Utahns like to think they have a special affinity for the creative arts. Salt Lake City was, after all, the site of the first theater west of the Mississippi — Social Hall, on which construction began in 1852, just five years after Mormon pioneers arrived in the area.
And maybe Utahns are right. According to an analysis by SmartAsset, Salt Lake City is the best place in America for creative people to live.
“It’s not always what you might expect when you actually look at the numbers,” said AJ Smith, the company’s vice president of financial education.
SmartAsset, a New York-based financial technology company that features online tools to help people make personal-finance decisions, came up with its rankings by determining how many people have “creative” jobs — actors, artists, writers, etcetera — in each of 181 metropolitan areas. That number was then divided into the total number of people employed in that area.
According to the numbers, there are more than 7,500 “creatives” in the Salt Lake City area — about 108 per 100,000 workers, which was eighth-best on the list. But that data was then combined with the cost of living in each area, and Utah’s is “relatively low” and “fairly affordable” — about 6 percent below the national average.
“Combining those two things led to Salt Lake coming in No. 1,” Smith said. “You can have assumptions about what city’s going to be the best for creatives ... but until you actually run the number, you don’t really know.”
The number of creatives in the Salt Lake area is pumped up by the 1,730 graphic designers who work here. And Utah is not alone in that. Graphic designers outnumber actors in Los Angeles, the center of the entertainment industry.
According to the analysis, L.A. (coming in at No. 6) is the only city on either the East or West Coast to make the top 10, owing to the higher cost of living there.
The Top Ten Cities for Creative People
1. Salt Lake City
2. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn.
3. Fayetteville, Ark.-Springdale-Rogers, Mo.
4. Lincoln, Neb.
5. South Bend, Ind.-Mishawaka, Mich.
6. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale
7. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Mich.
8. Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa
9. (tie) Green Bay, Wis., and Kalamazoo-Portage, Mich.
SmartAsset analyzed date for 181 metro areas, comparing cost of living (2016 numbers fro the Council for Community Economic Research) and “creative job density” — the total number of “creative jobs” per 10,000 jobs in each metro area (2017 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The 28 jobs deemed “creative” are art directors; craft artists; fine artists, including painters, sculptors and illustrators; multimedia artists and animators; all other artists and related workers; commercial and industrial designers; floral designers; graphic designers; interior designers; set and exhibit designers; all other designers; actors; producers and directors; choreographers; music directors and composers; musicians and singers; all other entertainers and performers, sports and related workers; editors; writers and authors; sound engineering technicians; photographers; film and video editors; dancers; fashion designers; reporters and correspondents; postsecondary art, drama and music teachers; curators and architects.