The Art of Finding an Affordable Place to Live
Sep 25, 2015
For some people, home is where the art is.
The decision to live in a certain place is very personal: For some it’s proximity to family; the job market is a big one; some go for sports teams. But for many people, a city with a thriving cultural scene is a major draw.
But culture can come at a price above the cost of tickets to shows and concerts. While metropolises such as New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, are well-known for their preeminent museums and arts scenes, they are also some of the priciest places in the country to rent or buy a home.
There are smaller, more affordable cities that offer access to master visual works, performances from across the globe, and other forms of tremendous artistry—and allow you to live comfortably. The Home Story took a look at some data and crunched the numbers to find some great cultural hot spots.
We started with HSH’s list of the 25 most affordable metropolitan areas, as measured by the minimum salary required to support a mortgage on the median-priced home in that area. We also examined the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for data on median family income in key metropolitan areas. We cross-referenced this data with Travel + Leisure’s recent list of the leading cities in the United States for arts and culture. And like our analysis for sports fans, we did our best to limit the minimum salary requirement to about $60,000 (we had to go slightly above to accommodate Chicago, at $61,080).
With that in mind, here are 10 affordable cities for arts and culture with the median family income, minimum salary required, and key attractions listed (in descending order):
10. Detroit (median family income $51,857, minimum salary required $37,544): While Detroit didn’t make it onto Travel + Leisure’s list, we included it because of its music festivals, renowned Auto Show, and especially the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of the nation’s most extensive collections of art ranging from the ancient to the modern world.
9. Pittsburgh (median family income $51,291, minimum salary required $33,839): Pittsburgh is recognized for its Warhol Museum and Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, not to mention french fry-topped Primanti Bros. sandwiches, arguably also a work of art.
7. Kansas City (median family income $56,248, minimum salary required n/a): We include Kansas City based on its Travel + Leisure ranking and “unsung” nature – but its Nelson-Adkins Museum of Art, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and American Jazz Museum are all highly renowned. There are also a number of jazz festivals and venues that carry on the city’s deep musical heritage.
6. Cleveland (median family income $49,358, minimum salary required $33,714): Cleveland features the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, which features an outstanding collection of American and European art and one of the best Asian art collections in the country.
5. Philadelphia/Wilmington (median family income $60,482, minimum salary required $54,386): Philadelphia is a mecca for the arts, featuring the Philadelphia Museum of Art with its neoclassical architecture, Rocky statue, and magnificent collection. There are additional collections to be found along the city’s Museum Mile (which includes the Barnes Foundation and Rodin Museum). Those fancying a night of Stravinsky can visit the Philadelphia Orchestra. But if it’s food you seek, the City of Brotherly Love offers its own culinary artistic masterpiece: the Philly cheesesteak.
While not on the Travel + Leisure list as a separate city, Philadelphia is a short drive away from Wilmington, DE—another outstanding art city with wondrous collections at Winterthur and beautiful garden scenery at Longwood Gardens.
4. Chicago (median family income $60,564, minimum salary required $61,069): While the City of Big Shoulders is the most expensive on our list—and the only one for which minimum salary required exceeds median family income—we include it as the most affordable of America’s metropolises. It features the magnificent Art Institute, Field Museum, and some of the best food and theater in the country. Chicago also has a thriving music scene that’s grown out of the city’s long, storied blues tradition.
3. Atlanta (median family income $55,733, minimum salary required $39,356): Atlanta features arguably the leading museum in the American South, the High Museum of Art, as well as the Goat Farm Arts Center and Castleberry Hill venues.
2. Minneapolis (median family income $67,194, minimum salary required $50,967): Minneapolis, for all its winter snow and summer mosquitos, has a wonderful arts scene, including the Walker Art Center, Guthrie Theater, and Northern Spark Arts Festival.
1. Houston (median family income $57,366, minimum salary required $53,684): Houston was the third-rated city on Travel + Leisure’s list. It features the nationally known Houston Ballet, the Rothko Chapel, and the Menil Collection. Although Houston may not have Austin’s famous musical cache, it’s not without its own great places to hear live bands ranging from country to Texas blues.
Each of these cities has a great deal to offer art lovers of many tastes without breaking a typical family’s budget. The greatest lesson of these cities is that world-class performance, visual, and other arts can be found in many places across the country, and many of them are perfect for your budget.