A Tale of Two Cities: Choosing Between L.A. and Montreal

Where can a young creative-type go to make the most of her Art degree?

(Nicola Kwit)

One of the realities of being a millennial is the idea of “moving where the work is.” Most people in my life have done just that. Personally, I’ve done it twice. Yet, once again, I find myself having to hunt down cities that actually like artists and want to hire us.

Cities like this are few and far between, and right now there are two on my radar that could not be more different from each other. Comparing them is like comparing old Britney Spears to old Sum 41—both have their pros and cons, but they’re just so different it makes your head spin.

This is the challenge I’m facing with having to choose between Montreal and Los Angeles. One is still in the home of maple syrup and year-round toques, and the other is in the home of Cheetos and Presidents who look like Cheetos.

Both, however, have plenty of opportunities for people who work in creative fields ranging from games and animation to graphic design and publishing. If you need work, somewhere is always hiring, and both cities greatly support freelance artists and creators. So this past summer I decided to pop by both of these cities to check them out. Here is a rundown of what I learned as an artist looking to move.

Coming from somewhere like Vancouver, which is actually a very small city, Los Angeles can be overwhelming. It’s huge, and having a car is a basic necessity there because, once it gets dark, the city can be dangerous and transit is known to be unreliable. When it comes to work, though, Los Angeles is packed with opportunities.

The city has a “hustle” vibe to it that can easily rub off on you. People are working so hard around you that it inspires you and pushes you to work as well. This also means that the networking culture is all-encompassing, and it feels like everyone you meet just wants to see how you fit into their lives as a “connection” rather than a friend. Despite that, the weather is great, food and gas is cheap, and with so many creators across different industries working there, creativity oozes out of Los Angeles.

The atmosphere in Montreal is very different. It’s the one place I’ve been to in North America that really reminds me of Europe. The pace of life is slower than that of Los Angeles, and most people you’ll see there are just going about their day, doing their own thing. It’s also far safer and more peaceful than L.A.

Now, there are less jobs available there than in Los Angeles, and most are in the gaming industry since there are many game companies in Montreal. There’s also a strong theatre presence in the city, though, and there are lots of independent galleries and publications to get involved with.

The biggest downside to Montreal is the impending winter that the Starks keep yammering on about. As someone who struggles with that kind of weather, the idea of moving there kept me on my toes. The vibe of Montreal is amazing, but it is missing the hustle that I feel artists can feed off of in Los Angeles.

So which city does the young creative type pick? Personally, I’ve chosen Los Angeles, at least for the time being. Like I said, we need to go where the work is, and that’s what I am going to do. Pray for me.

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