Survey of 9/11's Economic Impact on Individual Artists in NYC



Jonathan Slaff
Metro New Media, Inc., 55 Perry Street, 1M, New York, NY 10014, Tel: 212.924.0496,


Carolyn Sévos
IntraCommunities, Inc.,
One Irving Place, V11H, New York, NY 10003, Tel: 212.358.7791,


Consulting Editor

Robert Cashill
1582 First Ave. Apt. 1B, New York, NY 10028 , Tel: 212.717.1672,


Submitted October, 2002



The attacks of September 11 significantly impacted the arts and entertainment sector, causing far-reaching effects on the livelihoods of individual artists, both those self-employed and those employed by others. This survey was conducted by The Government Outreach Committee of DowntownNYC! on behalf of the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) in conjunction with Consortium For Worker Education (CWE) in an effort to ascertain the economic impact of September 11th on the estimated 150,000 working artists of all disciplines, who are the key drivers for the arts and entertainment industry in New York City. The survey is an extension of the work done by NYFA’s New York Arts Recovery Fund and DowntownNYC’s previous survey regarding the economic impact of 9/11 on downtown businesses.


Survey Sponsors

The Consortium for Worker Education (CWE) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1985 to provide schooling, training and employment services for workers in New York. CWE, in partnership with business, labor, academic, and government agencies, created the Emergency Employment Clearinghouse to provide critical services both to employees and businesses affected by the World Trade Center attacks. CWE will also be providing wage subsidies, through NYFA, to arts organizations that let workers go in the months following the World Trade Center attacks. <>

Since its founding in 1971, the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) has worked in partnership with many private and public funding sources to create groundbreaking programs that serve particular needs in the arts community, taking a leadership role in field studies and advocacy as well as funding. In response to the post September 11th fiscal crisis for individual artists and arts organizations, NYFA created and administered the New York Arts Recovery Fund, distributing $4.6 million to 135 organizations and 352 individuals in New York City. NYFA gives more money and support to arts organizations and artists of all disciplines than any other comparable organization in the country: nearly $11 million in grants and services annually. <>

DowntownNYC! <> was formed November 8, 2001 at the Cherry Lane Theater by leaders of Downtown theater and arts organizations. It is a coalition of arts organizations, civic groups, restaurants and businesses working to revitalize Downtown Manhattan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The Government Outreach Committee of DowntownNYC! is an autonomous task force of this organization. This committee's February 2002 "Snapshot" Survey gave a highly-focused picture of economic loss and job loss in the Downtown community, particularly in its theaters, following the attacks of 9/11 and is available online at:



Survey Sponsors








A. Dissemination

B. Composition of the Sample

C. Use of Technical Resources

D. Design of the questionnaire

E. Guarantee of privacy

F. Resources for questions outside the scope of this study
























It is available online at:


Note on the Second Edition

An earlier verison of this report was released in September, 2002 with the title, "Artists Under Siege: Survey of 9/11's Economic Impace on Individual Artists in NYC." This second edition contains revisions which are minor and primarily editorial, but there is additional analysis of 9/11 relief efforts by Amy Schwartzman Brightbill. Responses to the section of the questionnaire devoted to health issues and job training, which were previously reserved for use by CWE, are also included.

Note on the Web Version

There may be problems reading portions of this survey using certain browsers. The "Analysis of Raw Data" may download slowly, particularly with dialup connections. Anyone having a problem reading or using this report online may request a .PDF version by return email. Please send your request to



by Robert Cashill

Artists Under Seige

Recently, New York commemorated the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. What the world saw was a city that was healing: its citizens, infrastructure, and economy on the rebound. What it did not see was the lingering impact the devastation has had on New York’s vital artistic community, a population of professionals and craftspeople that has largely been invisible to statisticians until now.

This document is the first of its kind after 9/11: a touchstone look at the artists of New York as a population of self-employed workers, the majority of whom work from home. It was conducted through professional organizations, labor unions, and the resources of arts granting organizations. The survey is a snapshot of artists—performing, visual, literary, and multimedia—who create for a living. With this livelihood greatly harmed by the tragic events of a year ago, creative capital is being lost. Whole industries are now jeopardized by widespread lack of support and ignorance of this struggle.

