News and Features

Huzzah. Texas is Not Horrible for Artists. Really.

new nea mapTexas is not the worst state for professional artists, not even close — comparatively speaking, of course. The same week that SMU’s National Center for Arts Research released its first survey results, the NEA has put out the first of its own Arts Data Profile Series. The agency has mined data in “granular detail” from the fed’s  Equal Employment Opportunity tables and put it all into a nifty map (that’s a snapshot above — follow the Series link to get all interactive with it).

Hover the cursor over your state and you can learn the number of working artists in eleven different categories, such as architects, writers, photographers, directors and ‘fine artists’ (i.e. painters and sculptors, but not designers, who get a separate category). In Texas, for instance, there are more than a thousand actors, compared to all of 60 in the entire state of Iowa.

Don’t be fooled by the darkish green that Texas is tinted — that’s just the total number of artists here and because Texas is third in population size, we have a fair number hanging around, being productive. Instead, look at the “National Index Score,” which calibrates artists against population and uses 1.00 as the average. This means Texas’ 0.8 is certainly below average (New York has the high of 1.63), but our .8 is still better than, say, Oklahoma (.61) or even Louisiana (.7)

You can also see how a state ranks compared to other states in each category. Texas is strongest when it comes to the collective category of musicians and singers — we’re #15, which isn’t completely unexpected when you think of Texas blues, country music, Austin, conjunto and all that — but we’re also #15 with dancers and choreographers, which certainly is unexpected.  Our lowest ranking is in writers and authors (#43). So I’m feeling lonely right about now. Or maybe just “special.”

By the way, the WashPost has an interesting article drawing five major conclusions from all this data mining — including the odd fact that D.C. pays its artists fairly well.

The NEA has also pulled out some “sample findings’ in illustrative, pie-chart form which it plucked from its more serious, in-depth data tables, which go into gender, age and race and even metro area. So, for instance, Texas has 6.57 percent of all the designers in America (designers make up the largest work category) and nearly 3,000 of our 54,000 designers are African-American. Which is a pretty small minority percentage – like 5 percent. On the other hand, we pretty much have equality with female and male designers (50.7 to 49.3). Also, among all our artists, only about 8 percent make more than $100,000 annually, while a whopping 23 percent make less than $15,000.

And when it comes to Dallas per se, we have a smaller population than Houston (610,560 vs. 1,075,815) but we have almost an equal number of artists (12,110 vs. 13,450). Which definitely makes us artsier per capita. Almost 2 percent of our population is made up of artists, while Houston’s percentage is only 1.2. The national average is 1.4.  So there’s that.

OK, seeing as I brought it up, what might be the worst place in these United States for professional artists? Well, obviously, a lot depends on what arts occupation you’re talking about and even a state’s particular metro area (the third-ranked city in per capita percentage of artists is Santa Fe).  But on the whole, artists would probably rather be here than in West Virginia (National Index score: .51), Arkansas (.52) and, as is so often the case when it comes to comparing Texas to the bottom of many national achievement lists, thank God for Mississippi (.52). One -third of all Mississippi artists make less than $15,000 per year.