Artists and Their Social Networks, Metropolitan Philadelphia, 2004

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Dynamics of Culture—2003-2005
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This paper reports the rationale, methodology, and findings of SIAP's Philadelphia Area Artists Survey 2004. SIAP undertook the survey as a first step toward the documentation and understanding of the region’s artists and their social networks. The study had four objectives: to address a gap in the literature by doing an empirical study of the social networks of artists; to document the informal dimensions of artists’ networking in metropolitan Philadelphia; to test methodologies to identify the universe of artists in the region and analyze their network strategies; and, finally, to advance SIAP’s understanding of the role of the artist in the contemporary city. The report documents two types of networking activity: networks that are part of everyday professional life, including nuts and bolts as well as inspiration for the creative process; and networks to get work, that is, projects or positions (over a 12-month period) that tap their capacity as an artist. The picture of social networks presented in this paper differs from the image based on the organization-centered perspective that has dominated policy research. An artist-centered view redraws boundaries of the cultural sector and recasts definitions of informal vs. formal and internal vs. external networks. The findings begin to address the empirical shortfall in research and offer new perspectives on the nature and function of artists’ social networks.

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SIAP’s methodology for the artist-network survey was based on respondent-driven sampling (RDS), originally developed by Douglas Heckathorn at Cornell University for research on intravenous drug-users and other ‘hidden population” groups for which there is no reliable data for more conventional sampling strategies. Joan Jeffri and colleagues used RDS strategy in their 2003 study of jazz musicians (Changing the Beat: A Study of the Worklife of Jazz Musicians) for the National Endowment for the Arts. Jeffri’s comparison of samples drawn from union membership and using RDS makes a strong case that RDS is the preferred method for studying populations like artists for whom there is no clear sampling frame. SIAP’s companion working paper—Gauging the Informal Arts Sector, Metropolitan Philadelphia, 2004—provides a full discussion of its use of RDS methodology and success in generating a representative sample of Philadelphia’s “hidden population” of artists. SIAP's Dynamics of Culture research was undertaken from 2003 to 2005 with support by the Rockefeller Foundation.
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