The 705 artists who responded to this survey have suffered dramatically in the wake of 9/11. They have multiple sources of income, but these are largely clustered in the arts and entertainment field, which appears to have been more critically affected than the city economy at large. Almost 70% of those surveyed cited work in this industry as the primary source of their post-9/11 losses. The work-related income of 82% of respondents appears to be still in decline. In what may possibly be this survey's most durable statistic, there has been an average loss of income of approximately 46%.

"I had just started a business prior to 9/11," wrote one respondent. "It was just beginning to catch on but after 9/11 business just disappeared for five months. It is beginning to trickle back." But trickling back is too slow for some. The loss of work has meant, for them, a loss, or a potential loss, of living space. This survey found artists using the home as their place of business 70% of the time. In 611 respondents out of the total sample of 705, 10% reported that they face eviction from their residence.

Artists are a proud community. Some view funding agencies with skepticism, and many have reported earnings too low to interest the government. Many found relief efforts post-9/11 to be unavailable or meager, a maze of bureaucracy with requirements not applicable to the artistic work style and exhaustive demands for documentation. Commented one, "Dealing with the aid agencies was more upsetting, humiliating, insulting, and time/labor intensive than anything I have experienced in my life." Wrote another, "My studio was destroyed on 9/11. I had no income for four months. The aid organizations acted as if artists are crooks—that art is a business like a deli." Still another voiced, "I never experienced the bubble of the Nineties; the economic downturn and 9/11 have hit hard . . . without savings, health insurance, or a pension plan of any kind, I feel profoundly at risk. I make too much for the programs available to the public, and not enough to qualify through my unions . . . as long as I don’t get sick, or old, or step on the cracks in the sidewalk, I suppose I’ll be fine."

The survey was warmly welcomed by its respondents, many of whom quickly sent e-mails to the survey team, some asking where to find help, and others to add further comments to embellish their answers. Words of thanks were a constant on the survey forms. One respondent replied, "I don’t think I fully realized the impact 9/11 had on me until I wrote it all out tonight. I know many others were affected much worse than I was, but I am still trying to figure out how to recoup/start over again. Thank you for sending this survey."

The numbers gathered here, in tandem with the voluminous anecdotal evidence, form a picture of a community in plight, which has not yet seen light at the end of the tunnel. This survey is intended to illuminate the struggle of this important group of individuals, who are the backbone of the city’s cultural endeavors, and as a starting point for further investigation into concrete solutions.



The attacks of September 11 significantly impacted the arts and entertainment sector, causing far-reaching effects on the livelihood of individual artists, both those self-employed and those employed by others. In order to better understand the economic impact of the disaster on the arts community, The New York Arts Recovery Fund, administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts ("NYFA"), The Government Outreach committee of DowntownNYC! and the Consortium for Worker Education ("CWE") conducted this survey about the economic impact of the September 11, 2001 attacks upon New York City’s individual artists. One year later, it has offered the respondents an opportunity to reflect on how the attacks affected their livelihoods.


Between December 14, 2001 and February 2002, DowntownNYC!, an impromptu coalition of civic activists spearheaded by leaders of Downtown theater and arts organizations, conducted a survey on the business impact and job loss in Manhattan in the wake of the attacks. That survey emphasized the area below 14th Street that was quarantined immediately following 9/11. It was conducted entirely with the personal resources and manpower of the coalition's Government Outreach Committee. Internet hosting and design was contributed by IntraCommunities, Inc. (For the report of that survey, see: <>.) Because the scope of that survey, it was not able to offer significant information on the economic impact of 9/11 on individual artists, sole proprietors or self-employed professionals. It strongly recommended these as important areas for future study.

In this survey, the focus is explicitly on individual artists. The survey is strengthened by the vision and additional resources of two major, respected nonprofit agencies, NYFA and CWE, the former having a history of service to artists, the latter, a history of service to workers in general. The effort was able to tap into NYFA and CWE’s abundant hands-on experience with the questions to be investigated and their commitment to helping the arts community recover from the devastation of 9/11.

