Results of Arts Vibrancy Index Study May Surprise You

DC street art. Photo via Vandalog.

Did you know there is such a thing as the Arts Vibrancy Index? Neither did we, but it has some surprising results about which American cities are a good place to live when it comes to making and enjoying art.

Produced by Southern Methodist University’s National Center for Arts Research (NCAR), the first annual report ranks over 900 communities nationwide. (Check out the study’s accompanying heat map for more visual data.) The NCAR was founded in February 2013.

According to the report, “Vibrancy is measured as the level of supply, demand, and government support for arts and culture on a per capita basis.”

Supply refers to the total number of arts providers in the community, including artists along with arts, entertainment, and culture employees, and arts organizations. Demand is gauged by the total nonprofit arts dollars in the community, while level of government support is based on state arts dollars and grants and federal arts dollars and grants.

By these standards, the most vibrant art communities with populations of 1 million or more are, in order: the Washington, D.C. metro area; Nashville, Tennessee; the New York metropolitan area; Boston, Massachusetts; and San Francisco, California.

The top five medium-to-small communities (with populations under 1 million) are Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Jackson, Wyoming; Breckenridge, Colorado; and Edwards, Colorado.

That’s right! Despite the somewhat shaky state of affairs that is the current D.C. art world (see Judge Approves Dissolution of Corcoran Gallery and Community Outrage Forces Public Art Project’s Dismantling in D.C.), the nation’s capital apparently offers the best place to be for the arts. Who knew? (Looks like somebody did get the memo about the death of the New York art scene, by the way—see Why I Believe New York’s Art Scene is Doomed).

The study concedes that while “no region has cornered the market on arts vibrancy…there is high representation from Western communities in the set of Medium-Small cities.”


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