best cities for artists to live in Canada

Which are the best cities for artists to live in Canada?

As per the Canadian creativity index, the capital city Ottawa is on the top list, followed by Victoria and Vancouver. Montreal, Quebec City, Calgary, Toronto, Halifax, and London are Canadian cities with the best artistic communities that have made it to the top ten in the list. Ontario accounts for 42% of Canada’s artists, almost twice as many as any other province, and British Columbia has the highest concentration of artists (1.18%).

South Eastern Ontario, An exhibition at an art gallery in Kingston Image courtesy: Destination Ontario

Canada is one of the few nations worldwide that celebrates diversity, creativity, and culture. There are many cities in Canada dedicated to artists and creative brains; it is not an easy task to pick the best few. Nevertheless, we have done a tough job for you. We have researched the best cities for artists and creatives to live in in Canada. These artistic communities embrace creativity and culture like no other. 

As per research conducted in 2006, nearly 22,000 artists live in the 50 neighborhoods across these five cities mentioned on our top ten lists. The number of artists may not only have grown, but the communities may have also become more prominent. If you are a budding artist, an art enthusiast, or someone inspired by creativity, we have curated an impressive list for you to consider your move. Let’s take a closer look at the best artistic cities in Canada that will inspire you. 

The Big cities in Canada that help artists prosper

Ottawa 

Ranked the best overall city in Canada based on a measure of technology, talent, and tolerance, Ottawa is a remarkable Canadian city. This multicultural city is also the fourth largest urban region in Canada. Over 100 festivals and events are held yearly in the town to celebrate their love of art.

Whether you’re an aspiring artist or an established one, you’ll need a city that welcomes your creativity with open arms. Ottawa does just that. The New Art Festival, for instance, draws over 150 artists during the event.  The list includes painters, photographers, sculptors, potters, and artists from diverse backgrounds to showcase their work in a beautiful park setting. 

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Image courtesy: Destination Ontario

Ottawa art council, the origins arts and community center, and the art network Ottawa are all popular communities that can guide you to become an active member of local artists and arts groups. Suppose you are wondering which are the city’s best and most famous art galleries. In that case, we recommend you consider the National Gallery of Canada, which exhibits some of the most exquisite collections of contemporary Indigenous, Canadian and European art.


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Ottawa Art Gallery has also contributed to the visual art scene. Over the years, this art gallery has promoted local and regional art through permanent and seasonal exhibitions. Another one of the most famous art galleries that have contributed to the community art scene is the Orange Art Gallery. From contemporary artists to avid art collectors, Orange Art Gallery has championed itself within the artistic community. 

Montreal

The cultural vibrancy of Montreal and its effort to build creative communities is one of the best in the world. From music to visual arts, Montreal is renowned for being one of North America’s best cities for creatives. Numerous local and international art communities cater to all different creative groups. Montreal is also one of the few cities with a low living cost. Most artists require space and support to prosper in the field. To excel as an artist is an ambition that requires support structure, and Montreal provides just that. 

At the Montreal Fine Arts Gallery Image courtesy: Destination Ontario

As you explore the city, you’ll find several neighborhoods celebrating their love of street art and creativity. The Mural festival is one of the critical event highlights in Montreal. Here, you’ll see live and interactive murals in construction. Montreal is also home to several galleries and museums, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal. Adding to the city’s creative character and pulse, cultural diversity also makes it one of the best cities for artists and creatives to live in. 


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Halifax

A Monument in Halifax

Halifax celebrates art and culture. One of the key reasons you should consider living in this city is the slower pace of life here. This city is an Atlantic gem, the largest Canadian municipality after Quebec. With less than 1 million population, Halifax boasts affordable housing and cost of living. 

Halifax Creatives and HRM Arts & Culture Scene are two popular communities in Halifax that promote collaborative art projects. Home to a large and active group of artists from various fortes, Halifax is one of the few Canadian cities that work towards cultivating that as a culture.


Explore Halifax


Arts and culture have always been the pillar of the community, even from an economic perspective. Halifax is home to both public and private galleries. For instance, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia has over 15,000 pieces of permanent art on exhibit and is housed in a 90,000-square-foot building.  

Cost of living, economic perspective with a focus on growing art and culture, and safety and security that these Canadian cities offer are quite a few reasons why Halifax must be on your list.

Vancouver

Vancouver is a paradise for artists, both new and established. Besides the most obvious reason for having a thriving art and cultural scene, Vancouver has the perfect blend of history, modernity, culture, and nature. Sure, the cost of living may have increased, but this city is focused on creating affordable housing projects with working units and communities for artists. You’ll see that the city consistently commissions public installations and outdoor exhibitions to encourage art. 

Gallery Store , Vancouver Art Gallery

This city also hosts several festivals celebrating artists and their work to get them more visibility and exposure. The Art Gallery of Vancouver is one of the key landmarks that helps several artists find inspiration. Granville Island, Commercial Street, and Arts Factory Society have now become a hub for artists.