NYFA was interested in commissioning this survey because it understood firsthand--through the work it did with its New York Arts Recovery Fund--the breadth of the economic impact wrought upon individual artists by 9/11. From November 2001 to August 2002, NYFA aided 352 individual artists and 135 non-profit arts organizations impacted by 9/11 with $4.6 million through this recovery fund it co-created and administered on behalf of several other non-profit partners. Through processing almost 600 individual artist and 150 non-profit arts organization applications, conducting workshops and speaking to countless artists and organizations, NYFA developed expertise in the effect of 9/11 on the arts community. It learned in-depth how individual artists and organizations suffered and how the extant relief network met and/or failed to meet the arts community’s needs. NYFA believed that a survey would provide artists a chance to report their needs, comment on where things stood one year later, and explicate for all the devastating effect of 9/11 upon their community.

NYFA also sought to collaborate with the Consortium for Worker Education to expand the reach of that organization’s Emergency Employment Clearinghouse to the arts community. The Clearinghouse was created in the wake of 9/11 with federal money. The intent of it was to bring jobs back to New York City. Through its collaboration with NYFA, CWE wanted to provide job retraining and placement to the many self-employed artists who had lost work and income after 9/11. Accordingly, a section in the survey was devised to solicit those participants interested in being contacted by CWE and its partner, the Actors Fund, about its skills assessment, job retraining, counseling, and flexible employment opportunity program. Participants could also indicate interest in the Actors’ Fund’s Entertainment Industry Health Insurance Enrollment Center.

One of the greatest effects of the three-agency collaboration was to shift the focus of efforts from downtown alone to citywide. The second major effect was to enable the organizers to reach beyond theater artists, which was the primary area of expertise for the leadership of DowntownNYC!, to artists in all disciplines. Through NYFA’s artist fellowship and New York Arts Recovery Fund databases, it became possible to add a focus into the visual, literary and performing arts communities. Through CWE and its affiliation with Local 802 of American Federation of Musicians, the organizers were able to reach further into the community of musical artists.


Our survey was not designed as a random sample, but rather as a snapshot portrait of a community. It is not a "representative" cross-section, but rather an achievable cross-section of the artists of New York achieved through online and mail outreach to groups of artists known to the soliciting organizations. Its diversity is evident in many places in the survey, notably in the answers to questions 15-31 ("what is your artistic discipline?"), which indicate nearly equal percentages of artists involved in theater, visual arts, and music.

There are inherent difficulties in studying artists, given that there are varying accepted definitions of who is an artist among arts funders, government agencies, the general public and artists themselves. Joan Jeffri and Robert Greenblatt of Columbia University's Research Center for Arts and Culture, in their unique population study on artists in four cities, acknowledged the hazards in such research, writing "This kind of study has rarely been undertaken, partly because there is no definitive universe of artists." (Information on Artists 2: A study of artists' work-related human and social service needs in four U.S. locations (1997) by Joan Jeffri with Robert Greenblatt, Research Center for Arts and Culture, Columbia University School of the Arts, p. 3.) Nevertheless, we were confident that we could reach bona fide artists by reaching out to those who were known members of performing unions, those who had applied for or received artist fellowships or those who fit criteria of being active in an artistic discipline.

Upon reviewing United States census figures, the National Endowment for the Arts has concluded that the number of artists of all disciplines living in New York City is approximately 150,000. Using a 1992 study of the arts sector by the Port Authority, the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) estimated that there were approximately 120,000 jobs in galleries, auction houses, commercial theaters, motion picture and television production, non-profit institutions and services for tourists in New York City in 2001. We are confident that our respondents would be considered people at the "core" of either estimate. The artists in our sample evidence high rates of membership in performing unions and guilds, have significant professional affiliations, or have applied for and/or received grants or fiscal sponsorship over the years for artistic work.

