NCAR Arts Vibrancy Index II

Hotbeds of America's Arts and Culture

Zannie Giraud Voss, Glenn B. Voss, Richard Briesch, and Meghann Bridgeman

From the report's "Executive Summary":

"To assess arts vibrancy across America, we incorporate four measures each under three main rubrics: demand, supply and public support for arts and culture on a per capita basis. Demand was gauged by measures of total nonprofit arts dollars in the community, supply as total arts providers, and public support as state and federal arts funding. We use multiple measures since vibrancy can manifest in many ways. One might criticize our measures of vibrancy because they say nothing about artistic quality, or the multitude of community conditions that make a place ripe for creative activity, or data on who participates in the arts, or the revenues and expenses of commercial entertainment. Might additional measures be added in the future? Certainly. For now, we believe the metrics used in this report represent a solid start using the most reliable sources of data available on a nationwide scale.

This year’s key findings:

  • Arts vibrancy is dynamic! Six communities (15%) are new to our lists this year from 3 new states: Hawaii, Oregon, and Texas. Three new communities – Portland, OR; Austin, TX; and Kansas City, MO – claim a spot on our top-20, large-MSA list, and three new communities – Maui, HI; St Cloud, MN; and Medford, OR – appear for the first time on our top-20 medium and small list.
  • This reshuffling still leaves every region of the country represented on both lists, but there is an undeniable prevalence of western and mid-western communities on the list of medium and small communities.
  • Arts vibrancy continues to take many shapes and forms. Some communities have large, impressive nonprofit arts and cultural institutions, some burst with smaller organizations and venues, and others are tourist destinations or artist colonies. Numerous arts sectors are vibrant in some places while other cities are capitals of a particular art form.
  • Vibrancy in very large metropolitan statistical areas takes two distinct forms. Some large MSAs feature a strong concentration of arts vibrancy in the urban core with less going on in outlying districts whereas others feature vibrancy that is dispersed throughout the metropolitan area.
  • Like last year, the overwhelming majority of arts vibrant cities have a population either under 300,000 or between 1,000,000 and 3,000,000. Is this coincidence or are there natural zones in which population mass is optimal for vibrant demand, supply, and public support for the arts?"