The Cost of Being an Artist in Nashville

A few weeks ago, a headline from my neighborhood magazine caught my eye:

Nashville Artists Collaborate About Money

Sounds interesting, right?

“Everything is For Sale, a Music and Art Show” features four visual artists, three bands, and a poet. The goal is to have a different kind of conversation about money.

“Many of us are concerned about gentrification and income inequality and how it affects the lives of Nashville artists,” Mikah Stuible of Everything is For Sale Promotions told The East Nashvillian.

‘It City’ For Whom?

Conversations about gentrification are now common in Nashville.

When I moved here in 2006, I bragged about the city’s affordability to my Northern friends and family.

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t earning a lot. Nashville’s cost of living made pursuing a creative career more attainable. Purchasing a home in East Nashville in 2009 for $166,900 further supported my claims.

Everything changed after that.

Inner city neighborhoods were once an affordable option for musicians and artists. But now, working creatives look for housing elsewhere.

J.R. Lind described these neighborhoods in a 2014 Nashville Scene cover story:

“And as they get less affordable, they get less cool — priced out of range of the street-level creative class, the urban pioneers and the working families who gave them their initial energy and character.”

Recently, Nashville has worked on several affordable housing proposals to address the issue. But is the city doing enough?

Thriving as an Artist in Nashville 

Lindsy Davis Artwork

Lindsy Davis is a 25-year-old artist from Mahwah, NJ who has lived in Nashville for about two years.

She’s currently earning about 20% of her income from her art. She works as the front of house manager at Sky Blue Cafe to help cover her bills. She also runs the papermaking department at Platetone Printmaking, Paper and Book Arts.

Lindsy stresses the importance of building a niche, hustling non-stop, and showing your work constantly. She says you need to prove you have something to add to the conversation.

“Find mentors, never burn a bridge, do work, and stick around. Opportunity opens up as you prove you’re not going anywhere,” Lindsy recommends for those considering a leap to full-time artist.

Lindsy’s new work will be featured at Everything is For Sale: An Art and Music Show on Thursday. You can follow her on Instagram.

Jon Buko Artwork

Jon Buko is a 32-year-old pop and graffiti artist from Brighton, MI.

He’s currently earning 50-60% of his income through his art. During slower months, he also works as a sushi chef which he describes as “a rad, but a physically demanding job.”

Jon says one of the biggest challenges for Nashville artists is finding local buyers without gallery representation. But he urges others to “keep grinding to make opportunity happen.”

Jon also recommends staying current in the local scene by going to shows. He doesn’t turn down any opportunities that are legit.

When it comes to making the leap to full-time artist, he says “it depends on the individual artist and if they feel comfortable enough to go full steam ahead towards art.”

Jon’s new work will also be featured on Thursday evening. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Raising Awareness in a Different Way

Has Nashville’s economic boom killed our creativity? No.

But that doesn’t mean rising rents have been easy for artists.

Neighborhoods like East Nashville were once a haven for creatives with inconsistent income. This flexibility offered more time to devote to refining their craft. All that has changed.

Thursday’s event is raising awareness about gentrification and income inequity. And they are doing it in a unique way.

Many of us become discouraged by new stories about our city’s gentrification problem. But starting a conversation through paintings, live music, and poetry helps remind us why artists are such a vital part of our community.

“Everything is For Sale, a Music and Art Show” is on Thursday, July 28th at The East Room on 2412 Gallatin Road Nashville. The event is free! Learn more from the Facebook event

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Discussions — 14 Responses

  • Holly Johnson July 25, 2016 on 7:25 am

    I had always heard that Nashville was an affordable place to live, but I suppose that is bound to change over time. I tell ya, the housing market is booming around here. We bought our house in 2013 and have seen a 25 percent boost in values according to one local realtor.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Holly Johnson August 6, 2016 on 5:39 pm

      Wow, that’s great to hear about your real estate! Nashville’s changed a lot in the past five years. I’m grateful I was able to afford to buy a home for under $200K back in 2009.

      Reply
  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach July 25, 2016 on 9:28 am

    It seems that all of these up and coming places (denver, austin, and nashville) all face the same problems. The artists make it cool but that coolness (and other things like hi-tech moving in) make it not sustainable after the long run with people with money are able to drive prices up. I’m not sure the solution, but overall, I think supporting the arts in whatever way you can will help!

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Tonya@Budget and the Beach August 6, 2016 on 5:41 pm

      I think so, too, Tonya! I try to get out and support local artists whenever I can.

      Reply
  • Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore July 27, 2016 on 10:51 am

    I love this story. Very good information in here.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore August 6, 2016 on 5:40 pm

      Thanks for reading, Kayla!

      Reply
  • NZ Muse July 27, 2016 on 4:05 pm

    Ultimately as any city gets more popular, it’s inevitable that prices will rise, I guess. Very cool to see an initiative like this though. I’ve always thought as creatives we really should take more of an interest in money and making the most of what we earn even if it’s not a ton.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore NZ Muse August 6, 2016 on 5:42 pm

      Definitely! As creatives, we need to pay closer attention to how much we’re earning and spending. I didn’t take it as seriously as I should when I was starting out and it made everything so much harder.

      Reply
  • DC @ Young Adult Money July 29, 2016 on 5:20 am

    Minneapolis seems to be having a similar “issue.” There are a TON of creatives here, but…there are also no shortage of businesses here. The push is for more and more expensive real estate and it does kind of make it an unaffordable place to live, at least various areas. I’m still not sure that’s a bad thing, but I haven’t spent much time thinking about gentrification.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore DC @ Young Adult Money August 6, 2016 on 5:47 pm

      It’s definitely complicated. Stagnant wages in Nashville has made the issue a lot more difficult. Unfortunately, companies aren’t willing to pay (or can’t afford to pay) wages you see in bigger cities like New York, San Francisco, or Boston. Side hustling has always helped me, but that’s not an option for everyone.

      Reply
  • Melanie @ Dear Debt July 29, 2016 on 8:36 pm

    Same thing is happening to Portland, but prob way worse. Gentrification is such a weird thing. In some ways it revitalizes neighborhoods, but then it pushes the people out that made it creative in the first place. I don’t know what the answer is.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Melanie @ Dear Debt August 6, 2016 on 5:45 pm

      I’ve heard how tough it’s gotten in Portland, and I hate to hear it. It’s definitely a complicated problem. Local leaders need to be proactive in addressing affordable housing issues before everyone is forced out.

      Reply
  • Finance Solver July 31, 2016 on 8:27 pm

    I hate when cost of living increases.. I plan my budget according to my past experiences of living in a city but if cost of living increases significantly, then I have to make it up in my income or slashing my budget significantly, which I don’t like doing. However, when there’s a will, there’s a way, doing things like getting a roommate, eating out less, or using electricity less can add up to huge expenses which can be cut!

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Finance Solver August 6, 2016 on 5:43 pm

      Definitely! I love hearing about the creative ways people find to slash expenses. Getting a roommate or renting a room on Airbnb helps a ton!

      Reply