The tendency toward self-employment in the artists of our survey is not mirrored in earlier studies. We do not know whether the current picture reflects the fact that we surveyed a unique subgroup of working artists or whether a change has taken place that manifested recently or gradually over time. Jeffri and Greenblatt did not find as high a self-employment rate from arts and entertainment work in their sample as the 75% rate we found. Other studies done over the years have found many artists working in professions unrelated to their art profession in order to earn the majority of their income. [See, e.g.,: Artists in the Work Force: Employment and Earnings 1970-1990 by Neil O. Alper, Gregory H. Wassall, Joan Jeffri, Roger Greenblatt, Ann O. Kay, Stephyn G.W. Butcher and Harry Hillman Chartrand. National Endowment for the Arts]. We hope other researchers will further investigate these differences. For more information, see p. 11, "Resources for questions outside the scope of this study."

Our response rate of 7% in a three-week time period --achieved through two email solicitations and one postal mailing (see dissemination section below) --suggests to us the importance of the survey to the respondents. Based on much of the commentary, we found that many used this survey as an opportunity to reflect on their experiences over the past year and the impact of 9/11 on their lives.


A. Dissemination

Like DowntownNYC!'s earlier survey, this one was conducted using an online questionnaire supplemented by a hard-copy mailing, with all written responses transferred to the online database to simplify processing. The text of the survey was written by Amy Schwartzman Brightbill, Information Officer for the New York Arts Recovery Fund at the New York Foundation for the Arts; Jonathan Slaff, Chairman of the Government Outreach Committee of DowntownNYC!; and Heather Beaudoin, Entertainment and Art Industry Liaison of Consortium for Worker Education, in consultation with their various organizations. Internet Technology services were again provided by IntraCommunities, Inc., Carolyn Sévos, President.

Solicitations for the survey began August 5, 2002. The initial close date was August 15, but was extended to August 26, 2002.

In emailed and hard copy letters signed by the three sponsors, New York City artists were invited to complete an online questionnaire, which can be found at: <>, or to return a written version of the survey. Via mass emails sent between August 5 and August 21, the sponsors appealed for the participation of all kinds of artists --from visual to theater to musical to literary to digital arts-- including performers, technicians, designers and writers. Via a hardcopy mailing of the survey sent in mid-August, artists were solicited for whom street addresses but no email data were available.

The major groups invited to participate included: artists who were applicants to NYFA for Artist Fellowships as well as artists who applied to the New York Arts Recovery Fund, the members and professional contacts of DowntownNYC!, and the members of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. Participation by the memberships of the city's other performing and crafts unions and other artistic associations was solicited through emails to them. All recipients were encouraged to forward the survey to their acquaintances. The original group emailed on August 5-6 contained approximately 5,350 artists. Presuming a 10% pass-along email and referral rate, we estimate the number of artists solicited via the Internet to be approximately 5,885.

An additional group of artists was solicited through postal mail. In the first two weeks of August, 4,750 active members of the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 and 750 artists in the NYFA database who were unreachable by email were sent hard copies of the survey. We therefore estimate that the total number of artists solicited for the survey was 5,885 + 5,500, or 11,385.

Instructions in the hard-copy mailing urged recipients to respond online, if possible, to facilitate processing. The 75 hard-copy surveys received by the deadline were manually entered into the online database. An additional 45 surveys were received after the close date of August 26 and while they were culled for those who desired information about job retraining and health insurance, their responses were not integrated into the survey analysis.

B. Composition of the Sample

There were a total of 776 responses received by August 26, 2002. These were reduced to a sample of 705 after 56 were identified as duplicate entries and 15 were found to be non-artists.

Duplicates were mostly identified by sorting. Indicators included repeated names, repeated addresses and matching entries which were received one after the other (signifying that the participant had clicked the "send" button twice). For additional certainty, random fields were sorted and the resulting tables were checked for repeating data.

Identifying non-artists was more subjective. The second question of the website asked, "Are you an artist, craftsperson, or technician engaged in the arts/entertainment related industries of NYC?" If a respondent indicated "No" to this question, the entry was double-checked to see if the answer was a mistake. This could be indicted by the respondent also claiming one or more artistic discipline(s) or referring to artistic work in his comments. An entry was usually considered from a non-artist if the respondent did not claim at least one artistic discipline. No non-artists received written surveys, therefore no hard-copy forms received by August 26 were disqualified.

