MENLO PARK, Calif. – Ben Caldwell is a filmmaker, but he’s also a business owner and a social activist. He’s worked both for money and for causes, and he’s played a role in the Southern California community of Leimert Park, where he created KAOS Network-a community multimedia training and arts center.  All together, Caldwell’s artistic life is hard to categorize.

And that’s exactly the point of a new study called Crossover: How Artists Build Careers Across Commercial, Nonprofit and Community Work.

The study was commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and Leveraging Investments in Creativity, a national initiative to improve conditions for artists in all disciplines.  It notes that while artists and arts activities traditionally are pigeonholed in one of three categories-a commercial sector, a nonprofit sector, and a community sector-in fact, artists move more fluidly among them than generally is thought.

“From this study, we get an on-the-ground report on what it’s like to survive as an artist,” said Moy Eng, director of the Hewlett Foundation’s Performing Arts Program.  “It’s helpful for funders, organizations that care about artists, and artists themselves.”

Caldwell’s story is just one of more than three dozen artist profiles woven through the report’s findings.  The study, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, surveyed artists in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and explored how each traditionally-defined art sector affected their artistic development.  Surveyors also examined what the artists perceived as barriers to moving among these categories.

Among the study findings, researchers concluded that:

  • Only 19 percent of artists surveyed do no commercial artwork, and only 17 percent do no work in not-for-profit areas.
  • 69 percent of artists surveyed spent at least some artwork time in the community sector.

The study concludes that experience among different sectors enriched both the quality of an artist’s work and his or her development. It noted that acknowledging the real lives of artists should enable leaders across all the sectors to make better use of existing space and smarter decisions about future projects.


About The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been making grants since 1966 to help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development, performing arts, philanthropy, population, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. A full list of all the Hewlett Foundation’s grants can be found at