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NCAR Arts Vibrancy Index II (2016)

Hotbeds of America’s Arts and Culture

January 25, 201725 January 2017

Arts indicators / Well-being

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Arguing that “creativity is a desirable and necessary element for a thriving community”, this American report attempts to identify cities with particularly strong artistic vibrancy among 937 metropolitan areas in the U.S.A. Arts vibrancy, in the report, includes 12 indicators grouped into three key areas:

  • Arts providers, including the number of arts and culture organizations, employees in arts and culture organizations, employees in broader entertainment industries, and freelance artists. Arts providers received a 45% weighting in the overall index.
  • Arts dollars, including not-for-profit cultural organizations’ program revenues, contributed revenues, total expenses, and total compensation. Arts dollars also received a 45% weighting in the overall index.
  • Government grant activity in the arts, including the number and value of grants from the state and federal levels. Government support received a 10% weighting in the overall index.

The authors recognize that their measures of vibrancy do not capture information “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”. However, the authors argue that the indicators in the report “represent a solid start using the most reliable sources of data available on a nationwide scale”.

Among cities with populations of 1 million or more, the highest-ranked metropolitan areas were Washington (D.C.), Nashville, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Among cities with a population under 1 million, Jackson (Wyoming) was highest ranked. Three Colorado municipalities were among the top five: Glenwood Springs (#2), Breckenridge (#4), and Edwards (#5). Santa Fe (New Mexico) ranked third.

The report highlights the dynamism of the rankings (15% of the top 40 communities are new to the list), the representation of every region of the country among the top 40, the diversity of strengths in the artistic vibrancy of different top communities, as well as the predominance of municipalities with populations under 300,000 and those with populations between 1 and 3 million.

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