Reading Americans for the Arts’ 2013 study on Local Arts Agency Salaries took me back. Way back to 1981 when I took my first position as executive director, and only employee, of a county arts council in North Carolina at what I thought at the time was an incredible sum of $16,000 per year, plus health benefits. Now my parents thought I was crazy for leaving the classroom with its pay (not much more than then LAA job) and benefits. I was still young enough to see the change as a great new adventure. Nearly 30 years later and a wonderful career, I know I made the right decision.
On the plus side, salaries and benefits have come a long way since the early 1980s. On the whole, salaries and benefits are better across the board. Some highly skilled positions demand a higher level of compensation, and rightfully so, than one might expect. For example, Senior Public Art professionals are required to be a planner, have a keen aesthetic/artist eye, project manager, legal negotiator, financial wizard, and more importantly are hard to find. It is right that their compensation levels are rising. I know some of my colleagues still struggle with wages that are not commensurate with their education and skill level or the demands of what we all know can be a 24/7 job. So we shouldn’t take the survey results as any more than a snapshot in time and hopefully provide information to help boards and commissions understand how peer agencies are compensating their employees. Read the rest of this entry »