Still Kicking: Aging Performing Artists in NYC and LA Metro Areas: Information on Artists IV

Jeffri, Joan; Iguchi, Martin Y.; Penrose, William

No one has tackled the unique and urgent needs of artists as they grow old. While foundations and other funders have long directed their largesse to emerging and even mid-career artists, notably few have concerned themselves with the artist as s/he matures into old age—artistically, emotionally, financially and chronologically. Special attention to aging artists is important for material support and policy-making and is made more urgent in a time of scarce resources when the baby boomer generation is about to enter the ranks of the retired. In 2007, the Research Center for Arts and Culture at Columbia University’s Teachers College (RCAC) conducted its pioneering study, Information on Artists III: Special Focus: New York City Aging Artists (IOA III Aging).1 Published as ABOVE GROUND, this study’s purpose was 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. That pilot was the basis for this study: Information on Artists IV: Aging Performing Artists (IOA IV Aging) in the US metro areas of Los Angeles and New York. In 2000, the RCAC became the first investigator in the arts to use a new method to locate hard-to-find populations called Respondent-driven sampling (RDS). This method, developed by sociologist Douglas Heckathorn from Cornell University and used for our National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)-commissioned Study of the Worklife of Jazz Musicians (, yields important data and information that may otherwise remain undetected by other research methods. RDS effectively identifies and verifies the social networks of the hidden populations studied. Capitalizing on both its track record with our earlier study of visual artists and this new method, in 2010, the RCAC interviewed 230 NYC metro area performing artists 62 or over, 219 of whom are professionals: 140 NYC actors, 7 NYC choreographers, 28 NYC dancers, 17 NYC musicians and 27 NYC singers. In the LA metro area we interviewed 52 performing artists 62+, 51 of whom are professionals: 37 actors, 3 choreographers, 3 dancers, 4 musicians and 4 singers. This analysis is based on results from the 219 professional performing artists in NYC and the 51 in Los Angeles. Because of the small number of interviews in the LA metro area, our discussions below are based on the aggregate of 51; in some cases, we break out the data on different kinds of performers, but these findings should be viewed with caution.

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Academic Units
Research Center for Arts and Culture
Research Center for Arts and Culture, Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
August 27, 2012