Categorizing the respondents, we found that approximately 36% worked in theater, 34% worked in music, 33% worked in visual arts, 30% worked in film/video, 21% worked in computer/digital media, 17% worked in literature/publishing, 16% worked in photography, 13% worked in performance art and 11% worked in dance. Respondents who checked off more than one discipline are listed as being active in every discipline they selected. Therefore the total percentages add up to greater than 100% of the sample of 705. A more complete breakdown is found in this document (see Analysis of Raw Data, fields 15-31).

Address information was not required, but much geographic information was contributed. For those who gave zip codes, we found that 46% work in multiple boroughs and 30% work exclusively in Manhattan. Nine percent lived at Ground Zero before 9/11. There were 20 respondents whose addresses were not attributable to New York City, but the comments of many in this small segment revealed them to be New York artists who had moved away since 9/11 for health or emotional reasons, commuting artists, and others whose careers were New York-centered. Accordingly, the presence in the sample of non-NY artists was concluded to be trivial. Any artist who lived, worked, or had a significant presence in New York City was included in the sample.

C. Use of Technical Resources

For simplicity’s sake and given limited manpower to tabulate and distribute the survey, it was made available and encouraged to be completed online. Information was entered into a secure online database that could be downloaded for further analysis.

Online completion was the vastly preferred method for taking the survey. Of the 11,385 artists solicited, 630 completed it online, while only approximately 1/5 that number (and only 75 by the due date) returned hard copies. It is possible the written response rate was impacted by the fact that some received it later than expected and that the return envelopes provided did not include postage, but the actual impact of these factors is impossible to determine. After the initial notification email was sent, over 100 responses were submitted online within the first few days. Based on the log analysis files on the website, where the survey resided, respondents spent an average of 15 to 30 minutes taking it. Over 60% replied that they wished to be contacted about the results of the survey.

D. Design of the questionnaire

The authors of the questionnaire were mindful that the survey would go to a sensitive population which was under extreme stress, and that the questionnaire, which included about 80 different questions, might be perceived by some as long and complex. Therefore, in order to ensure maximum compliance, a strategic decision was made by DowntownNYC! to have no required fields, allowing respondents to answer questions that pertained to their situation, while leaving out those that didn’t. Ample commentary or "other" fields were provided for text replies, in case the multiple choices did not embody all people wanted to say. Many respondents used this opportunity liberally, writing long and articulate commentaries wherever possible.

Because the overwhelming majority of respondents worked the survey through to the end, we conclude that not many found it too long or complex. Each artist answered a higher or lower percentage of the questions according to his or her individual style and most wrote long entries in the final "comments" box.

Question-by-question, the response rates were mostly 70-85% but occasionally dipped as low as 30% depending, we assume, on how relevant each question seemed to the respondents.

E. Guarantee of privacy

The survey was intended to generate aggregate data only and confidentiality for all respondents was guaranteed. The organizers of the survey are obligated to restrict access to the raw data in compliance with their guarantee of privacy to the respondents.

F. Resources for questions outside the scope of this study

The income of artists was outside the scope of our study, but helpful information is offered by Information on Artists 2: A study of artists' work-related human and social service needs in four U.S. locations (1997), by Joan Jeffri with Robert Greenblatt (Research Center for Arts and Culture, Columbia University School of the Arts). That study estimated the average income of artists in New York to be $32,169 in 1988 and $39,755 in 1997. In Los Angeles, the estimates were $38,373 and $57, 371. The authors then cited a study commissioned by the Actors Fund conducted by the Columbia School of Social Work which surveyed members of the entertainment industry, mostly in New York and Los Angeles. It showed an average income of $51, 575, with performers showing the lowest incomes ($40,920) and creative professionals, the highest ($73,680). In the Actors Fund study, 46% of the performers worked exclusively in the entertainment industry, which is close to Jeffri and Greenblatt's finding of 49% for Actors' Equity members who had earned the major portion of their income as artists in 1996.

For researchers interested in census analysis and other population issues relating to artists in the U.S., the NEA website, <>, is a good resource.




Following are the key findings of the survey, as summarized by the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI), <>. This agency's summary is based on FPI's review of our raw data, but it also mentions 9/11-related initiatives by the Actors Fund of America, Consortium for Worker Education and New York Foundation for the Arts which are topical to this study but are not findings of the study.

