Access: Judicial or legislative terms should not confine access, and access should not be determined by an able-bodied majority. Access is collective work, defined situationally through solidarity and care. In the context of this survey, access is the ability, right, and freedom to use or enter a space or resource. The Chicago Arts Census includes qualities of ease and self-determination in our definition of access. Access is tied to not only an opportunity to survive but thrive. [1] [2]

Arts Worker: An arts worker is anyone whose work or labor contributes to the public presentation or consciousness of art, music, dance, design, theater, writing, education, and more.

Artistic Practice: Artistic practice is a creative activity that enables the world to be perceived by the senses. For the Chicago Arts Census, artistic practice is not simply the work done by an individual but the possibility of relationships made by that practice.

Chicagoland: Also known as the Chicago Metropolitan area, Chicagoland is a U.S. urban area encompassing the U.S. Census Bureau's Metropolitan Statistical Area [3]. This area includes the City of Chicago, its suburbs, and sixteen counties spanning northeast Illinois, southeast Wisconsin, and northwest Indiana. There are several definitions with varying boundaries of this area. However, the Chicago Arts Census aligns its definition with the U.S. Census Bureau to compare findings.

Compensated Labor: Compensated labor is any relationship in which your work is formally or informally paid through bartering, monetarily, or other types of exchange.

Creative Space: Creative space is the physical or virtual space used to research, develop, and rehearse artistic work. It includes studios, at home or elsewhere, workshops with materials and equipment, or spaces to gather and rehearse.'

Employed: People are considered employed if they did any work at all for pay or profit during the survey reference time period. This includes all part-time and temporary work, as well as regular full-time, year-round employment. Individuals also are counted as employed if they have a job at which they did not work during the survey week, whether they were paid or not, because they were:

  • On vacation
  • Experiencing child care problems
  • On maternity or paternity leave
  • Taking care of some other family or personal obligation
  • Involved in a labor dispute
  • Prevented from working by bad weather

Equity: The Chicago Arts Census defines equity as access to opportunities, networks, resources, and support systems that enable people or collectives to not only survive but thrive. Equity is determined based on where a person or collective is currently and where they aspire to go. The Chicago Arts Census believes that equity is achieved through the redistribution of resources and self-determination. Resources and support should go to organizations and collectives rooted in historically marginalized communities without imposing traditional measures of success.

The Chicago Arts Census seeks to address racial equity. The organization Race Forward offers a definition of racial equity that aligns with the values of the Chicago Arts Census. They define:

racial equity as an outcome and process. As an outcome, we achieve racial equity when race no longer creates socioeconomic barriers; and when everyone has what they need to thrive, no matter where they live. As a process, we apply racial equity when those most impacted by structural racial inequity are meaningfully involved in creating and implementing institutional policies or practices that impact their lives. [4]

Intersectionality: Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, intersectionality is a term to theorize interlocking systems of power that oppress Black women and other women of color. The term intersectionality was first used in Crenshaw’s work, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Anti-Discrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.” [5] In 1991, Crenshaw expanded on intersectionality as a legal term in her article, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.” [6] Crenshaw’s lineage of intersectionality echoes throughout texts authored by Black queer women and women of color including Audre Lorde, bell hooks, June Jordan, Angela Davis, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Cherry Moraga. Each writer, working in the 1970s and 1980s, discusses interlocking systems of power and oppression that define Black, Chicana, Asian, and Indigenous women's experience.

Academia credits Kimberlé Crenshaw for coining the term “intersectionality.” However, Barbara Smith and her collaborators in the Combahee River Collective laid the foundation for intersectionality as a theory and practice. The Combahee River collective explains:

The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. As Black women, we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face. [7]

Intersectionality is not simply intersecting identities. As Alyssa A.L. James and Brendane Tynes explain, “intersectionality is a framework of analysis that considers the convergence of structures of domination and the lived experiences of people.” [8] The Chicago Arts Census aims to understand the lived experiences of arts workers using an intersectional framework to consider how labor and identity are entwined.

Labor: Labor can relate to the body, the mind, or one's will. Labor can be measured on individual, community, institutional, and global scales. The definition of labor can shift with time, geography, and context.

The Chicago Arts Census defines labor within the context of the political economy of the contemporary United States, based on Western divisions of labor. Labor includes productive services, physical effort, skills, intellectual abilities, and applied knowledge.

