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Employment in California's creative industries suffered a setback in 2023, but “museums led the way” to growth

In California, the creative economy is one of the most important, but in 2023 it shrank according to the latest Otis College Creative Industries Reportpublished on June 6. The report was presented in person and online on a stage at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, a venue associated with the most powerful drivers of the state's creative industries – film, television and music. These sectors have had a major impact on the overall decline of the creative industries, particularly due to the actors' and writers' union strikes last year.

“The last 12 months have been a relatively tough time for the state's creative industries,” says Taner Osman, co-founder of Westwood Economics and Planning Associates, the firm responsible for the report, “but we should not forget that California is still a national, if not global, leader in the creative industries.”

Since 2007, the report, commissioned by the Otis College of Art and Design, has provided a statistically backed snapshot of California's creative industries. According to the report, 849,000 people were employed in the state's creative industries last year. So the 8% loss equates to about 71,000 jobs, while the entire country saw a 4% decline in employment in the sector. Another reason for the decline is that film and television productions have gradually moved to other states in search of lower costs and different locations.

Several important changes have been made to the formatting and delivery of the report, adds Osman, including the availability of an online dashboard with regular updates and the ability to create various charts with the data. For example, the dashboard allows you to view the figures over time by district or sector.

Another important change is the division of the creative industries sectors from the previous six to nine in this edition. The four unchanged sectors are 'Architecture and related services', 'Creative goods and products', 'Fashion' and 'Visual and performing arts'. 'Entertainment' has been split into 'Film, television and sound' and 'Managers, independent artists and performers', while 'Media and digital media' is now divided into 'New media', 'Traditional media' and 'Advertising'.

All but one industry saw a decline in employment last year. The report's authors explained that this was due to a combination of factors. “The architecture industry suffered as the commercial real estate industry continued to suffer the effects of the pandemic,” a summary section of the report said, “while the advertising industry fell victim to an environment in which companies in the U.S. had to tighten their belts, particularly in late 2022 and early 2023.”

The only sector to see a boost in employment was “fine and performing arts” – up from 49,746 workers in 2022 to 53,975 in 2023 – due to more jobs in museums and art schools. “In the data we're reporting, museums have been leading the way,” Patrick Adler, partner at West Economics, tells The Art Newspaper. “We've opened new museums, it could be as simple as that.” He adds: “This is the most government-supported sector, and this is the one that's really holding up in this time of crisis.”

In Los Angeles alone, museums are building, expanding and hiring staff – construction projects are underway or planned at the Natural History Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Broad and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. The latest edition of PST Art, organized by Getty, Art and science collidestarts in September in museums and art spaces throughout the southern part of the state.

According to the report, “The creative economy encompasses a range of industries whose primary output (or product) has symbolic value. These industries include a group of activities through which ideas are transformed into cultural and creative goods and services.” Using this broad definition, in 2023, roughly 849,000 Californians were directly employed in the creative economy and another 639,000 were employed in industries that support that economy. Adding those two numbers together suggests that roughly one in 10 jobs in the state is part of the creative economy, a sizable share that becomes even larger when you consider how well compensated those directly employed in the creative economy tend to be—they earn an average of $192,000 per year. (Of course, that number is inflated because certain individuals, such as studio executives and star actors, make extremely high salaries.)

After the presentation on June 6, a moderator and four panelists from various sectors of the creative industries discussed life in the trenches at length. Despite a certain tendency toward decentralization, most agreed that the metropolis's existence was still important. “Artists like to be together,” said Kristin Sakoda, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture. “Artists like to collaborate.”

Amy Homma, the recently appointed director and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and a panelist on the museum sector, agreed. “It's a very exciting time for Los Angeles and the museum landscape,” she said. “There are more opportunities for artists to showcase their work. Museums continue to be a hub and a place to network and come together.” She added, “Ten, twenty years ago, people went to museums and just wanted to read and be passive, but there's been a shift and now people want to participate, have a conversation.”

Anna Harden

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