Rural Arts, Design, and Innovation in America
Research Findings from the Rural Establishment Innovation Survey
IssueLocal and provincial data on arts and culture
National Endowment for the Arts
Based on United States census data and data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Establishment Innovation Survey (REIS), this report provides “descriptive statistics about rural arts organizations and … uses data at the business establishment level to explore the nexus of arts, design, and innovation in rural communities”. The REIS was a 2014 survey of nearly 11,000 “tradable business establishments (excluding the agricultural sector) with at least five paid employees”. In the survey, “counties falling outside metropolitan statistical areas are termed rural”.
The report finds that many types of arts and culture organizations are similarly distributed between rural counties and urban metropolitan areas:
- Museums comprise 43% of all cultural organizations in rural counties and 39% of those in urban metropolitan areas.
- Theatre companies account for 16% of cultural organizations in rural counties and 22% of those in urban metropolitan areas.
- Historical sites, zoos, and botanical gardens represent 13% of cultural organizations in rural counties and 10% of those in urban metropolitan areas.
Those rural counties that do have performing arts organizations tend to “offer scenic beauty and other recreational attractions”. In fact, there is a correlation between rural performing arts companies and national parks: “43 percent of rural counties with performing arts companies are located in or near a national park or forest…. The statistical odds that a rural county will contain a performing arts company are nearly 60 percent greater if the county intersects with a national park or forest.”
The report also finds that population growth has been faster in rural counties with performing arts companies than those without.
Rural cultural organizations tend to draw on audiences from further away than urban organizations: 31% of audience members for rural cultural organizations “travel ‘beyond a reasonable distance’ to attend events”, compared with 19% of audience members for urban cultural organizations.
Two other types of cultural organizations do show a statistically significant difference in their presence in rural and urban areas. A composite indicator of “other performing arts, independent artists, and promoters/agents” is much lower in rural counties (7% of all cultural organizations) than in urban metropolitan areas (23%). Nature parks are much more prevalent in rural counties (22% of all cultural organizations) than in urban areas (6%).