The next time a skeptical New Yorker questions whether Washington is an artsy town, direct that skeptic to the National Endowment for the Arts’ “National Statistics about Working Artists” report. Seventy newly released tables, compiled from U.S. Census Bureau data taken from 2006 to 2010, show that the District has more working artists per capita than any state in the nation.
Of course, the comparison is skewed. It’s hardly fair to match a city with only 328,035 workers against the 50 states. But even in a city-to-city comparison, Washington ranks in the top 10 among U.S. cities that have high percentages of working artists. The District falls just behind Los Angeles; San Francisco; Santa Fe, N.M.; Portland, Ore.; New York; Minneapolis and Atlanta.
The nation’s capital compares closely to the home of Broadway and Julliard: Artists make up 3.1 percent of Washington’s overall workforce, compared with 3.4 percent in New York City. Los Angeles has the greatest amount of working artists per capita, at 4.85 percent. Artists make up 1.4 percent of the country’s workforce overall.
The NEA’s report includes searchable tables and an interactive map that breaks down working artists by discipline. It also provides information on artists’ race, ethnicity, sex, income and disability status. The information comes from the Census Bureau’s Equal Employment Opportunity tables and is based on people who reported income from their artistic endeavors or who are looking for work — so the charts don’t count amateur poets.
The graphs also show the regions where women have made strides: While a quarter of all U.S. architects are women, they account for about a third of the profession in Maryland, Montana and Massachusetts. But almost all working architects in Arkansas, West Virginia and Wyoming are men.
Among the more interesting D.C.-specific facts? Washington has more writers, authors, designers and architects per capita than any state in the country. But it could use more fancy footwork: On dancers per capita, it ranks 23rd, tying with Alaska.