Axios Chicago

Picture of the Chicago skyline.

Happy Sunday! Welcome to our version of a weekend getaway.

Today's newsletter is 764 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Chicago fuels creatives

Illustration of a paint tube with money coming out.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Chicago tops U.S. cities as the most livable for those in creative industries, according to a new study.

Why it matters: The city's vibrant creative community makes it a world-class destination for tourists and art lovers.

The big picture: Chicago ranks fourth globally, following Tokyo, London and Paris.

  • Among U.S. cities, Chicago narrowly beat out San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.

Methodology: The study looks at factors including salaries and expenses for artists, graphic artists, performers and musicians. Other categories include:

  • The number of creative jobs available
  • The number of museums and art galleries
  • The amount of green space and parks
  • The availability of creative classes and workshops

State of play: Chicago has spent considerable resources to highlight our creative and cultural communities in recent decades, including dedicating yearlong city programming to music, theater, art and, in 2022, dance.

  • The city also recently announced the Chicago Arts Recovery Program, which will distribute $11 million to arts nonprofits and $4.5 million more for aiding arts organizations still recovering from the pandemic in 2023.
  • The city's cultural affairs department will continue its grants program for individual artists in 2024. This year, the annual program anticipates giving up to $6,000 each to 250 artists.

Reality check: Though Chicago may be No. 1 in the country for creatives, we rank sixth when it comes to salaries.

  • We average $68,632. San Francisco has the highest salary for creatives, at an average of $86,300, but the cost of living there is higher.
  • Plus, the study cites the number of green spaces and art galleries in how it determined its rankings, but neither element factors into how artists and creative people can survive amid rising rents and inflation.

What they're saying: "Inflation is making basic needs difficult for artists," printmaker Megan Sterling tells Axios.

  • "Art supplies and materials have gone up drastically. Costs are going up, but the wages aren't."

Of note: Although rent increases are slowing, they're still averaging more than $2,000 per month.

Most expensive Chicago neighborhoods
Data:; Chart: Axios Visuals

Between the lines: Local artists know this. It's why artists work full-time jobs outside their creative pursuits or are choosing to leave Chicago for the coasts, which boast better pay and more professional opportunities.

What's next: Coming up this week, we'll talk to some Chicago artists about what they think of the study.

📫 Are you a creative working in Chicago? Do you agree with the findings? Email us, and we'll include your answers in the newsletter next week.

2. Popularity contest: This week's news

Illustration of the Art Institute of Chicago's Lion statue holding a newspaper in its mouth.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Our most-read offerings of the past week:

🗳 The election dominated the news. Our story about results was by far the most popular, picked up by national audiences.

✅ Justin's piece exploring Mayor Lightfoot's legacy looked at the good and bad of her single term.

🏘 Most of you wanted to know how your neighbors voted.

👉 Don't forget about City Council! Our breakdown over which aldermanic races could be headed to runoffs was very popular.

🏒 The only story that came close in readership to our election coverage was our preview of the end of the Patrick Kane era.

What we're watching: Both Vallas and Johnson will be on the hunt to secure key endorsements before the April 4 runoff.

  • The Big Ten men's basketball tournament starts Wednesday at the United Center.
  • And we'll get you ready for all the St. Patrick's Day festivities next weekend.

3. Sunday dinner: Sam Kass' Lucky Pasta

Pasta and spinach

Pesto pasta with spinach from Sam Kass' recipe. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

👋 Hey, it's Monica. I love gathering family and friends for Sunday meals before the week gets crazy again.

  • But like a lot of you, I can get in a rut with the same old recipes. That's why I'll be asking random interviewees — from chefs to artists to politicians — about their go-to recipes for a Sunday gathering and sharing them with you.

First up: Former Avec and Obama White House chef Sam Kass, who now serves as chief strategy officer for Do Good Chicken, a company that raises chickens on supermarket food waste. The birds landed in local Jewel stores last month.

The dish: Kass' "Lucky Pasta," featuring penne, pesto sauce and, wait for it, chicken.

What he's saying: "This is a dish that I made for the president on Air Force One on the way to the second debate in the re-election, and he credited his performance to my pasta," Kass tells Axios and recounted on my "Chewing" podcast.

The intrigue: The recipe calls for chicken breast, but, Kass says, "This is the only time I would use a breast, personally. Other than that I am all thighs."

Ingredients: Pasta, garlic, fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, baby spinach and chicken breasts.

Full recipe

Edited by Alexa Mencia and Hadley Malcolm and copy edited by Rob Reinalda.

Our picks for things to do today:

Monica is excited about the National Museum of Mexican Art's Sor Juana Festival, which started this weekend. Full of great female art and more.

Justin recommends heading to Berwyn today for Chef John Manion's Babygold Barbecue brunch while taking in the great "un-ruined" country sounds of The Lawrence Peters Outfit at FitzGerald's. It starts at 1:30pm. The music is free, the food is not.

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