Explore Vancouver


Being one of the best cities to live in for artists, Vancouver is a city focused on empowering artists. Vancouver art community is a significant association that helps local artists and art-focused organizations make new connections. Events, activations, exhibitions, and education, whatever your goal might be, this dedicated non-profit organization helps further the development of community arts throughout Vancouver.

Calgary

When in Calgary, living a creative life is no longer a dream for aspiring artists. Many artists are involved in driving the economy forward, especially in Calgary’s central business district. The city has invested exponentially in the field of art and culture. Last year, the City of Calgary spent billions to revitalize the Olympic Plaza Arts District.

Art Installation at the Stampede Grounds, Calgary

With the city’s efforts, Calgary’s creative community is also investing its time and effort in neighborhoods like Inglewood, Ramsay, and Manchester into an art district. It’s incredible to see that the endeavors of several artists and art entrepreneurs have been recognized.

Even with the cost of living and affordable housing communities for artists, Calgary has made visible efforts. They are working towards a plan that lets artists convert empty office space into affordable housing. Arts and culture have become an essential part of the city and are identified as key economic sector that drives growth. 


Explore Calgary


Calgary has always consistently ranked among the most livable cities in the world. Besides the diverse and multicultural population, Calgary is one of the few cities that boasts affordable housing, low sales tax, and great job opportunities. 

London

London in Ontario is one of the best cities to consider your next move. As an artist, you’ll need a supportive community and opportunities to express your love for art. London’s robust arts community foundation invests in teaching art forms, whether theater, painting, visual arts, or even music.

Moving here might be your opportunity to launch or establish your artistic career. Renowned names like Eleanor Catton, Ryan Gosling, and Jack Chambers were all found in this very city. The tight-knit creative community gives artists a platform to grow locally and internationally. As an artist, you can be a part of the emerging London art scene and make some exceptional contributions. 

In terms of finding affordable housing options, the real estate market in London is constantly changing and growing. But, that doesn’t mean you’ll not find a place that fits your budget. As one of Canada’s fastest-growing cities, London is an attractive destination for art entrepreneurs and businesses to expand. 

Best small towns for artists to live in Canada

Now that we have mentioned, some of the bigger cities don’t miss out on the smaller towns. These small towns in Canada are great places for established and aspiring artists to settle. An incredibly supportive and close-knit community is a blessing for artists to give their full potential and grow their careers. 

Elora

Elora, ranked among the most beautiful villages in Ontario, is an excellent place for art enthusiasts to live. Get inspired by the old-world charm and the natural beauty. Located in downtown Elora, the Elora Center for the Arts is a hub of creativity. Packed with independent galleries, group exhibitions, and outdoor exhibitions, Elora celebrates their love for art and creativity.

Stained Glass Making in Progress

A true home for art lovers, this small town in Canada has art studios, fine art experiences, and behind the scene tour opportunities for you to learn and get inspired. Besides being picturesque, this old town also boasts affordable housing, a low cost of living, and accessibility to every facility. 



Nelson

Nelson in British Columbia is ranked among the top ten most livable cities. This small town is also the number one small arts town in Canada and one of the best 100 small art towns in North America. Well known for art, culture, and spectacular scenery, Nelson has earned its reputation as a cultural center.

This art-oriented small town in Canada has its art college, fine arts center, theaters, galleries, and numerous festivals celebrating culture. The only hurdle in Nelson, as mentioned in a report published in the Nelson Daily, is the rising cost of housing. Even with a non-art-related full-time job, most artists are finding it difficult to catch up on the increasing rents in this town. 

Stratford

Renowned for the annual Shakesphere festival, Stratford is a charming artistic hot spot. This town has become a place for creators to thrive and set down their roots for growth. One of the city’s key highlights is the Agora Art Gallery’s artistic hub. This contemporary art gallery in Stratford consciously highlights the creativity displayed by the local, home-grown artists.

Some other galleries to explore include Mountain Galleries East, SITE, Gallery Indigena, and Gallery Stratford. As an artist, freedom of expression is everything. Stratford’s Art in the Park is an opportunity for you to display your creativity and interact directly with the buyers. 

Stratford is also one of Canada’s most affordable, comfortable, and secure small towns. They have embarked on a journey to become a SmartCity with the help of cutting-edge technology. Housing is highly affordable and allows you to break away from the humdrum of city life. 

Artist Residencies for 2022-2023 in Canada

If you are an artist looking for the best artist residencies in Canada, we would recommend you check out the Banff Artist in Residence, Est-Nord-Est, résidence d´artistes, and Casa Artist in Residence. These programs are designed for visual artists and help them with innovative research, creation, and networking activities.

The Center for Studies in Religion and Society (CSRS) at the University of Victoria welcomes applications from artists. It is also looking for applications in 2022/2023 to participate in its interdisciplinary research community. One of the most sought out 2023 Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence Program is accepting applications too. The program is open to professional Canadian artists practicing a wide array of disciplines.

Canada is one of the few nations that has dedicated budgets and grants to help artists prosper in their area of interest. In 2020-21 alone, over 3080 Canadian artists, over 380 groups, and 2060 art organizations received Canada council grants. 


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