Almost 70% of the respondents who reported income loss indicated that it was in the arts and entertainment sector. Reported loss of income from other sectors was negligible in comparison.

Respondents have relied on these and other sources of income to meet expenses:

Recovery will not be immediate. Almost one year after September 11th, only one-quarter of surveyed artists report that their work or income sources lost because of 9/11 have returned or that the market for their sales/work has rebounded. Four out of five respondents rated their prospects of finding work as "fair" or "poor".

The NYS Department of Labor (through regular and disaster unemployment insurance) and FEMA provided assistance to far more respondents than any other public or private agency. The NYS DOL assisted 161 respondents. FEMA, via three distinct programs, provided assistance in 110 cases. Some of the respondents may have received assistance from more than one FEMA program. Twice as many respondents (108) received regular state unemployment insurance than disaster unemployment insurance (53).

The private agencies that assisted a significant number of respondents were the Red Cross (59), Safe Horizon (40) and the Arts Recovery Fund (31) administered by NYFA.

The Actors’ Fund of America Actors Work Program (AWP) is working with CWE to create follow-up services for survey respondents. The AWP has worked with the Consortium over the last ten years, providing employment and training services for the entertainment industry nationwide. Specifically, AWP assists its constituents in finding sideline, parallel, and new careers. AWP will work with members of the performing arts community, and CWE/EEC will work with those from the visual arts community.


Following are additional key findings of the survey, as summarized by the survey staff.





"As a freelance musician, a number of engagements and accounts were canceled after 9/11/01. Since 1/1/02, work volume in the music industry--both performance and recording--has been down significantly, perhaps by 20% to 30% or more."

Visual Artists:

"As an Artist (painter) the sale of my work has completely stopped as of 9/11 even though I am represented by an excellent gallery (zip code: 10019). This represents a loss of at least 50% or more of my income."


"I am a magazine writer, and in the economic downturn since 9/11, most magazines, even the biggest of them, have ceased hiring freelancers, overworking their own staff as ad pages decreased. Most of the writers I know, even the most successful, are working without contracts for the first time in their lives, and not sure where the next assignment is coming from."


"I am an actor, but also a temp. It's the temp industry that is hurting my income the most right now. I had an acting job in San Diego…at the time of the attacks. When I got back it was impossible to find day work – i.e., temp jobs. I just got a job out of town again for theatre - but the pay is less than half of what I was making last year this time - it's not a good situation..."

"I may, unfortunately, be forced to move to California where there are far more work opportunities for me. My talent agents are closing as a result of the economic decline in Manhattan."

"Once 9/11 happened, all callbacks for jobs completely stopped. I increased my number of applications and footwork, but not a single call back happened til approximately April 2002. Before 9/11, callbacks were regular."

Multi-disciplinary Artists:

"My work has all but disappeared as a free-lance musician as well as a photographer. I am now seven months behind on my rent."

Production Workers:

"I work as a stylist-costumer -- and since 9/11 have had only one job! Production has begun to pick up recently and I am hoping the situation will improve."

"I have owned and operated 2 recording studios and a commercial music production company for over 15 years. My business has dropped off dramatically after 9/11. What clients I did have are not paying their invoices. I will be shutting down my studios in midtown this fall if I cannot meet the overhead."

The Film/TV Industry

"The film and episodic television industries have been very badly affected by Sept. 11. There are no new series being done in New York now. Film production is minimal. Incentives need to be made to producers to get the work back here."




One respondent to the survey implored, "The problem in the arts is that when the 9/11 disaster happened, an already shaky…industry imploded. How long are we supposed to wait for help?" More than anything, we hope that this survey, by demonstrating the diversity of NYC’s artists, demonstrates graphically to government and funders that there is vitality in the New York arts scene well beyond Broadway, which was the chief economic beneficiary of last year’s cultural mobilization on the part of the City. This lively scene is threatened by a crisis of confidence among artists, who feel abandoned by bureaucracies that have neither recognized or supported their contributions to the City’s economy in the best of times, nor been effective in understanding their unique live/work styles, so as to be able to help them to recover in this time of economic crisis.

