Otis Report on the Creative Economy

On May 22, 2018 the Otis College of Art & Design released the 2018 Otis Report on the Creative Economy of California. Data shown are from 2016, with projections out to 2021.

Why is this important to K-12 educators, parents and community members?

Because the so-called “jobs of tomorrow” are here today!  As students search for a path forward, having this kind of data makes a compelling case for pursuing education that prepares students for creative careers. 


The significant findings in the 2018 Otis Report on the Creative Economy of California include:

  • The Creative economy output totaled $407.1 billion in California
  • The creative economy generated 1.6 million jobs in California
  • 141.5 Billion in total labor income
  • The largest direct job counts in California’s creative sector were in:
  • Entertainment
  • Publishing and printing
  • Fashion

It was also noted in the Otis report:

Attendance in arts courses continues to rise through  K-12 students, underlining the importance of arts education to facilitate creativity and move students towards high-earning creative industries.

The 2018 Otis Report features an addendum with commentaries, including one from Mark Slavkin, Chairman of the Board of Directors, California Aliance for Arts Education, and the Director of Education at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Art. 

Mark Slavkin wrote,

“Technical skills are changing so fast that if you were to gear up to teach computer coding, a certain design software, or digital animation, in five years it could all be gone, and there could be a whole new set of tools.  I think the bigger skill is the ability to adapt, to learn how to learn, how to solve things where there is no proven way of doing it…”

On artistic preparation, Mark goes on to state, “Having the skills is important.  There’s not a shortcut to that. But it’s not enough.  It’s also having interpersonal skills in order to communicate and translate ideas, to convince others, to navigate, and compete.  That mix of art skills and vision and aesthetic sensibility with interpersonal skills, to me, is the ‘secret sauce’”.

As educators, parents and guidance counselors help students navigate the journey of K-12 education that is meant to prepare students for college, career and life, the conversation too often focuses on what is “practical” as a career path. Students are even told that they should view their artistic discipline as a “hobby” rather than a serious career path.  In this way, emerging artists are often discouraged from pursuing their passion, because there is fear that they won’t be able to make a living.  The Otis Report findings clearly dispute that myth.

What is the Creative Economy?

The Otis report highlights 12 super sectors that make up the Creative Economy.  We often think of creative careers as the people that are “out front” like performing artists- actors, singers and dancers.  But the creative industries encompass jobs that are also “below the line”.  These include the people behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, including lighting designers, cinematographers, make-up artists and gaffers.  In addition, many of the jobs in the creative sector are traditional “office jobs” in graphic design, fashion design, furniture design and industrial design. The sector encompasses architects, educators, museum and art gallery careers, digital media, and more.

The report projects that these sectors grow by 5.6 percent between 2016 and 2021.

Are these “real jobs” ?

As an example of the kind of median earnings cited in the report:

LA County:

  • Producers and directors earn $97,493
  • Film and video editors earn $95,494

Orange County

  • Art, drama and music teachers earn around $98,213
  • Architects earn of $93,181

Central Valley

  • Digital media jobs earn around $90,618
  • Industrial Design comes in around $76,063

The report highlighted the fact that the Creative Economy – like all industry sectors- took a hit during the great recession.  Now, however, the job numbers have rebounded, and have exceeded pre-recession numbers.


This year’s report also included California Regional Snapshots, highlighting 8 areas of the state.  I was interested in looking at some of the areas where the Alliance is currently working to develop arts education plans and Arts Now Communities.  One of those areas is the Central Valley region of California.  Here is the regional snapshot of Average Annual Wage by Industry in the Central Valley from the Otis report:

The report shows that throughout the state of California, all have an opportunity to participate in the creative economy.

The students of today and tomorrow are poised to seize these creative opportunities. More and more high schools are offering Career Technical Education (CTE) Pathways in Arts, Media and Entertainment.  These pathways include “linked learning” where students can access internships while they are still in high school.  Getting a glimpse into a workplace through an internship, apprenticeship or job shadow can really make the difference as students consider college and career direction.

Throughout California 1.6 million jobs exist today, but some have not even been imagined yet.  For all who seek and dream, California will continue to be on the leading edge of creativity.

Download the Full Report: 2018 Otis Report on the Creative Economy


Peggy Burt

Arts Now Program Director

California Alliance for Arts Education