Study Finds Boise Artists Want To Stay Despite Limited Resources

Apr 2, 2015

The survey asked whether Boise artists feel like they're able to make a living with their creative work. The majority of respondents said no.
Credit Leslie Durham, Amanda Ashley / Boise State University

A study released this week shows Boise has a vibrant cultural scene, but points to gaps in artistic opportunities, especially among emerging artists.

The comprehensive study from Boise State University professors surveyed more than 500 artists from a variety of disciplines. Visual artists, designers, musicians, dancers, writers, filmmakers and theater artists were all included.

Boise State theater arts professor Leslie Durham co-authored the paper. Along with community and regional planning professor Amanda Ashley, Durham was interested in understanding what the creative workforce in Boise looks like. 

"This seemed like really important information for thinking about how the city, how the university, how the state could better invest and support the wonderful artists that we know make their home here fulltime, part-time, [who] pass through the valley seasonally," says Durham.

The survey asked respondents about their arts training, both academic and professional. It also asked whether members of the creative class are able to make a living in Boise, and whether they plan to stay in the city. They broke up the categories by emerging, mid-career and established artists -- illustrating different experiences among artists depending on their career status. 

"We had a suspicion that maybe they weren't being supported as comprehensively as they [could] be and so we wanted to talk to artists about what it means to live and work in Boise," says Durham.

She says the results of the survey indicate their hypothesis was correct.

"We found a large group of highly trained, artistically successful workers who struggle to make a living," Durham says. "And yet, they are really committed to this place. They love Boise; they've been here for a long time -- they want to make their home here -- they want to make their art here."

  • 48 percent have undergraduate training in the arts
  • 30 percent have graduate training in the arts
  • 31 percent have participated in public workshops or seminars
  • Only 27 percent say they have all the resources they need in the Boise Valley
  • 44 percent of emerging artists say their creative work doesn't pay the bills
  • Despite that, 68 percent of emerging artists still intend to stay in Boise

Durham says she hopes the study will start a policy conversation about what arts infrastructure is needed to retain and grow the creative community in Boise. 

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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