Life in the Arts: A Survey

by Brett Elliott

in National Conference

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What motivates you to work in the Arts?  What makes working in the Arts a struggle?

For many, working in the arts is a passion.  For some, it may be a happy coincidence.  We are all committed to the art we make, and make possible, but what motivates us is likely different person to person.  Age, family situation, time commitment, organizational culture, job position, compensation, (to name a few) all play into our job performance, our personal happiness, or a mix and balance of the two.

I’m interested in knowing more about the similarities and differences of my fellow artists and administrators; about their successes and struggles in making a life in the arts.  Is it possible to have a balanced life working in the Arts?  Does the definition of balanced life differ by generation?  Are there differences in approach to leadership from those of different ages?  How do our different needs and wants bring us closer together and/or further apart?

I decided this was the perfect exploratory topic for my capstone project.

Let me introduce myself:  My name is Brett Elliott, and I am in the process of completing my MFA in Arts Leadership at DePaul University, a joint program with Chicago Shakespeare Theater (more on that program here if you are interested). The program has been a wonderfully unique way to get the best of theory while at the same time, the best hands-on practical experience working at Chicago Shakes.  But back to the above topic:

I really want your perspective, so I created this survey and I need your help-

If you are willing, please take a few minutes and complete the survey via the link below – it should take approximately 10-15 minutes of your time.  I am looking for respondents of varying ages working for Arts Organizations (of all disciplines) in the United States.  Please feel free to share the survey with all of your Arts friends.

The goal of this survey is not to find a right or wrong answer to any of the above topics, but rather to explore similarities and differences.  I’m most interested in finding trends and comparing data specifically about the Arts field to data about the workforce at large. Thank you for your help- I look forward to sharing what I find!

Link to survey.

The survey will remain live through Friday May 9, 2014.


Brett Elliott is a second year MFA/Arts Leadership Fellow at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, a two-year MFA program that pairs full-time employment at CST with full-time coursework at DePaul University.  A graduate of Saginaw Valley State University, Brett received his BA in Theater with an emphasis in technical theater/stage management.  Brett spent three years as Executive Assistant at the internationally recognized Eugene O’Neill Theater Center before beginning the Chicago Shakespeare/DePaul program where in his first year he worked with Black Watch by the National Theater of Scotland, line produced Leave it to Ludwig a joint production between CST and The Chicago Chamber Musicians, and project managed a residency of Australia’s ‘One Step at a Time Like This’ in their development of Since I Suppose.