When considering the best cities in America for the arts and art lovers, a few obvious choices come to mind – places like New York with its Met and Guggenheim museums, Chicago with the van Goghs and Picassos at the Art Institute and Washington, D.C. with all the public art and Smithsonian collections.
Well, there's more than big cities and famous museums that make up art culture in America. Every city – state capitals, college towns, vacation destinations – has its own particular arts scene and artistic vision.
Any list can put NYC at the top, but what are the best cities for art lovers per capita?
Here are the 10 best, and occasionally underrated and underappreciated, art cities in America based on the ratio of art galleries and dealers, art museums, artist supply stores, cultural art organizations and more in relation to population.
College towns are meccas for art and art lovers. Boulder, just a half-hour from Denver and home to the University of Colorado, is no exception. For its size (barely north of 100,000 residents), there are a gaggle of museums, including The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, the CU Heritage Center and the Dairy Arts Center.
And for the artists themselves, Boulder's city-wide Open Studios initiative provides workspace for 130 local artists, all open to public visiting.
If Mork and Mindy were looking for an apartment near CU these days, in which to hang their Orcan art collection, a one-bedroom in Boulder would run them an average of $1,996.
When you think of art in Richmond, Civil War paintings and Confederate statues probably come to mind. That's all still there. But in the last two decades, Richmond has become home to one of the most amazing collections of public mural art in America.
Billing itself as a city with “murals on (nearly) every wall," there are nearly 100 around town. That number is growing, as the Richmond Mural Project event brings in artists from around the world each year to add to the city's living canvas.
One of the factors behind Richmond's revitalization is Virginia Commonwealth University's School of the Arts, which has been ranked as the number one public school fine arts program in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Considering the average rent for a one-bedroom in Richmond runs just $1,085 a month, it's no wonder some people still commute two-to-three hours to and from D.C. to live in this art-lovers sanctuary.
While Cincinnati is known more for baseball than fine art, don't discount the Queen City as a top art museum destination. Founded in 1881, the Cincinnati Art Museum and its 88 galleries is one of the oldest art museums in America.
The Taft Museum of Art features works from diverse sources such as the European old masters, 19th-century America and Chinese antiquities. And the Contemporary Arts Center was one of the first in the U.S., focusing on art “of the last five minutes."
There's also a wellspring of community art in Cincinnati. ArtWorks assists kids in creating art that impacts the community. Art Beyond Boundaries is an art gallery showcasing local artists with disabilities. And ArtsWave, a partnership between America's largest community arts fund and the city's tourism commission, is a program to expand year-round art tourism.
The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom in Cincy is just $1,025 – the lowest in our top 10.
It's not Charlotte, New Orleans or Nashville. It's the beautiful coastal city of Savannah, that's home to the oldest art museum in the South, the Telfair Museum of Art, opened in 1886. That's just one of the Hostess City's five art museums, including two focusing on African and African-American art, The Beach Institute and the free Savannah African Art Museum.
Much of Savannah's art renaissance is tied to the Savannah College of Art and Design, the largest art institution in America, enrolling 9,000 students in 42 programs.
A steal at just $1,027 a month, the average rent in Savannah will give you plenty of extra money to decorate in that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil theme you always wanted.
If you're coming into San Francisco, you don't even have to leave the airport to begin your art odyssey. The SFO Museum is America's first airport-based art museum, with more than 40 exhibitions a year around the terminals.
Then, wake up the next morning surrounded by art when you stay at the Clift hotel, with their lobby furnished by Dalí and the Eames's and bar decorated with digital projections of the Klimt lithographs that once hung there.
San Francisco is also home to Hunters Point Shipyard Artists, the country's largest working artists' collective. Four times a year, the group – 300 artists in one gigantic space at the former naval shipyard – opens up their studio to the public for viewing.
But it's not a cheap place to live. The average rent for your San Francisco one-bedroom apartment will run you $3,704 a month.
In many ways, New Orleans is itself one giant art exhibition, with art, architecture and style everywhere you look.
You could tour the city's dozens of formal art galleries and museums, but you're probably best served wandering the streets of the French Quarter, Bywater, Marigny or the Garden District and peering down small streets and alleyways in search of the countless small shops and studios full of vibrant art. Much of what you'll find is surprisingly contemporary, a result of post-Katrina revitalization.
Every three years, Prospect New Orleans, a coordinated city-wide art exhibition, takes over the town under a single theme, bringing together public installations, private galleries and artists from all over the world. Plan now! The next Prospect is in 2020.
For every amazing thing NOLA offers, a $1,443 average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is pretty darn good. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Nearby Miami has been swimming in art accolades for the last decade, but the vibrant city of Fort Lauderdale has buzzed under the art radar. While most cities' art scenes are dominated by large museums, Fort Lauderdale focuses first on public art and accessible free galleries in public spaces.
One of the best places to enjoy both artwork and outdoor beauty is Flagler Arts and Technology Village, four blocks of former industrial warehouses transformed into an artists' space. FATVillage holds an Art Walk festival the last Saturday of each month with open door galleries, food trucks and live music. And Art Fort Lauderdale is a yearly four-day outdoor art fair along the Intracoastal Waterway accessible only via yacht or free water taxi.
The average rent in Fort Lauderdale runs a pricey $2,126 a month for a one-bedroom. But the farther away you and your art get from the beach, the lower the cost becomes.
Berkeley sits across the Central Bay from San Francisco and just north of Oakland, but it's culturally unique from both. The city is dominated by the University of California-Berkeley and so is the art scene.
