Houston Not a City For Young Creatives, Says New List

hearthouston.jpg
"I Heart Houston" by Paul McRae (Delta Niner)
Last week PolicyMic, a website dedicated to the millennial generation, posted a list entitled "15 Cities for Creative 20-Somethings That Aren't New York or Los Angeles." The list includes some obvious choices, Ashville, NC, Portland, OR, and Nashville, TN, among others. A glaring omission from the list is our very own H-Town. That is not to say that Texas is completely left off; our "weird" neighbor made the cut at No. 4.

According to author Elyssa Goldberg, Austin is a good place for creatives because it's affordable and easy to live in, which makes me wonder if Goldberg wrote this list ten years ago as Austin's real estate market just reportedly hit an all-time high.

But before I get all hot and bothered over how Austin made this list and Houston did not, I think it's worth exploring why that may be. Branding.

Let me jump back a bit first. I moved to Houston almost seven years ago now leaving what many would call the capitol of artsy-fartsy and cool: Williamsburg, Brooklyn (For the record, it's not). When my now husband was offered the move through his company, our friends thought we were insane. "Houston?" they said. "No, you mean Austin." Nope. Houston.

What tended to follow were jokes about all of the things we would have "a problem" with - horse manure being a big one.

In their defense, they knew nothing about the city; neither did, I for that matter. Our first trip down, we walked 19th Street and aimlessly searched for Montrose, which we thought was called Neartown because that's what Wikipedia says. By and large we were happily surprised: no cows, no hay piles. I am not lying when I say that as New Yorkers we expected to find little but farmland with a few DQs scattered through.

As I got to know the city more, I was further surprised and shared this news back east. Houston is a really cool, artsy town! And not only is Houston filled with art and culture, but people are skilled at their crafts and much of the community supports its artists. "Much" of the community.

Despite being the fourth (going on third) largest city in the entire country, Houston's art community feels very small town. As I have had the privilege to be a part of and write about the arts here, I have found a support and acceptance among different disciplines, as well as within specific fields. Personally, I have had much more success as an artist here than I ever did in New York. There are a million Abby Koenigs in New York, in Houston there are only a few. I have screamed Houston's artistic merits from the rooftops, but the thing is, people aren't listening. The national press specifically doesn't seem to want to hear about Houston for some reason. And therein lies the real problem Houston has.

This story continues on the next page.


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12 comments
exhausted
exhausted

So one person who could not cut it in NYC gets mad about some silly article and because Houston has a fit every time it is criticized this nonsense gets published? For crying out loud this insecurity that Houston has is soooo tiring. 

Anse
Anse

It's hard to understand why the oil and gas industry would be a negative for those young creatives, but Wall Street isn't for New York. 


Austin is the state capitol and it has the U. of Texas, as well as several other universities nearby. They seem to have an easier time hosting large-scale festivals (our Summer Fest is a notable and hopeful exception for Houston), probably because they don't seem to care about the impact on traffic, while our city council can't decide anything without figuring out where the cars are gonna go first. Austin has worked very hard to emphasize development in the central area, so there is an intensity to the life of that town, while our own downtown can be utterly dead on even a weekend evening. I'm not bashing Houston, it's my home and I actually like that we don't get all the press-gushing that Austin gets; we're actually a lot more laid-back than Austin is in that regard, and I like that. 

Candyman Vending Service
Candyman Vending Service

well everyone in Houston rejected my ideas including the Texans so I took my creative ideas to to Cali and pitched it to artists over there. Took me 3 months and my design hit TMZ and the press across the world as well as a huge support from everywhere but Houston. Now I have a list of celebs waiting as clientele. So that's my input lol

Jesse Santillano
Jesse Santillano

H-Town is not majority white. Do some fact checking before you embarrass yourself.The non-Hispanic white proportion in Houston has halved since 1970, when it accounted for 62% of the population, which is down to 30.8% today. It also seems the racial and ethnic diversity increases the further away from the center of the city you move. Houston's Hispanic population is increasing rapidly as more Latin American immigrants move to the area to work. Houston now has the 3rd largest Hispanic population in the United States. There is also a significant African American population in Houston, which has been the case for most of its history. From 1870 to 1890, black people accounted for nearly 40% of the city's population, although this ranged from 21 to 33% from 1910 to 1970.

Rick McDowell
Rick McDowell

Yes, actually. Been here a year from Colorado, and have found the entire atmosphere to be a complete detrement to my creative process.

katsola1
katsola1

Houston is an affordable city for the influx of young professionals in the energy, oil, technology and medical industries which are seeing starting salaries of $75K, who are in a position to take advantage of the lower cost to own a home or who can take their time and live in luxury apartments sprouting up on every scrap of land. If you want attract young creatives and keep the current creative community in tact and moving forward; worry less about branding the city and concentrate on intelligent design and city planning that includes housing for those in a more varied income than the city is currently building. If land cost to developers is at a premium, is there a creative way to generate extra income to compensate for building more basic apartments without depending on grants and subsidies? Would solar panels on the roof generate excess energy that could be resold to the energy industry to compensate for less premium rents? I don't know if that would work, but I do know if the creatives, the energy experts, economists and city planners came together, I bet they could come up with a smart, sustainable solution for this city.

Our success stories in small business, the creative community and the young entrepreneurs lived in a more affordable city ten years ago than they do now; but the ones who survived still made intelligent decisions in growing their business and were thankful for the low cost of living and rent as being a part of their success; never using that fact as a way to sit on the sidelines to take a break.

At the end of the day branding is about fulfilling a promise. If the foundation of the promise is not there to ensure it happens; no branding of this city, no matter how wonderfully thought out, aesthetically beautiful or moving will ever work, if the promise falls short. I love this city, it is where I was born it is where I work and as a designer and a part of the creative community and I like many feel the current frustration with the housing problem. If we are all upset we didn't make the list while our high rent "weird" neighbor did, let's be smart and not fall further behind by making the same mistake.

Anse
Anse

@exhausted I think Houstonians are less uptight about this sort of thing than people in other places. We might get a little defensive about Houston but that's because the rest of the country has such a sour attitude about our city.


I bought a t-shirt from a little shop on Studewood that says "It's Okay to (heart) Houston" and I love wearing it when I'm in Austin, because you would not believe some of the comments I've gotten from the hipsters up there. I have actually been confronted on the street for that t-shirt. The comments are usually some variation of "You can't be serious". These are people who were either not in Austin back in the early 90's, or who have since forgotten how badly that town wanted to be noticed by the rest of the world. They were in Houston's shadow back then, now it's the other way around. But I think most Houstonians are actually pretty nonchalant about it. 

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