While there may have been a recession prior to September 11, our survey clarifies that its effects were minimal on the community of NYC artists until after September 11. Whether September 11 directly caused the economic losses suffered by the artists in our sample (which it certainly did for those whose lives were based downtown and had to shut down their businesses) or indirectly accelerated what was already a worsening economy (which is the case for the vast majority of our respondents, 67% of whom were not based below 14th Street), it is clear is that all artists throughout the City lost work and income, invaded their savings and have not yet seen a rebound in their circumstances.

For the first time in long and stable careers, many are contemplating leaving the field or leaving New York. For some that decision is based on not being able to stay downtown for emotional or health reasons. For others it is because they cannot earn a living here.

At least three-quarters of our respondents are self-employed people who work from home and who do not live below Canal Street. Those are the very reasons the system failed them. The vast relief network that came into place post-9/11 focused on residents and businesses below Canal Street. While the physical devastation and dislocation wrought upon that area clearly merited a focused approach, the ripple effect of 9/11 upon the City’s economy quickly became clear, calling for a re-focus in approach and a wider net being cast. In some cases, that happened:

But most programs did not change their scope to reflect the emerging reality of loss.

Chief among the agencies not responding appropriately, and perhaps most devastating to the community of artists and other self-employed people, was the Disaster Unemployment Insurance Program. This was a program specifically created for self-employed people, who usually cannot benefit from unemployment insurance. Yet thousands of them remained without aid because their businesses or clients were not located near Ground Zero (one of the requirements of the program), while payroll workers laid off citywide benefited from the regular unemployment insurance program, which has no geographic restriction requirement.

The scope of the problem was clearly borne out by our survey, which revealed that, despite the fact that only 25 –30% of our respondents worked as payroll employees, 108 out of 244 (44%) of them got regular unemployment insurance after 9/11, while only 53 out of 459 (12%) of the self-employed who lost work and income got disaster unemployment insurance. Clearly something is very wrong when a program created to specifically help a particular population fails to do so. Therefore, we implore the United States Department of Labor to follow the lead of FEMA and remove the geographic proximity requirement from its program.

The fact of artists’ self-employment and combined live/work situations also proved problematic in terms of artists getting aid from FEMA for damage to work tools and equipment. Once you speak about business losses, the only relief in the federal system is the Small Business Administration’s loan program. Loans for the vast number of our respondents were not an option due to the likelihood that they would be unable to repay them.

It is the work created by individual artists that hangs in museums and galleries and is auctioned at auction houses. It is the shows they create that bring people to Broadway and off-Broadway. These industries and countless jobs within them are sustained through the work of individual artists. It is not that artists do not earn income from the work they create; they can and do, although for many that comes only after years of working. But the investment that government and private funders make in individual artists, and the arts in general, is vastly disproportionate to the amount of income and employment, and increase in the tax base, that they generate for New York. Therefore, there must be an official recognition of the important role self-employed artists play in New York City’s cultural endeavors and wider economy and a financial investment in them proportionate to what they bring to New York’s economy. The work they create brings tourism dollars to New York City, spurs jobs for performers and support staff in the institutions in which work appears, and in hotels, restaurants, taxis, parking lots and the airlines.

Studies undertaken in the early 1990s have noted that the arts are the primary engine of tourism in New York, far outdrawing the audiences of all the city's professional sports combined. (The Arts as an Industry: Their Economic Importance to the New York-New Jersey Metropolitan Region, Part 1 of Tourism & The Arts in the New York-New Jersey Region, October 1993, published by the Arts Research Center, funded by The Port Authority of NY and NJ, Alliance for the Arts, New York City Partnership and Partnership for NJ). Yet that knowledge has not been translated into dollars for the arts. It is time for this to change and for the arts and individual artists to be supported accordingly.

A good place to start would be with affordable housing and workspace. As in many other deserving communities, these are chief concerns. As one of our respondents said, "There should be more housing protection for artists in artist-pioneered neighborhoods."

We must then promote the creation of a public-private safety net for artists, and for other self-employed people, suffering from 9/11’s effects. This includes knitting together health and other insurance programs, rent and mortgage assistance and jobs programs. The Consortium for Worker Education’s Emergency Employment Clearinghouse, which is being brought to the arts community with NYFA’s aid, and which has been funded by the United States Department of Labor, is a starting point, but more funds are needed for it and more programs like it must be created.

