The RCAC’s recent study, Above Ground: Information on Artists III: Special Focus New York City Aging Artists, revealed that artists are in many respects a model for society, maintaining strong social networks and an astonishing resilience as they age. Yet 61% of professional visual artists age 62+ have made no preparation for their work after their death; 95% have not archived their work; 97% have no estate plan; 3 out of every 4 artists have no will and 1 in 5 have no documentation of their work at all.
Vital works of art, and the creative histories that comprise an important component of American cultural heritage, are imperiled by the lack of a functional, sustainable model for documentation. While art students may ponder their first exhibition or sale, most graduate-level curriculum lacks instruction in long-term concerns such as the proper documentation of artwork.
Artists are in many respects models for society, maintaining strong social networks and astonishing resilience as they age. Most visual artists never retire and, therefore, remain very productive throughout their entire lives. Documenting the ART CART process will allow us to share artists’ recipes for healthy aging with present and future generations.ART CART addresses these challenges by providing aging artists with direct, hands-on support and guidance to manage and preserve their life’s work, and by providing students with an intergenerational, educational experience and mentorship in the documentation of artistic legacy. Over the course of an academic year, several teams of students, each working with a single visual artist, will document a substantial number of works – collecting both high-quality digital images as well as relevant historical, biographical, and artistic background information. Their work is guided by standards and tools developed by the Research Center.
Thanks to partnerships in both cities – in New York, graduate programs in Social Work and Occupational Therapy at Columbia University; Museum Studies, Visual Arts Administration and Occupational Therapy at New York University; Arts Administration at Pratt; and Fine Arts and Public History at The New School; and in Washington, DC, graduate programs in Arts Management and Oral History at American University; Occupational Therapy at Howard University; Art Education at the Corcoran College of Art + Design; The Phillips Collection and IONA Senior Services – ART CART is establishing a replicable methodology and a comprehensive toolkit for implementation in other communities throughout the country.
As the only institution of its kind in the country dedicated to collecting systematic information and data on individual living artists, The Research Center for Arts and Culture is uniquely prepared to undertake this essential effort. With its current data on over 200 aging artists and over 20 years of cumulative data on artists of all disciplines and ages, the RCAC has collective information to help justify and determine artists’ needs, and a substantial platform of existing partnerships and resources on which to build. The first iteration of ART CART was conducted with aging artists in the New York City metro area who participated in Above Ground.