For years, it has baffled and frustrated me that Baltimore, the home of Maryland Institute College of Arts, one of the country's premier schools of art and design, is a city with so few professional opportunities for artists.

We virtually force our professional artists to look for job prospects and commissions in Philadelphia, New York and on the West Coast. With few commercial galleries and only a small pool of patrons interested in contemporary and emerging artists, Baltimore is uniquely positioned as an "artsy" city where artists produce high quality work for its own sake rather than for the marketplace.

The responsibility of retaining and supporting Baltimore-based artists falls not just on the residents to step up as patrons but also on the organizations that are in place to promote the arts. While I'm all for exposing the international art world to Baltimore and vice versa, local opportunities to compete for bus, train and light rail murals would provide a perfect way to help artists earn money, gain exposure and add to their portfolios ("$200,000 grant to bring European artists to Baltimore," June 5).

A vibrant and economically healthy population of artists is vital for the fiscal and social health of a city. If Baltimore doesn't start putting its money where its mouth is by offering real, money-making opportunities for professional artists, we will continue to lose talented young people (and their future incomes) to cities that do.

Ann Priftis