The career of an artist cannot be pinned down to any one formula or trajectory. Alper and Wassall found that within a range of years, the number of people reporting themselves to be artists was five times greater than in any one year (29). They also calculated that people ages 18 to 26 were the largest population that reported as an artist for their primary occupation; this figure dropped dramatically, by seventy percent sixteen years later (30).
A recent article in the Guardian asks whether or not it is useful to keep labeling artists as “young” or “emerging” for promotional reasons and funding restrictions. On the one hand, the confirmed fluctuation of the artistic population, the entry of older artists and mid-career changing artists, seem to be at a disadvantage in attaining lucrative funding and promotion from galleries. The cult of youth perpetuated is always interested in, “what’s next?”, the answer seeming to be always looked for by way of the next generation. On the other hand, this population 18-26 is the largest practicing artistic population. They are eager to prove themselves and build connections in what they consider their life’s occupation.
The fierce competition among newly minted artists is definitely in need of funding, but perhaps we should not count out those who have decided to change course mid-stream.
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