Societies with complex divisions of labor involve thousands of discrete types of labor. Each type of labor is differentiated according to the unique skills and abilities required. Arts workers engage in forms of labor across various interconnected contexts and markets. Those who study and critique labor usually reduce this complexity to one type of labor for analysis. The Chicago Arts Census uses the terms labor and work interchangeably. Broadly defining labor allows the meaning to shift throughout the survey and be qualified or complicated by each survey question.

Not currently in the workforce: The labor force is made up of the employed and the unemployed. The remainder—those who have no job and are not looking for one—are counted as not in the labor force. Many who are not in the labor force are going to school or are retired. Family responsibilities keep others out of the labor force. Since the mid-1990s, typically fewer than 1 in 10 people not in the labor force reported that they want a job

Paid Labor: Paid labor is any relationship between you and an employee in which you have a formal or informal contract that is monetarily compensated.

Sources of Income: Sources of income are entities, people, or groups that monetarily compensate you based on formal or informal contracts.

Recoupable Expenses: A recoupable expense is an expense that an agency or distributor fronts for your artistic project. Typically, before an artist receives royalty payments, they will have to repay various fees and costs to the agency, company, or distributor. These are called recoupments.

Resources: The Chicago Arts Census recognizes that resources could be understood as natural resources, capital, or human resources like skill, energy, knowledge, or ability. In this survey, a resource is defined as a supply, source, or support mechanism arts workers use to improve their quality of life.

Unemployed: People are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work. Actively looking for work may consist of any of the following activities:

  • Contacting:
    • An employer directly or having a job interview
    • A public or private employment agency
    • Friends or relatives
    • A school or university employment center
  • Submitting resumes or filling out applications
  • Placing or answering job advertisements
  • Checking union or professional registers
  • Some other means of active job search

Unpaid Labor: Unpaid labor is labor that you commit to where you receive no compensation.

Underpaid Labor/Compensation: Underpaid labor is work you are committed to in which the value of exchange, whether monetary, trade, or barter, does not meet the value you bring to the work.

Volunteer Work: Volunteer Work is labor in which you donate your time without expecting financial or material gains.

Well-being: In simple terms, well-being is judging life positively and feeling good. [9]

At a minimum, well-being includes:

  • the presence of positive emotions and moods (e.g., contentment, happiness)
  • the absence of negative emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety)
  • physical well-being (i.e.,., feeling healthy and full of energy) is critical to overall well-being

Well-being means satisfaction with life, feelings of fulfillment, and harmony with one’s surroundings. [10]

Work in the Arts Sector: The United States has only recently reached a consensus on what defines the arts sector. The Chicago Arts Census defines the arts sector based on mapping outlined by Margaret Jane Wyszomirski. [11] Wyszomirski not only identifies industries but indicates the ways they relate to one another. Arts workers are at the center of this mapping of the arts sector.

Arts workers make up a "creative core," employing artistic creativity in the visual arts, design, literary, and performing arts. [12] This creative core is an integral part of arts infrastructure. Arts workers contribute to the constellation of support systems across the arts sector and build infrastructure through their labor. Arts workers:

  • Provide equipment, supplies, or services to offer operational, financial, therapeutic, accessibility, material support, education and training, research, security, and information technologies
  • Connect artists or artwork to the public via the development and maintenance of communication, presentation, exhibition, and markets
  • Facilitate public funding streams, policy authority, legal regulations, advocacy, professional, trade, and union associations

1. Lazard “Accessibility in the Arts: A Promise and a Practice.”
2. Piepzna-Samarasinha, “Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice.”
3. “Census Profile: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metro Area.” Census Reporter,
4. Race Forward, “What Is Racial Equity?”
5. Crenshaw, Kimberlé, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” 139-67.
6. Crenshaw, Kimberlé, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” 1241–99.
7. BlackPast, “(1977) The Combahee River Collective Statement.”
8. James and Tynes, "Hot Girl Semester.”
9. Diener, “Subjective Well-Being: the Science of Happiness and a Proposal for a National Index,” 34–43.
10. Frey and Stutzer, “Happiness and Economics.”
11. Wyszomirski, “The Local Creative Economy in the United States,” 14.
12. Ibid., 15.