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What's new in various product categories; monthly update.

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Artists + Art Materials Study 2009

A first-ever portrait of opportunity.

by David Pyle (October 19, 2009)

This fall, the first Artist + Art Materials Study was completed as a partnership between Interweave's American Artist Magazine Group and NAMTA. The most comprehensive art-making study ever undertaken (with research conducted and the report created by Hart Business Research), this study creates a detailed picture of "active artists," those who are actively engaged in art and who have completed 10 or more artworks in the previous year. The study looks at how artists purchase and use materials, how they become artists, and what inspires them to make art.

All the vital stats are included in the Study, including data regarding overall size (a total $4 billion on art-related materials and services, $2.1 billion to $2.6 billion on art supplies, with an average of 4%+ annual growth in spending). There's helpful information regarding demographics, income, and education amongst three groups: professional artists, recreational artists, and students. But the real value in the study comes with the ground-breaking (and eye-opening) findings regarding the importance of arts education, mixed media usage, and digital media, along with the ongoing value of magazines and books.

Here are but a few of the eye-openers:

The fundamental importance of art education. Sixty-three percent of professional artists said that art became a regular part of their lives by age 12. That percentage climbs to nearly 80% by age 20. For recreational artists, that percentage is 52% by age 12 and roughly 65% by age 20. In addition, the Study makes it plain that relatively few people take up art after age 30. In short, the importance of art education for young people both through private channels as well as in public education simply can't be overstated.

Baby boomers rock! With the largest population of art-makers currently in their 50's, the Study notes that "the baby boomers are a huge opportunity for art supply businesses. Interest in creating art builds steadily after people are done with kids and career and continues to peak into people's 60s and 70s. This gives the art materials industry from now until about 2030, when the last of the boomer generation hits 65, to leverage that demographic."

Keeping in mind the notes on the critical importance of art education in creating new artists (above), we have roughly 20 years to mine the baby boomer demographic while, at the same time, getting busy (!) with building art education resources to create a new, younger audience.

Artists use digital media as one tool among many. While 17% of all artworks created in 2008 were made with traditional paint (oil, acrylic, and watercolor), 18% were created as digital art. Take a moment with that we've crossed a critical threshold: more art was made in 2008 with digital media than with paint. And for those who didn't use digital as a principle medium, fully 75% of the artists who completed the survey used their computers to help as a tool to improve their artwork, reproduce it, or supply materials and ideas.

Art is now SO much more than traditional art materials. Recreational artists who responded to this survey noted they made a total of 183,184 different works of art in 2008. Thirty percent of these were multi-layered (mixed media/collage, handmade books, cards, scrapbooks, or 3-D art); 23% were drawings; 17% were paintings; and 18% were digital art. This does not include the other 72,492 artworks that recreational artists listed under other artworks (mostly quilting, beading, jewelry, photography, and other creative forms).

Long live print media! Eighty-seven percent of respondents noted they looked at or read art-related magazines, typically more than three apiece. This is especially surprising given that most respondents were recruited online. In fact, magazines were cited as the number one source for learning with 77% of recreational artists stating that they used magazines for learning, followed by books at 76%, the web at 64%, and art classes or workshops by 63%.

There are surprising opportunities for retailers and suppliers to match products and services to clearly defined needs and wants in the market. For example, artists say that they spend 7% of their total art dollars on a category that includes furniture, easels, and lighting. Interestingly, retailers said that 7% of their total sales were in that same category so the correlation between artists' needs and how retailers serve that particular need is spot on.

But other categories tell a different story. Artists say that they spend 9% of their total art dollars on non-traditional supplies such as fiber, art fabric, beads, etc.), while art materials retailers supply precisely 0% of that total sale. And artists say that 10% of their total art spend is on magazines, books, and videos, while art materials retailers say that only 2% of their total sales are in that category. Clearly there are opportunities for retailers in non-traditional materials, magazines, books, and videos. Other categories show similar discrepancies between artists' needs and how the industry provides the products that consumers want.

Watch for more as American Artist and NAMTA use the Study as a launching pad for discussion about how to grow the market. While the complete, 190-page study is available only to NAMTA members, an 8-page executive summary is available to anyone at www.namta.org.

(Note: David is VP/Division Publisher for Art, Jewelry + Yarn for Interweave Press.)



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