Report reveals disparities in city’s creative sector

Patrons at the Walker Art Center. Photo courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

While Minneapolis’ creative economy continues to grow, a new report shows that workers of color are significantly underrepresented in creative professions.

Incomes for creative workers also lag below the median hourly wage for metro-area workers, according to the latest Minneapolis Creative Index report.

Gulgun Kayim, director of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy for the city, said the report will be a useful tool to help raise awareness about the issue.

“Our findings reveal a healthy creative sector and strong economic activity in the region, yet there is dramatic income and employment disparities around race, and to a lesser extent, gender lines,” Kayim wrote in the report.

Overall, workers of color make up only 9 percent of the city’s creative sector workforce. Nationally, people of color account for 17 percent of the creative economy.

Women, meanwhile, make up about 49 percent of the city’s creative workforce.

As for incomes, metro area artists earn a median hourly wage of $19.30 compared to $22.48 for all metro area workers.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul metro region ranks sixth on a list of the most “creatively vital” metro areas in the country. Top cities include Washington, D.C., followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston, according to the Creative Index report.

Creative industry sales in 2015 were $4.5 billion — nearly eight times the amount of sales generated by the sports sector, said Rachel Engh of Pennsylvania-based Metris Arts Consulting during a presentation before a City Council committee June 15.

The publishing industry (print, software and music) accounted for the highest percentage of sales with more than $1 billion in revenue generated.

The number of creative jobs has also grown by 10.4 percent since 2006 in the city, compared to 7.2 percent job growth overall in the city.

Musicians and singers ranked as the top creative occupation in Minneapolis with 2,446 workers, followed by photographers (2,412), writers and authors (2,141), graphic designers (1,866) and public relations specialists (935).

As for the city’s role, Kayim said there’s talk of developing a pilot program to connect artists of color to resources to help develop their business and technical skills.

“People of color and women need to have places to get support where they can learn from people who look like them, and this is the way we can ensure that women and people of color have opportunities to thrive in creative occupations in Minneapolis,” she said.

City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) and Council Member Kevin Reich (Ward 1) also stressed the importance of supporting strong arts programs in the city’s schools.

Addressing gaps

Juxtaposition Arts in North Minneapolis is one of the city’s leaders in developing opportunities in the creative sector for young people of color.

The organization’s CEO DeAnna Cummings founded the organization in 1995 along with her husband Roger Cummings and Peyton Russell.

The nonprofit employs about 70 youth annually on a part-time basis and has the goal of more than doubling that number, Cummings said.

“Young people are the wellspring of creative genius,” she said.

Juxtaposition focuses on connecting talented youth with the region’s creative industries, which lack diverse voices.

“Our cultural sector won’t maintain our competitive edge if we don’t figure out how to more broadly include the diversity of people that are part of our community,” she said.

Cummings said she believes the region’s image as a progressive bastion in some ways can be a detriment to getting serious about tackling the gaps.

“I think because of that we don’t understand that in order to overcome these disparities that are some of the worst in the nation, we’re going to have to do something different,” she said.

Juxtaposition has a Pathways to College and Careers Program for youth to connect them with paid internships at creative firms. The organization has a strong relationship with many community organizations, the University of Minnesota and the design firm KNOCK Inc., but is always looking for new partners to provide paid internships and become clients.

Juxtaposition’s students develop a range of creative products — from custom apparel to contemporary art — for clients. The nonprofit’s annual budget is about $1 million and students generate about $250,000 in revenue from the sale of creative work, Cummings said. The goal is to increase that to $500,000.

The BrandLab, launched by the Olson advertising agency in 2007, is another local effort to diversify the region’s marketing and advertising companies. A board of directors featuring leaders from many major Twin Cities companies now leads the organization.

The BrandLab serves about 600 students annually in 30 classrooms throughout the Twin Cities with curriculum designed to spark interest in marketing and advertising careers. It also offers internships and scholarships for students of color.

D.A. Bullock, a documentary filmmaker and founder of the Creative Bully Shop in North Minneapolis, was interviewed for the city’s Creative Index Report.

He said he appreciates the work of the BrandLab but suggested the city’s advertising and marketing forms could do more to reform their hiring and recruiting practices.

Bullock said the city has an abundance of highly trained artists of color, but opportunities are lacking. He said when he moved to Minneapolis from Chicago he had a difficult time making inroads with creative companies despite his strong resume.

“Even though my work has been appreciated by ad agencies across the country, I had a hard time getting my foot in the door when I moved to Minneapolis,” he said in the Creative Index report. “There’s an insular sense that, ‘If I don’t know you by now, you’re not worth knowing.’ Real creativity comes from a lot of different places that I don’t think are appreciated here in the Twin Cities.”

Bullock also said he’d like to see the city be more creative about using economic development tools to foster creative talent in North Minneapolis.

Rosemary Ugboajah is president of Neka Creative, a downtown-based firm focused on inclusivity marketing, which it defines as the “holistic process of bring different perspectives, histories, experiences, needs and motivations together in one cohesive brand development process.”

The firm has worked on several marketing campaigns and projects, including Everbody In — an initiative focused on eliminating racial disparities in the metro area by 2020.

She said there’s a lot of “great intentions” about addressing the problem, but a lack of action and coordination.
“Everybody has been trying to solve this problem for a while, but they’ve all been working in silos,” she said. “… It’s an economic argument. Lets come together to invigorate and to grow the Minnesota economy — now and for the next 20 years.”



By the numbers: City’s creative economy
(Source: The 2015 Minneapolis Creative Index)

  • $4.5 billion: Creative industry sales in 2015
  • $20.79: The average median hourly wage for a Minneapolis creative worker
  • 4.8: Percentage of Minneapolis jobs in the creative sector
  • 9: Percentage of Minneapolis creative workers who are people of color
  • 10.4: Percentage of growth in the city’s creative sector since 2006