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Hoosier Wants his Artists

Of the top 50 metropolitan cities in the United States, Indianapolis ranks 41st in the number of working artists as a percent of the state’s labor force.

dancerAccording to the report from the National Endowment for the Arts, there are about 29,300 professional artists in Indiana. This number is comprised of 13,000 designers; 3,300 fine artists, art directors and animators; 3,000 musicians/singers, 2,000 architects, 600 dancers/choreographers and 100 actors. These growing numbers are recognized by the local arts community.

“We saw Harrison Center sales rise, more of our artists living off their art and more community support in general,” observed Joanna Taft, Director of the Harrison Center for the Arts at 16th and Delaware.

These numbers were part of a new report from the NEA called “Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005”. The report, considered the first nationwide profile of professional artists, is a compilation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other arts organizations that chart the location and impact of the country’s 2 million artists. Artists are broken up into 11 categories including actors; announcers; architects; fine artists, art directors and animators; dancers and choreographers; designers; entertainers, musicians, photographers, producers and directors; writers and authors. The report also notes gender, minority and major metro area trends:

“The time has come to insist on an obvious but overlooked fact — artists are workers. They make things and perform services, just like other workers, and these goods and services have value — not merely in lofty spiritual terms but also in dollars and cents,” the report states. “Without denying the higher purposes of the artistic vocation, this report shows that artists play an important role in America’s cultural vitality and economic prosperity.”

The nearly 2 million artists in the U.S. earn about $70 billion annually. This is an important statistic. The report considered only people who identified their primary occupation as artist for the American Community Survey (see page 138 of the report). The first observation we can make is that this is a large number and surely has an important impact on our culture. According to The New York Times article on the study:

“If every artist in America’s workforce banded together, their ranks would be double the size of the United States Army. More Americans identify their primary occupation as artist than as lawyer, doctor, police officer or farm worker.”

A significant trend found in the report shows that the majority of artists are “designers”, made up of commercial and industrial designers, fashion designers, floral designers, graphic designers, interior designers, merchandise displayers and window trimmers, and set and exhibit designers. This makes sense in our digital world and one in which designers tend to resist globalization. It’s difficult to outsource this type of work. Copy editing may be done overseas, but you don’t often see U.S. Web sites or magazines designed halfway across the globe.

And it’s interesting to see how spread out these artists are geographically. While still focused in major urban areas in New York and California, artists are taking up residence in diverse cities across the country.

“It’s the impact of a kind of decentralized electronic culture,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia in an article by The Associated Press. “… Artists are no longer confined to living in the three to four metropolitan media centers. You can now live in Santa Fe and email your New York agent every day.”

While the number of Indianapolis artists is on an upward trend, why is the city ranking so low on the totem pole? Indiana ranks 15th on a list of U.S. states by population. Maybe it’s because our overall workforce is much smaller relative to other metro areas. Perhaps it is because the Indianapolis community does not have as many patrons of the arts as other cities? Or in part because of Indy’s tax policies? Please give us feedback if you have any insight on Indianapolis’s low ranking in this survey and share with us your ideas to make the city a more attractive home for artists.

How does Indiana stack up to our neighbors?
(total artists as percent of state’s civilian labor force)

  • Illinois: ranks 22nd
  • Michigan: ranks 24th
  • Ohio: ranks 34th
  • Indiana: ranks 40th
  • Kentucky: ranks 45th

Filed under: Art, Current Events, Local

5 Responses to “Hoosier Wants his Artists”

  • avatar
    Josh Says:

    There are even more artists out there than the report indicates, because many of us work other jobs. I am a photographer, focusing on studio portraiture and wedding photography. I am committed to my art and know there are many other “part-timers” who are as well.

  • avatar

    Actually, if you look at the report, it appears to rank Indianapolis #41 in terms of total number of artists. As Indianapolis is the #33 metro in terms of population, so that suggests a slightly below average performance, but probably not awful. I struck me from first review that Indy’s number of artists is more or less in line with what its population would suggest.

    Bloomington actually scored very high on the artists as a percentage of the labor force figure, as you might expect. I closed the file already, but IIRC it was around #11 or so.

    The statewide and metro numbers should not be combined. As usual in these types of surveys, Indy punches above its weight in the state. The metro area has about 1/4 of the state’s population, but 1/3 of the state’s artists.

  • avatar
    Daniel Says:

    Right, Indy is # 41st in the number of artists which is what the first sentence of this blog post says. I don’t see how this post is combining the statewide and metro numbers other than mentioning them both in the same post.

  • avatar

    Daniel, the first sentence says, “Indianapolis ranks 41st in the number of working artists as a percent of the state’s labor force.” This is not correct.

    – Indianapolis is #41 based on total number of artists, not artists as a percentage of the labor force. (However, it is likely that labor force is roughly proportionate to population, and thus if you’re #41 total, you’re probably close to 41 as a percentage of labor force as well).

    – Even if you used artists as a percentage of labor force as the metric, you would not divide the metro area’s artists by the state’s labor force. That’s the mixing of numbers. The state data tables are different from the metro area data tables.

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