When I graduated from the Fine Arts Department at Florida State University in 1998, my professors told me, “Go to New York City. That’s where you can make it in the arts!” I took the advice and started my career as an artist, teacher, and museum professional in New York City.
The all-immersive art environment I became part of in New York City was a priceless experience. Anyway, at the time, I was done with the South and had vowed never to return. Moving to New York was the second best thing I ever did.
The best thing I ever did was leaving New York in 2005 to return to the South.
After seven years in the big city, I felt claustrophobic. I missed the South, so I packed up and moved to New Orleans. In the late 1990s, my professors had been right: New York City — the art capital of the planet — was the place to go to make it in the arts. But that’s not really true anymore. New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles — our nation’s traditional art hubs — are not as welcoming for artists these days because of high living costs and limited access to studio space.
For many established and emerging Southern artists today, cities like Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami, and Richmond are far more inviting, less expensive, and offer more opportunities per capita to make and show work. As more Southern artists reject the lure of big cities up north and out west, they stay home to pursue their crafts. Others, like me, have returned to the South after starting their careers elsewhere.