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Art on the street in New Orleans (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

Every artist has probably at some point or another dreamed about moving to New York, but the cruel reality of the city — an average one-bedroom rents for $3,039 per month — keeps many from acting on that wish.

So, what’s a poor, pragmatic artist to do? According to a new study from the personal finance website SmartAsset, they should consider moving to New Orleans. The birthplace of jazz has much more than just music: it has the best affordability-to-culture ratio out of the 187 largest cities in the United States. Also, beignets.

Here’s how the authors formed that conclusion: They first assigned each city an affordability score between 0 and 100, with cheaper cities receiving higher scores. If the cost of living (according to the Council for Community and Economic Research) is 85% or less of the national average, it got a perfect 100. Likewise, if it’s 115% or more than the national average, it scored zero. They also graded the cities on the number of creative workers each has, including 28 different occupations — from fine artist to graphic designer to choreographer — as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cities with at least 125 such professionals out of 10,000 residents got a score of 100, while cities with 10 or fewer creatives per 10,000 received a score of zero. Those with the highest averages were ranked as being the best places for creative practitioners to live.

The results suggest that artists should ignore the allure of the coasts and head for either the heartland or the south, where 9 of the top 10 cities are located. After New Orleans come Salt Lake City, Kalamazoo, Austin, Nashville, Columbus, Omaha, Des Moines, Durham, and Kansas City. According to the authors, these are places where artists don’t have to slave away at part- or full-time jobs to make ends meet but can often devote the majority of their energy to their craft. Doesn’t that sound nice? 

Not every artist prioritizes low rent, though. Earlier this year, WorldWideLearn released rankings of the most creatively inspiring cities that didn’t factor in cost of living, and the results were the typical giants: New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Many would rather live in such cultural capitals where more opportunities await even if it means hustling (and going into debt) for a season.

Still, it’s important to remember that other options are out there. That oft-ignored stretch of land between New York and LA has a lot to offer.

h/t Curbed

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Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

5 replies on “New Orleans Ranked Best City for Creative Workers”

  1. As an artist who has lived in New Orleans for the past decade, there are a few things SmartAsset failed to consider. Rents in New Orleans are continuing to skyrocket. While rents may not be as high as places like New York and L.A. and San Francisco, they are rapidly outpacing the ability of locals to afford them, many of whom work in the service industry for less than minimum wage, plus whatever tips they can scrounge up from often less-than-generous tourists.
    CNN ranked New Orleans the sixth worst city in the nation for renters. http://www.bestofneworleans.com/gambit/new-orleans-one-of-the-worst-us-cities-for-renters/Content?oid=2609106
    It’s pretty obvious to me, as a New Orleanian, that SmartAsset didn’t really do their research, but they can’t be blamed. New Orleans is in an extraordinarily rapid state of flux right now, and the demographics of the city are shifting it seems overnight. Just 6 years ago, I might have actually agreed with SmartAsset’s assessment of New Orleans. In truth the whole starving artist thing here is becoming less and less tenable.

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