First of all if you're reading this you are either living in San Angelo, TX, moving here, or never heard of this town and clicked on the article. Why on earth would someone write or even claim that starting an art career in San Angelo, TX is a good idea? Glad you asked. Well because I've done it the past eight years and have done very well. Now to be clear I'm not saying you couldn't make it work in another city but I argue that San Angelo has many advantages for emerging artists. What I'm proposing is subjectively for visual artists. I wish I could speak for other forms of art but I only ever talk about what I know.
Lets list these because my brain tends to organize information better that way (and I think its easier to read).
1. San Angelo isn't a big city...or a small town
Have you ever spent time in traffic in Houston? Then you'll know what I'm talking about. Metropolitan areas are great for attracting sales in volume but it's also hard to break into them because of competition. Not to say your fellow artists are your direct competitors but the attention volume is limited. It's like honking your horn in traffic and expecting the person eight cars in front of you to hear it...much less know where it came from. Marketing art is much the same way. However in San Angelo, TX artists have an advantage, we live in a town where we have that small town word of mouth with just enough population to support working artists careers. This is the big fish in a small pond scenario. When I first started painting I went all in on branding myself in San Angelo. It took a lot of consistent effort but honestly it wasn't that hard. The key was showing up and collaborating with other artists, businesses, and organizations. Often I was never really pushing my own art I just wanted to help. Soon word spread about who I was and what I was about. That would have taken a longer time to accomplish in let's say Austin. Why? Because the barrier for entry into that community is higher and you have to be heard among a sea of artists working just as hard or harder. Now I'm not saying when I started artists in San Angelo weren't working hard. They were but not many were grinding really hard. I knew a few that were well known but that meant I could be heard more easily if I put in the work.
2. San Angelo is in it's renaissance age for art
Back when I started (2011) I noticed there were only two private galleries in San Angelo the Black Swan and Raul Ruiz Gallery (if there were others I didn't know them), plus the Chicken Farm Art Center studios led by the late Roger Allen. That was it. Since then there has been an explosion of art studios and galleries in San Angelo, TX. Our downtown area has flourished these last few years with murals and public art projects. There has never been a better time to be an artist in San Angelo. I'd argue you don't even need a physical commercial space here to make a living. With the internet you can market yourself just as easy.
3. People in San Angelo, TX are collecting art
I think some artists would argue this point. Here is my take on why people anywhere especially in smaller towns collect art. Relationships. Selling art is 20% about the painting itself and 80% about the artist. It's not enough that you show your work but you have to show up. You have to put yourself before your work, literally. Then you have to be invested in getting to know the folks that are interested in your art. Because at the end of the day people buy art from artists that they like. If you do that it doesn't matter what town you live in you will sell. San Angelo folks are some of the warmest and nicest people you will ever meet, and if you don't know that its because you aren't getting out enough.
4. Quality of life in San Angelo, TX is very good
Another point that could be argued but I'm a glass half full type of person so I can pretty much turn most situations into an advantage. A few years ago I had thought about moving to Austin to help grow my art. Then I saw the rent and other expenses associated with living in a big city and realized that I could probably sell more but my quality of life would either stay the same or be worse! In San Angelo, TX an artist can sell well and often (especially selling online) and live a sustainable and happy lifestyle. It literally takes only 6-10 min to get across town. There are like a billion grocery stores. Two major art supply stores. Great venues that would love to show your art. Art shows all year round. An amazing Museum of Fine Art. All within 10 min of you. I don't want to hear artists complain about not having opportunities in San Angelo. I started with zero artistic training in 2011 and by 2014 I was selling consistently on a monthly basis. Trust me its not because I'm enormously talented. I just saw the potential that this city had for artists and I went after them.
5. San Angelo, TX loves artists and has resources to help
San Angelo loves artists, (have you the seen the painted sheep started by Downtown Inc.?) especially artists that volunteer their time. Having said that you don't need a business degree or even art degree to make it. You just need a desire to learn and work hard. San Angelo has some great resources for you to accomplish just that sometimes all you need to do is ask. First let me shout out to the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) at ASU. Yes I work for them as a business adviser which means you can come to me for help there for your art business...for FREE!! Yup you heard me right. Next there is the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, here you can find out about local businesses, and join as a member to connect with other business and organizations. The Chamber is always looking for folks to volunteer their time and energy. Not far from there is the Museum of Fine Arts one of the best museums in West Texas and they hold art openings every month as well have rent-able show space to host your own show for $50 a weekend! I held my first solo show there when I first started. Next I would highly recommend you visit the Chicken Farm Art Center, they have a great community of artisans and studios with weekly and yearly events. You never know you might be able to snag a studio space! Once you have visited these spaces checkout these amazing art galleries and studios downtown: Raw 1899, Raul Ruiz Gallery, Kendall Art Gallery, The Black Swan, Michelle Cuevas Studio, Ryan Dalgliesh Fine Art, and Pop of Color.
So that's why I think its a good idea to start an art career in San Angelo, TX. It takes work just like any other place but I think you have a better shot at doing it here than some other places. Plus you have a kick ass art community that wants you to flourish and sell! We have plenty of room to grow.