What U.S. cities are best for artists to make a living?
March 31, 2009 9:29 PM   Subscribe

I live in Madison WI and am looking to move to a larger city, under the impression that being in a larger city will provide me with more exposure and greater opportunities. I was thinking of moving to the outskirts of Chicago because it's close to my family in Madison and I love it there. I also miss Denver CO where I was born, but am unsure what kind of an art community it has. Does anyone know what cities are best for making a living as an artist? I have a degree in illustration but am also trying to get into gallery shows as well if that helps. Thank you very much for any advice.
posted by RaceTheDream to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Chicago seems like a no-brainer. It's big, it has an established, world-class art scene, it has more money, it's close to your family.

When I was starting out in my twenties I moved from a small town like Madison to rural Japan. I don't regret this decision, but looking back it probably would have helped me out more if I had lived in a big city like Tokyo or Toronto (or Chicago) when starting out.

There are just more opportunities which will give you better choice later on in your thirties. Denver may not present you with as many choices.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:37 PM on March 31, 2009

I lived in Madison for four years and Chicago for six. Madison is great for college students and retired people, but for you Chicago seems an obvious choice.
posted by mchow at 9:51 PM on March 31, 2009

The best place for to make a living in any creative field is somewhere that strikes a balance between challenging you and supporting you. Chicago fits the bill.
posted by carmicha at 11:39 PM on March 31, 2009

If you want to live in Chicago, live in Chicago. There's a big difference between the city and its suburbs, especially if you're moving there for the arts and the hustle.
posted by adamrice at 7:29 AM on April 1, 2009

Best answer: While Chicago may be the obvious answer, I think Denver has its advantages as well. There does seem to be a good art scene there (the Santa Fe Art District, etc.), and since it is smaller than Chicago, your work might stand out more and get more attention that way.

I think Denver is small enough for you to get noticed, but perhaps large enough to have the sort of "art infrastructure" that you need to be a successful artist, whatever that means.

Also, I tend to think that the quality of live in Denver is generally higher than in most parts of Chicago.
posted by elder18 at 7:52 AM on April 1, 2009

Best answer: Go to Minneapolis. It’s only about 4.5 hours from Madison. It’s only second to New York in theaters per capita. It’s one of the best dance scenes in the country. One of the top modern art museums in the world, the Walker Art Center, is there. Huge music scene. The largest fringe festival in the U.S. is there. And galleries are packed every night of the summer.

When a town that size cares so much for its art and artists, making a living as an artist becomes more possible than most places.

I've been an artist in L.A. I've been an artist in Chi. I've been an artist in N.Y. Minneapolis is where it's at.
posted by ericc at 8:31 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I live in Chicago, my sister lives in Denver. I like the size of Chicago more (along with all of the stuff going on that comes along with it) but Denver has nicer weather. It's a totally different vibe. I think there may be more opportunity as an artist in Chicago but art scenes are always what you make of them.

I second that if you're coming to Chicago live in Chicago, not the 'burbs. You won't get the same mileage out of the arts scene if you have to drive 30-90 minutes in every time you want to hang out, visit a gallery opening etc. I grew up in the suburbs and getting into the city is a pain unless you're motivated to do it. Sometimes I'd want to go to some sort of event but when I figured out it would entail a few hour of driving for a 2 hour event it didn't seem worth it. Its easy to talk yourself out of getting out of the suburbs. Traffic can be bad even at 2 pm, 10 pm and other times you wouldn't expect it.
posted by Bunglegirl at 5:33 PM on April 1, 2009

It is easy to be liked in Chicago's art scene, but difficult to make money. Lots of opportunities to show, not many people buying.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 7:57 PM on April 1, 2009

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