Why do some cities have more artists?

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Later I’ll write about the best cities for viewing art; here I’m writing about cities with artists and why artists are so important to cities.

And where do artists want to live? They look for cities that already have high concentrations of artists and a young, racially and ethnically diverse population. They also want to be close to wealthy people who might buy their art.


America has a lot of artists—two million. According to the New York Times, “More Americans identify their primary occupation as artist than as lawyer, doctor, police officer or farm worker.” The states with the most artists per capita are New York, followed by California, Massachusetts, Vermont and Colorado. The cities with the most artists in the workforce are San Francisco, followed by Santa Fe, Los Angeles, New York, Stamford-Norwalk in suburban Connecticut, Boulder, Colo.; Danbury, Conn.; and Seattle.


I suspect that Tbilisi has the most artists per capita in Georgia, but does Tbilisi have the most artists in the South Caucasus countries? If so, is that good?

Yes! According to Bloomberg Business Week: “It has been proven that artists—defined as self-employed visual artists, actors, musicians, writers, etc.—can stimulate local economies in a number of ways.”  For example, artists seek less expensive, developing neighborhoods where they can afford the rent. Then they use their creativity to fix up these areas, which then attract hip boutiques, galleries, and restaurants.

Richard Florida, who wrote the global best-seller The Rise of the Creative Class, believes that creative people are essential to an area’s economic growth. His theory asserts that cities with high concentrations of technology workers, artists, musicians, as well as lesbians and gay men, attract more creative people, as well as businesses and capital. He suggests that cities use their resources to attract and retain the creative class in order to assure long-term prosperity.

So . . . if Tbilisi already has a high concentration of artists, then it should promote that fact, and if it doesn’t, then I suggest that the mayor begin to take steps to attract a creative class.


About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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