Otis College of Art and Design presents annual report on the creative economy

By Holly Jenvey

Otis College of Art and Design recently presented the 2021 Otis College Creative Economy Report to showcase how the arts have suffered amid the pandemic.

A year into COVID-19, many artists in Los Angeles and across California are struggling financially. Otis College and Beacon Economics partnered together for the annual Creative Economy Report, presenting findings that were starkly different than past years.
“For the first time, the creative economy has shrunk since the great recession of 2008,” said Charles Hirschorn, president of Otis College. “Because of this, this might be our most important report yet.”

According to the report, the creative sector in California impacted 507,177 jobs (175,361 jobs lost) with 276,701 jobs impacted (109,400 jobs lost) in LA County. These job losses are different trends than what the arts economy has seen in California, as the creative economy has seen positive trends with a 28.2% employment growth following the decade after the 2008

With the impact of COVID-19, the report highlighted the significance collectively and across different sectors, and what must be done to help on a local and national level.

“There is hope, there are many of us here in Congress, myself included, who know that there is no economic recovery in our area unless a creative engine is driving it,” said U.S Representative Karen Bass, who pre-recorded a video for the event. “We have to provide creative workers both nationally and in LA with economic relief and recovery funding.”

The report measured the different sectors of the creative economy including entertainment and digital media, fine arts and performing arts, creative goods and products, fashion and architecture, and related services.

Entertainment and digital media suffered the greatest employment loss since February 2020 with 128,115 jobs lost statewide and 90,547 in LA County. This sector represents 82.7% of total job losses from the creative economy. This is different from past years as the entertainment and digital media sector had a 42% job increase in the decade after the 2008 recession.

Part of the entertainment and digital media sector is motion picture and video production, which lost 60,000 jobs in California; 50,000 of those jobs were in LA County. California’s job loss represents two-thirds of the employment loss in the industry nationwide.
“This year, we reorganized the report to make sure we talked about the elephant in the room,” said Adam Fowler, director of research at Beacon Economics, who presented parts of the report.

Julie Baker, executive director of Californians for the Arts, made a presentation based on surveys conducted from Californians for the Arts (CFTA). The surveys (COVID-19 Economic Impact Survey for Artists & Cultural Workers) and (COVID-19 Economic Impact Survey for Creative Organizations and Businesses) highlighted how individuals and businesses across California are in need of financial assistance among other things.

According to the survey for artists and cultural workers, of the 993 people who responded to the survey, 83% of all respondents indicated that the pandemic had impacted their employment situation and 88% indicated that they had lost income or other arts-related revenues due to the pandemic.

100% of those who identified as Black or African American noted a loss of income while an average of all other ethnic groups identified a similar loss. Because of employment loss, 43% of respondents are “reconsidering the likelihood that they can make a living in their creative practice in the foreseeable future,” 25% would “seriously consider taking a permanent non-arts related job for better compensation and stability” and 7% have “already taken a permanent non-arts related position.”

Baker also identified the top needs of artists, which include another round of the Paycheck Protection Program Funding (PPP) or something similar; Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for self-employed individuals; and access to a program similar to the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Federal Project Number One or CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act). Mortgage or rent relief are also needed along with mental health support.

A panel followed the report, which included Baker, Fowler, Senator Ben Allen representing California’s 26th District; Gustavo Herrera, executive director for Arts4LA; and Jason Foster, president and COO of Destination Crenshaw.

Allen has been working with Baker and her team to make a new proposal that has been the question of a creative core, which California Governor Gavin Newsom put into his budget. Newsom has proposed $5 million for the 2020-2021 budget and $10 million for the 2021-2022 budget. This would be a pilot program that would focus support on COVID-19 messaging.

“This is something in the Governor’s budget that’s a good idea and we need legislative allies to step up and support him in this,” Allen said.
Foster explained Destination Crenshaw’s role with the rebuilding of the arts economy. He said that the chief export from the community is the creative arts as creatives generate the local economy and stimulate neighborhoods. However, his concern is questioning whether programs would reach the Black community of LA.

“We are a manifestation of how public/private partners can come together and support the arts and intentionally, systematically include Black people in the future of their neighborhoods,” Foster said.

Herrera added that affordable space is essential capital for artists. His organization Arts4LA is advocating for policies that will increase community control over land use decisions, abandoned commercial properties, how developers build, and more.

“Everything that we’re reading is pointing to the direction that we might see a development boom coming on the heels of this pandemic,” Herrera said. “There are some really interesting cultural policies that have been introduced and are in practice.”

He gave the example of the private percent for art, a 1% fee for development. Herrera wants to see how the money made from this percentage can be used as tools and opportunities to further resource arts and culture.

“We need to find a different way to fund the arts,” Herrera said. “If we can’t get our local arts agencies funded to be able to continue to supports the arts workers, how can we call ourselves the creative capital of the world?”

However, even as solutions need to be crafted, Baker said that the pandemic has brought more importance to the arts than seen before.
Access the complete Creative Economy Report at otis.edu/creative-economy/2021