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Even with $4 Toast, SF Is Still a Great Place to Be an Artist

Scott Lucas | February 7, 2014 | Lifestyle Story City Life

It's easy to get caught up in believing that the tech industry is demolishing San Francisco's artistic community. While it's true that there have been several high profile artists who have fled the city's rising rents (like Thee Oh Sees' John Dwyer who rage quit back in January), there may be less cause for alarm than you'd think. At least, that's according to that least artistic of English words: data.

The results of a massive study by the National Endowment for the Arts using United States Census data found that per capita, San Francisco had the second-highest concentration of working artists in the country. At 4.3% of our workforce, we were just behind Los Angeles, which has 4.86%. Both West Coast towns are far above New York City—which although it has the greatest total number of artists at 140,915, had only 3.4% of its workforce engaged in the arts. These numbers reflected artists who were actually reporting income from their work, which excludes aspiring artists.

Interestingly, the data also points to a synthesis between artists and techies. Across the nation, the highest percent of artists (39%) reported being employed as designers. So even if you think that all the new tech firms are chasing out the muralists, they're also making jobs for the folks who do their graphics. And pretty good jobs at that, too. The study did a state-by-state comparison of salaries, and found that California paid its artists the second highest amount of money in the country, just behind Washington D.C.

If that's not enough, there's more. A weighted index of all sorts of unrelated inputs—the Thomas Kinkade of social science research—from found that San Francisco was the third best city for artists in the country.

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