6 Popular U.S. Cities for Artists

Jon Fesmire |

Do you live in an area where art of all sorts—painting, sculpture, writing, acting, and music—seem under-appreciated? Do you long to live in an area with museums, performance venues, and other artists?

Consider these six great American cities, where with a little effort you’re bound to find like-minded people and even jobs in artistic fields.

Portland, OR

The writing and literature scene is big in Portland, and the city has a ton of small-press publishers, including Hawthorne Books, which publishes novels, books of local interest, and more; Oakstone, which publishes medical books, and Eraserhead Press, which publishes bizarro fiction, possibly the strangest genre you’ll ever encounter.

It’s also a great place for visual artists, such as painters and photographers. You’ll find lots of museums, like the Portland Art Museum (PAM) and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Actors may wish to audition for Broadway shows at the Portland Theater or Portland’5.

The job market is great for creative types look for work as copywriters, photographers, and graphic designers. Median rent hovers around $1,700.

Cincinnati, OH

You’ll know that Cincinnati is an art city the moment you take a step downtown, where you’ll find loads of public art on display.

Consider taking part in Learning Through Art, either as a student or a teacher, and get involved with the community. Cincinnati is also home of the School for Creative & Performing Arts. This is a K-12 public school where artists may want to send their children.

As for shows, you’ll find the Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Music Hall, and The Emery Theater, an enormous venue for shows and art exhibitions. The cost of living in Cincinnati is low, with median rent being around $1,000. It’s also a good place for creative jobs for writers, television, art instruction, and more.

Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee, home of music greats like Les Paul, Liberace, Violent Femmes, and Al Jarreau, has almost constant music entertainment, so whether you’re a music lover or a band looking for somewhere to perform, you’re bound to be happy.

Sadly, though Milwaukee still has a good art scene, it’s been shrinking, which may be as good a reason as any to move there and help bolster it. Join the Arts of Milwaukee organization, with its artist and writers groups, programs to connect with the community, and check out its event calendar to see what’s happening around the city. Milwaukee has a variety of creative jobs in fields of writing, media, and design. Rent is also on the low side, averaging about $1,100. Memphis, TN Let’s start this with the surprisingly low rent. The median apartment rental price in Memphis is just $850 per month, and you can expect to find jobs in proposal writing, graphic design, and music education. The city also has a thriving arts scene, with displays around the city and venues like Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art, and Dixon Gallery & Gardens. Memphis, the “birthplace of rock & roll,”  is also full of music venues. These include B.B. King’s Blues Club and Hi-Tone Cafe. It has spawned musical greats like Isaac Hayes, Justin Timberlake, Lucero, and of course, B.B. King.

Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City has a huge underground arts scene. Literally underground. The Oklahoma City Underground consists of a large series of underground tunnels. One can traverse much of the city there, and many of the walls are lined with art exhibits. Two major groups support art and artists in OKC. The Arts Council of Oklahoma City holds events featuring musicians and artist and holds the a yearly Festival of the Arts. Allied Arts provides art programs for schools. If you love photography and want to rent out a great venue, there’s Photoart Studios. This is what it sounds like, a professional photo studio, but they also rent out event space. Or, stop by the popular Stoney LaRue Music House for dinner, cocktails, and live shows. Median rent is about $1,150, and businesses often hire copywriters, photographers, and graphic designers.

Seattle, WA

Seattle is a seriously creative city. You probably already know it as a source of counterculture. It was the home of Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, Judy Collins, and Alice in Chains. It should come as no surprise that there are plenty of musical venues, such as the Paramount Theater, The Triple Door, and Showbox Presents. There are plenty of places for your band to audition or gain inspiration.

If you’re a writer looking for support, you’ll find Seattle7Writers, a nonprofit group dedicated to supporting writing, reading, booksellers, libraries and librarians, and literacy. Many publishing companies make their home in Seattle, including Parkside Publications and Sasquatch Books.

For artists of all types looking for a place to meet, there’s Fantagraphics, a three-in-one art gallery, bookshop, and publisher. Also, consider getting involved with the Linda Hodges Gallery, which showcases sculptures and paintings.

Seattle is a beautiful place to live, and this is reflected in the cost of living. Median rent is about $1,900. The city does have many good jobs for creatives in fields like interactive Design, copywriting, and art.

The information in this article is meant to get you started becoming part of the artistic scene wherever you decide to live. We encourage you to do your own search for other artists, creative jobs and groups. In fact, do some searches for groups where you live now for good measure, and best of luck wherever you live!