The Berkeley Art Museum, together with the Pacific Film Archive collectively referred to as BAMPFA, recently opened a brand new facility on the edge of campus right downtown. Though primarily known for its 16,000-piece film archive, fine art doesn't take second place. The art museum side contains more than 19,000 works including Ming and Qing dynasty Chinese paintings, Indian miniatures, old master paintings and early photography.
For a greener diversion, the free Berkeley Art Center, located in the middle of Live Oak Park, is a non-profit space featuring rotating exhibitions, murals and an outdoor sculpture patio.
The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom in Berkeley does not run on free love. It will set you back $3,106 per month.
A decade ago, Miami wouldn't come to mind as an art hub, outside of some interesting art deco architecture and the bay-side Pérez Art Museum. But now, Miami is one of the leading arts cities in America, due in large part to Art Basel and Wynwood.
Art Basel America is one of the world's most prominent international art fairs. The annual five-day event, spread across nine Miami locations, attracts 77,000 people from more than 30 countries and features works from more than 4,000 artists and 200 galleries around the world.
For year 'round art gazing, visit the Wynwood Arts District, containing 70 museums and galleries and 30 studios. Explore Wynwood Walls, an outdoor exhibition space with some of the world's most unique graffiti murals and street art strewn about the neighborhood's buildings. And every second Saturday, experience the Wynwood Art Walk street art tour and marketplace.
For all the sun and the sand and fabulous Miami nightlife at your disposal, a one-bedroom apartment filled with all your modernist paintings runs an average of $1,965 a month.
Yes, Charleston, is the best per-capita city for art lovers in the nation. To those in the know, this is not a new revelation. For years, Charleston has hosted a number of prestigious art festivals including the MOJA Arts Festival, Piccolo Spoleto and the recently-returned Kulture Klash, among many others.
In addition to the yearly offerings, dozens of galleries and exhibition spaces have sprung up across Charleston. But the heart of the city's art community lies in the studios of Gallery Row on historic Broad Street and along the avenues of the nearby French Quarter.
The Gibbes Museum of Art and the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston's premiere art museums, are both in walking distance from the French Quarter, as well. If you take a tour of the Lowcountry's historic antebellum homes, you'll be privy to some of the finest private art collections in the South.
Not only is Chucktown the best per-capita art city in America, but the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is also just $1,091. That's a lot left over for shrimp and grits and sweet tea vodka, if you can handle the humidity and Palmetto bugs.
Searching for more cities that soothe your art-loving heart? You'll find a number of surprising rankings up and down our list of the top 50 cities for art lovers.
|City, State||Art Businesses per Resident|
|Charleston, SC||1 per 1,775|
|Miami, FL||1 per 1,868|
|Berkeley, CA||1 per 2,005|
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||1 per 2,339|
|New Orleans, LA||1 per 2,341|
|San Francisco, CA||1 per 2,352|
|Savannah, GA||1 per 2,525|
|Cincinnati, OH||1 per 2,532|
|Richmond, VA||1 per 2,610|
|Boulder, CO||1 per 2,613|
|Scottsdale, AZ||1 per 2,717|
|Atlanta, GA||1 per 2,965|
|Washington D.C.||1 per 2,966|
|Minneapolis, MN||1 per 3,017|
|Salt Lake City, UT||1 per 3,085|
|West Palm Beach, FL||1 per 3,149|
|Pittsburgh, PA||1 per 3,217|
|Alexandria, VA||1 per 3,334|
|Columbia, SC||1 per 3,413|
|Seattle, WA||1 per 3,435|
|Cambridge, MA||1 per 3,551|
|Pasadena, CA||1 per 3,566|
|Denver, CO||1 per 3,748|
|Las Cruces, NM||1 per 3,767|
|Wilmington, NC||1 per 3,840|
|Billings, MT||1 per 4,061|
|Springfield, IL||1 per 4,102|
|Tucson, AZ||1 per 4,153|
|Rochester, NY||1 per 4,246|
|Portland, OR||1 per 4,290|
|Ann Arbor, MI||1 per 4,338|
|New Haven, CT||1 per 4,367|
|Birmingham, AL||1 per 4,390|
|Mobile, AL||1 per 4,425|
|Cleveland, OH||1 per 4,431|
|Little Rock, AR||1 per 4,514|
|Gainesville, FL||1 per 4,560|
|Providence, RI||1 per 4,747|
|Chattanooga, TN||1 per 4,842|
|Las Vegas, NV||1 per 4,898|
|Orlando, FL||1 per 4,917|
|Buffalo, NY||1 per 5,071|
|Boston, MA||1 per 5,075|
|Montgomery, AL||1 per 5,250|
|Baltimore, MD||1 per 5,319|
|Knoxville, TN||1 per 5,353|
|Albuquerque, NM||1 per 5,371|
|Baton Rouge, LA||1 per 5,497|
|Springfield, MO||1 per 5,579|
|Dayton, OH||1 per 5,615|
If you're just looking for the cities with the most art-related businesses without any population consideration, here's how the top 10 would paint out.
|City, State||Total Art Establishments|
|New York, NY||1,270|
|Los Angeles, CA||435|
|San Francisco, CA||376|
|San Diego, CA||190|
We took cities with populations more than 100,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau and used 8 million commercially available business listings to add up the art-related businesses in each city in the following categories – art galleries, museums, fine arts, art organizations and schools, art centers and art supplies. We then divided each city's population by this total to determine a ratio of the number of businesses for each resident.
The rent information included in this article is based on January 2019 multifamily rental property inventory on ApartmentGuide.com and Rent.com and is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein does not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.