As we celebrate the contributions of the American worker to the strength, well-being, and prosperity of the country this Labor Day, we are reminded that artists make a significant contribution. As we reported last February, the economic data shows that taxable revenue from the state’s arts-and-culture industry has grown by 15.5% over the past decade. In 2017, the industry generated $5.59 billion, which resulted in nearly $350 million in tax revenue. Houston and Dallas each generated nearly $1 billion or more in arts revenue, and Austin and San Antonio each generated more than $350 million.
Yet, with a few exceptions, most Texas artists are part-time adjunct professors working long hours without health insurance or other benefits, and scurrying from one campus to the next for an average of $2,700 per three-credit course (2018), according to the Houston Chronicle.
The toll of COVID-19 over the past few months has had an unprecedented impact on artists and art organizations alike. Artists are seeing their funding opportunities shrink, job opportunities evaporate, and finding themselves having to work multiple jobs (as usual) to make ends meet.
There have been numerous crisis relief grants, from Anonymous Was A Woman, to the Artist Relief Fund, to initiatives in Houston, Dallas, Austin and elsewhere in the state. However, most of these funding sources have been depleted by now, and as the U.S. Congress debates a second round of economic stimulus funding for individuals, artists and arts organization face a steep climb back to pre-COVID “Normal.”
When the new normal, post-Covid world arrives, we hope it will bring with it stronger institutions and a more resilient artist and art worker. We also hope that they will not only be celebrated, but also paid fair wages and be treated equally and equitably. W.A.G.E., an organization that strives to make sure that happens, has been advocating for artists since 2008.
To all the Texas artists out there working today, we celebrate you.