America's Best Cities and States for Artists

By Tammi Edwards on May 1st, 2019

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If you are going through the college admissions process, or considering a new career, you know firsthand how tough it can be to make a decision about what school to attend. What school is the best for your professional and personal needs? What programs should you take? Adding to the worry are considerations about your financial future. What city offers you the best opportunity for employment? Where are the jobs? It goes without saying that choosing the right place to live and work is very important, especially for artists who need a culturally and artistically supportive community to thrive.

So here, we will address the question: “What are the top-ranked cities for artists?” Which U.S. cities and metros are the best and coolest cities for artists? We hope that our answers to this question will help you as you take the next step towards reaching your educational goals or a new career.

To rank our leading cities, we combined findings generated by the U.S, Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the Arts and Culture Index, produced by Sperlings BestPlaces, along with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Starting with the Arts and Culture Index, we looked for the best concentration of local artistic resources, such as college arts programs, museums, galleries, theaters, libraries and dance companies (100 is the best score). Next, we looked at the Recreation Index, which combines data about the number of entertainment options in a city, including recreational opportunities, number of restaurants and bars, amount of green space, and quality of outdoor opportunities (again, 100 is the best score).

We then examined data from the American Community Survey, which uses a measure called a “location quotient” which is essentially a region’s share of artists in comparison to the national share of artists. A location quotient of 2.5 for example, means that the city has two and a half times the national average of artists. Simply put, a high LQ represents a high percentage of artists in the workforce. Lastly, we looked at published data from the BLS to better understand unemployment rates and the median salary of artists in each area.

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