Art of the States

With data compiled in the interim census of 2005, the National Endowment for the Arts recently released information on working artists in the United States called “Artists in the Workforce.”

The sample revealed that almost two million people in this country earn their principle income as artists with more than a quarter of a million more calling art their moonlighting job. The NEA’s definition of “artist” is broad; it includes fine artists, as well as those who labor in other creative professions, from dancers to writers.

Some of the findings of the study conducted by Sunil Iyengar, director of research and analysis for the NEA, are hardly surprising. For instance, in most categories -- save for dance and design -- men dominate. But it’s also no surprise that the number of women and minorities is rising in virtually every category.

That’s not to say that there are no unexpected revelations, especially for those of us who live in Colorado. It turns out that Colorado ranks fifth -- you heard that right -- among the fifty states for artists per capita. And if that weren’t enough of a jolt, Boulder ranks sixth among metropolitan areas for percentage of artists in the labor force -- ahead of Santa Barbara and Seattle! To put this in even sharper contrast, New York is fourth.

That a culture boom has been raging in Colorado for a decade now is old news, but “Artists in the Workforce” makes it clear that this is actually real. -- Michael Paglia

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes