Move Over, New York: Here Are the 10 Best Cities for Art Lovers in the US, According to a New Study

The results may surprise you.

Nam Jun Paik, Electronic Superhighway at the Smithsonian. Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG /Getty Images.

For all the talk about New York City and Los Angeles being the epicenters of the American art world, there is precious little attention paid to the other 35,000 cities in the US, many of which have cultivated their own unique creative sensibilities.

But now, the real estate website Apartmentguide has decided to crunch the numbers according to a metric not often considered: a city’s population compared to the number of art-related businesses, such as galleries, museums, and supply stores. (Note: it only tallied cities with populations above 100,000, according to the US Census Bureau.) Here are the findings, ranked from the best city for artists at number one.

1. Charleston, South Carolina

Infographic © ApartmentGuide 2019.

Charleston is already plenty enticing for its seaside views, charming pastel houses on Rainbow Row, and seriously impressive restaurant scene. But now it also tops out the list of friendliest art-per-capita cities. The cobblestone streets lead to more than 50 galleries and exhibition spaces along Gallery Row, while the Halsey Instiute of Contemporary Art and Gibbes Museum are just a stone’s throw away in the French Quarter.

If you’re not enticed by Chucktown’s cultural array, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment will run you about $1,091 according to Apartmentguide, giving this city an edge in the bang-for-your-buck department.

2. Miami, Florida

Infographic © ApartmentGuide 2019.

This one doesn’t come as a surprise, given that it’s the well-known home to the annual art bacchanal Art Basel Miami Beach. But don’t be fooled, Miami is a year-round mecca for art enthusiasts of all stripes. The waterfront Pérez Art Museum Miami is doing its part to bolster the local arts scene, including the launch last year of a new initiative to promote Latin American and Latinx artists and, just weeks ago, announcing two new cash-awards for emerging artists in the Miami area.

Installation view of "The Haas Brothers: Ferngully" at the Bass in Miami Beach. Photo by Zachary Balber courtesy the Bass, Miami Beach.

Installation view of “The Haas Brothers: Ferngully” at the Bass in Miami Beach. Photo by Zachary Balber courtesy the Bass, Miami Beach.

Other attractions include the ICA MIami, the Rubell Family Collection, the Wolfsonian Museum at Florida International University, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, the Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE, and the Bass, which reopened in 2017 after a multi-year renovation, and recently debuted the first institutional show for twins the Haas Brothers.

For prestigious art offerings and the ocean at your doorstep, the cost of a Miami-based abode averages about $1,965.

3. Berkeley, California

Infographic © ApartmentGuide 2019.

Now to the West Coast, where LA and San Francisco are edged out by the birthplace of the free speech movement: Berkeley. The big draw here is the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives, a combination movie theater, archive, and art museum where right now you can catch Arthur Jafa’s film The White Album. For a more experiential art outing, the Berkeley Art Center has a large-scale mural and outdoor sculpture patio, plus an annual slate of social and politically-minded community exhibitions and events.

BAMPFA view from Addison Street. Photo: Iwan Baan courtesy of BAMPFA.

One oddity worth sniffing out is the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents, a gem-like museum boasting more than 300 essences to invigorate your olfactory senses.The privilege of living in Berkeley comes at a price, though, with the average single-dwelling apartment set at a staggering $3,106 per month.

4. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Infographic © ApartmentGuide 2019.

If you’re a fan of the winding canals that snake through Italy, but prefer Tommy Bahama to a gondolier’s stripe, look no further than the so-called “Venice of America,” Fort Lauderdale. The Port Everglades make this city a mega-ship magnet, with an estimated 45,000 residential yachts docking at one of the 100 marinas in town, helping make tourism one of its main industries.

Installation view of “Remember to React” at the NSU Fort Lauderdale.

There’s also a vibrant arts community (in addition to the bustling airport) in Broward County. Some top picks include the newly opened outdoor Science Park at Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Discovery and Science; the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, which houses the estate of Chicago-born artist Frederic Clay Bartlett and his wife Evelyn; and the NSU Art Museum, where right now a survey of the museum’s collection over 60 years is on view, in addition to an intimate comparison of artists William J. Glackens and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

All of the yacht-goers and snowbirds in town have contributed to the rather pricey cost of living, with a one-bedroom apartment averaging about $2,126 per month.

5. New Orleans, Louisiana

Infographic © ApartmentGuide 2019.

People may come to the Big Easy for Bourbon Street and po-boys, but they stay for the street-corner musicians and bustling contemporary art scene. Highlights include the French Quarter, which houses Preservation Hall, a music venue dedicated to preserving Traditional New Orleans Jazz; the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, dedicated to the folklore, history, and secret rites of the practice; and in City Park, there’s the New Orleans Museum of Art, where light-sculptor Keith Sonnier’s museum survey opens in March.

Detail of a sculpture by Rina Banerjee, located at the Contemporary Art Center for Prospect 4 New Orleans, "The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp." Image: Ben Davis.

Detail of a sculpture by Rina Banerjee, located at the Contemporary Art Center for Prospect 4 New Orleans, “The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp.” Image: Ben Davis.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the upcoming Prospect.5 New Orleans opening in Fall 2020, led by star curators Naima J. Keith and Diana Nawi, the city’s triennial art extravaganza has officially made the cut for cant-miss shows around the country.

The price for a one-bedroom runs an average of $1,443.

Find the full list of ApartmentGuide’s 10 Suprisingly Great Cities for Art Lovers in America below:

6. San Francisco, California: The city on the bay has one art-related business for every 2,352 people, and a one-bedroom runs about $3,704 a month.

7. Savannah, Georgia: With a whopping 23 museums, there is an art-related business for every 2,525 people, and a one-bedroom runs about $1,027 a month.

8. Cincinnati, Ohio: Where the Contemporary Arts Center’s beat is art made “of the last five minutes”; one art-related business for every 2,532 people, and monthly rent for a one-bedroom costs $1,025—the least-expensive on this list.

9. Richmond, Virginia: The newly renovated Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts is a major attraction, along with the more than 100 murals that adorn walls throughout the southern town. There is one art-related business for every 2,610 people, and rent runs about $1,085 a month.

10. Boulder, Colorado: As a consummate college town, Boulder has impressive university museums plus a stunning natural landscape for inspiration. There is one art-related business for every 2,613 people, and rent averages about $1,996 per month.


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