Sure, booming coastal metropolises like New York or San Francisco have well-deserved reputations as hotbeds for the arts. But unless you're really successful, or willing to live like an actual starving artist, it's costly and difficult to enjoy all they have to offer. Here are six lower-cost, but equally artistic cities you might enjoy.
While it's true that Detroit's economy has experienced some difficulty, it's not all bad news: Cheap rent and low-cost buildings are a great opportunity for young upstarts with creative ambition. Detroit is in the stage of mass vacancies and lack of jobs (think Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, or New York City in the 70s), which will almost inevitably lead to its revival. Artists are moving to Detroit in flocks, and the city is paying them to revitalize its urban core.
Want a place to live that even hipper-than-thou San Francisco calls hip? This is your town. The youth population has turned downtown Tucson into a walkable paradise of shops, restaurants, and a great art scene with Hotel Congress as its beating heart. Comedians, fine art, and theatre are all flourishing here. Plus, low average monthly rents mean you can afford to experience this desert beauty for yourself.
Columbus is a great model for the rest of Ohio: lots of small businesses combined with a thriving creative class. The Short North Art District is a mecca for the hip and creative, while COSI Columbus, Columbus Museum of Art, and the Ohio Craft Museum are brilliant examples of the great art Columbus has to offer. Oh, and cheap rent, anyone?
Pittsburgh has happily become the less pretentious "Portland of the Rust Belt." Local young people are now choosing to stay in Pittsburgh, and new people are flocking here for great, cheap housing and an opportunity to grow their creative endeavors with low risk. The extensive art scene, with favorites like Mattress Factory, Unsmoke Systems, and Industrial Arts Co-Op, are drawing more budget-conscious artists every day.
Buffalo, New York
While many upstate New York natives historically moved to NYC, many Millennials now seem to be leaving NYC to return upstate. And their first choice is Buffalo, another rust belt town that's been in resurgence for years. Artists and other creative small business owners are taking their work to Buffalo to enjoy the great artisanal coffee, beer, and food while admiring the proliferating arts scene anchored by two excellent museums — the Burchfield Penney and the Albright Knox.
North Adams, Massachusetts
Another industrial town that's got it mojo back, North Adams is booming again thanks in part to its creative youth population. A happening arts scene includes 21 galleries and museums in downtown alone, plus Mass MoCA, which is one of the largest museums in the world. With rents as averaging as little as $450/month in some areas, how can you not have extra time and money to see it all?