visual artists is teaching.

The coronavirus pandemic, which began in late 2019, affected all areas of the visual arts industry. For some visual artists, the business lockdowns and social distancing requirements forced them to transition to remote work. Those who were already established in home offices and studios prior to the pandemic were able to continue to work in a fairly routine manner. The cancellation and postponement of visual arts shows, conferences, and other events, coupled with a drop in funding, was projected to cause a decline in revenue in the visual arts industry in 2020, according to a report by the National Endowment for the Arts, in coordination with several other federal agencies. Visual arts educators and related professionals also had to adapt to closures of schools and cultural institutions by working remotely and teaching classes and attending meetings online. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in 2020, providing individual artists, business owners, and other individuals affected by the pandemic opportunity for economic relief. The accelerated distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 is expected to bolster the economy, with businesses reopening, corporate profit increasing, and employment levels rising. This in turn is expected to lead to increased budgets for visual arts projects and products.

Moving forward, the outlook for employment of artists in the coming years varies depending on art disciplines and industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers will have slower than average employment growth in the coming years. Those who work in computer systems design, however, will have 24 percent employment growth through 2028. The BLS predicts little or no change in employment for craft and fine artists. The industry will grow in proportion to its ability to attract audiences. Chances for artists to exhibit their work also often depend on the amount of government funding available. The National Endowment for the Arts and other local arts agencies offer various financial grants to artists, for which competition is heavy.

Photographers will experience employment decline of about 6 percent through 2028. The popularity of stock photography services has hindered demand for photography services. Additionally, the proliferation of digital cameras has lowered the bar for entry to the field and competition for salaried positions will be fierce. Photographers who are multitalented, and well versed in image editing software and capturing video, will have the edge in the job market.

Multimedia artists and animators will experience average employment growth of 4 percent. Demand will be strong, however, for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, television, and for games and applications for mobile devices. Many companies are sending animation work overseas to save money, so the competition for the work that's available in the states will be even more intense.