Aid for artists must always include aid to the institutions that nurture and employ them. Both commercial and nonprofit arts organizations provide jobs and income for individual artists. Since small and medium-sized non-profit organizations are often the entry point for new artists into the marketplace, their economic stability is highly important in this regard.

Public and private cooperation to date in a variety of relief situations has demonstrated how New York’s citizens can rise to the challenge with fairness, vision and good sense. The creativity that has been harnessed toward rebuilding downtown needs to be applied to artistic recovery in the City at large. Ideas for strengthening the arts that have been proposed, many of them in the report Creative Downtown, which was commissioned by NYFA and prepared by The New York City Arts Coalition. These include:

At the outset, we said that this survey should be a start. We appeal for more surveys of this type, to help us understand not just the economic losses in the arts community since the terrorist attacks, but also losses suffered in the Citywide workforce of self-employed people in professions other than the arts. We also appeal for surveys that will track the pace of recovery in the City economy and to pinpoint specific ways to revive the economic health of the arts community. And we call for action on the findings from this and other surveys.

In times of crisis, people instinctively turn to the arts. In addition, artists and arts organizations open their doors to provide what they can for soothing, healing, or simply distraction. Yet few funders recognize that the artists and arts organizations require money to live and operate and to provide these services. From the free concert for the City given by Carnegie Hall, to musicians from the New York Philharmonic performing free noon-time concerts downtown, to individual artists working with children and others through community centers and health care facilities, the arts did their part to help the City heal – and they continue to do so. "I am living with unease and disillusionment about my future as a result of the events of September 11, 2001," said one respondent. More than a year following the attacks, it is time for New York to respond more diligently to a population that daily enriches us all.

We would like to expedite deeper investigation of our data by responsible parties. To receive the raw data of this survey via e-mail or CD-ROM, please contact Jonathan Slaff, Project Coordinator, at <> or (212) 924-0496. To ensure our guarantee of confidentiality to the participants, their personal information will be removed.

This section was written by Jonathan Slaff, Carolyn Sévos and Robert Cashill, with additional material by Amy Schwartzman Brightbill.





Jonathan Slaff, Chairman of the Government Outreach Committee of DowntownNYC!, 55 Perry St, #1M, New York, NY 10014,, (212) 924-0496.

Theodore S. Berger, Executive Director, and Amy Schwartzman Brightbill, Information Officer for the New York Arts Recovery Fund of the New York Foundation for the Arts, 155 Sixth Avenue (14th Floor), New York, NY 10013,,, (212) 366-6900.

Joe McDermott, Executive Director, Consortium for Worker Education, 275 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, (212) 647-1900.


Jonathan Slaff, Author and Project Manager

Carolyn Sévos, Co-author and IT Manager

Yuni Lo, Statistician

Jeremy Horland, Programmer

Robert Cashill, Consulting Editor

Neil Chamberlain, Web Designer/Researcher

Jessica Luciano and Misty Gonzales, Interns

Survey actualized by Metro New Media, Inc. (Administrator) and IntraCommunities, Inc. (IT services), both of NYC.

Ted Berger, Amy Schwartzman Brightbill and Holly Pericoli provided additional editorial input.


Amy Schwartzman Brightbill (New York Foundation for the Arts)

Jonathan Slaff (Metro New Media)

Heather Beaudoin (Consortium for Worker Education)


Norma Munn, Chair of the New York City Arts Coalition, who inspired this whole effort

The Pace University Sloan Scholarship Internship Program

Scott Morfee

David Lotz


For assistance when we needed it: Joan Jeffri , Barbara Okishoff, Selen Ucer, Justin Somerset, Crystal Field, Stanley Allen Sherman, Laine Barton, Barbara Zinn, Julie Henry, Holly Pericoli, the managers and staff of the NYC Economic Development Corporation at the WTC Recovery Center, 140 William Street, NYC, James Parrott and Sarah Crean from Fiscal Policy Institute.


table of contents | notes from respondents | analysis of raw data

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