Top Cities with the Best Art Funding Part 3: Mega Metropolitan Cities

We conclude our series on the best U.S. cities for art funding with LARGE CITIES fit for an art king (or queen). Drum roll please…

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Nashville, Tennessee

Population: 1,865,298


This statistical area is comprised of Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin and has been known for its prominent music scene for years. A large portion of art funding in the city is directed towards music. Nashville, Music City, has also seen the emergence of the visual arts and fashion. With its rich culture and artistic community, this area is great for those of you that want a big city feel. Country and Americana are the dominant musical genres and Nashville is home to the largest concentration of songwriters in the world. Assets include the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the Nashville Repertory Theatre, the Nashville Opera, the Music City Drum and Bugle Corps, and the Nashville Ballet.

The cultural division of the City of Nashville is Metro Arts and it grants over $2.7 million annually to creative projects. Nashville is in the top 3% of statistical areas in terms of Arts Dollars and Government Support. The Ryman Auditorium, formerly the Grand Ole Opry House, is one of the cultural staples of the city. It was first opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. Over the years it has hosted the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Bonnie Raitt, and many more.

Cost of Living

While living in the big city comes with a certain set of benefits, it also tends to be a little bit more costly. Nashville is relatively affordable when considering this fact and its median home cost is $250,600. Its overall index score comes in a little over the national average of 100 at 110.

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

Population: 3,551,036


This area is comprised of Minneapolis – St. Paul – Bloomington, MN-WI. The creative community here has a strong base in publishing and literary pursuits. This is coupled with strong theatres, foundations, individual artist support, a world-class orchestra, and support for First Nations voices. It ranks in the top 1% in both Government Support (art funding) and total compensation to those working in arts and cultural organizations. As far as the visual arts are concerned, assets include Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Art,  Weisman Art Museum, and The Museum of Russian Art. It is home to numerous theatre companies, including the Guthrie Theater as the largest. The Minnesota Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, and St Paul Chamber Orchestra bolster the strong classical music presence in the city.

Along with art funding from ArtPlace, Springboard for the Arts, the City of Saint Paul and Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) all partnered on a 3-year initiative called “Irrigate”. As the city was experiencing some issues around the construction and implementation of a new light rail line, “Irrigate” enlisted local artists as problem solvers and charged them with keeping interest in affected businesses and providing beauty in the construction chaos.

Cost of Living

The Twin Cities are quite comparable to Nashville (110 score) in their Cost of Living Index scores, with Minneapolis being slightly more expensive (116 score) and St Paul being cheaper (109 score) by a very narrow margin. The biggest difference internally for the Twin Cities is Median Home Cost, with Minneapolis at $257,100 and St Paul at $212,100.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Population: 2,131,274

Philadelphia Photo by Leo SERRAT on Unsplash

Philadelphia City Hall by Leo Serrat on Unsplash


Philadelphia is by far the oldest city of the three Large Metropolitan Areas featured here. Founded in 1682, it played a vital role since colonial America and has developed a thriving and storied arts scene. Several arts nonprofits have been providing art funding for over 100 years old and show this historical support. The list begins with world-renowned organizations such as the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Districts and areas from the Avenue of the Arts to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Independence Historic District are buzzing with artists and creatives. The Academy of Music is the home of Opera Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Ballet.

Some additional strengths of this area include its historic museums and educational institutions. This includes the Franklin Institute science museum, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the National Constitution Center, and the Museum of the American Revolution. Advanced training in arts and culture is an offering at a wide array of educational institutions, including The Curtis Institute, the Academy of Vocal Arts, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and The Moore College of Art and Design. The area as a whole ranks in the top 2-3% in both Arts Dollars and Government Support.

Cost of Living

Philadelphia cost of living is quite comparable to that of St Paul and Minneapolis, as well as Nashville. It maintains a large margin of advantage in terms of median home cost, coming in at $147,000. However, it ranks at or over the national average in every index score aside from housing. This brings its overall cost of living to a similar level of the other two Large Metropolitan Areas.

Decisions, Decisions

Moving sucks. We know. Hopefully, this comprehensive list of options can assist you when you’re deciding where to go. Whatever your reasons may be, there is art to be had almost anywhere. Making a living off of your art is hard enough but we’re here to make it as easy as we can. There are endless opportunities and so many cities to choose from. Whether you’re looking to be a big fish in a small pond or lose yourself in some gigantic metropolis, we wish you the best of luck.

Don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series if you haven’t!