KERA Arts Story Search

Looking for events? Click here for the Go See DFW events calendar.

Despite Local Arts Boom, North Texas Is NOT a Great Workplace for Artists

by Jerome Weeks 2 Nov 2011 9:56 AM

So says the National Endowment for the Arts. It’s part of the agency’s arts employment data breakdown — where in the country do artists work? And why?


Perhaps you don’t find that’s  much of a surprise. Perhaps you’re a working artist.

Using the American Community Survey (2005-2009) and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (2010), a new research note by the National Endowment for the Arts breaks down arts employment across the country in a number of ways: how many writers, actors or photographers make up the arts workforce (designers lead by a wide percentage), how that workforce has grown in comparison to the national labor average (it’s lagged), what artists make the most money (architects, of course) — and what parts of the country artists tend to congregate in.

If you guessed that those areas have the jobs artists are looking for, you’ve been paying attention.

Apparently, North Texas doesn’t. The entire state doesn’t rank “above average” in arts employment, and in all of the charts measuring “high arts-employment locales” — those metro areas with an above average percentage of artists in the workforce, with above average employment in book publishing, building musical instruments, theater companies and industrial design services — North Texas does not appear. Period. Austin and Houston do appear in both of the last charts: theater employment and industrial design. This confirms something I’ve said before: North Texas attracts lots of artists. The problem has always been keeping them here.

Overall, the spread of artists across the country is pretty much what you’d expect — the Northeast and West Coast lead, probably because that’s where the commercial industries (film, Broadway, TV, advertising, music) are headquartered.  But there are still bits of  unusual data here — Hawaii ranks high, for instance, and so does Nevada, although that’s mostly due to the casino industry (all those dancers and musicians). And there are facts that make sense when you think about them but you’d never really thought about them before: Most artists, for instance, tend to be older than the national average — except performing artists, who tend to be younger.