NCAR Arts Vibrancy Index

Hotbeds of America’s Arts and Culture

The Arts Vibrancy Index attempts to identify cities that possess artistic vibrancy, which is defined to include per-capita measures of:

  • Arts supply, including “the number of arts and entertainment employees, arts-related organizations and independent artists in the community”. Arts supply received a 45% weighting in the final index.
  • Arts providers, including not-for-profit arts organizations’ program revenues, contributed revenues, total expenses, and total compensation. Arts providers (also referred to as arts dollars) also received a 45% weighting in the final index.
  • Government grant activity in the arts, including the number and value of grants from the state and federal levels. (Information is not consistently available for local arts grants.) Government support received a 10% weighting in the final index.

The authors recognize that a lack of data availability limited the measures included in the study. In fact, their “measures of vibrancy say nothing about the quality of the art itself, 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 arts entities”.

The findings from the index measurements include the fact that “cities large and small from every region appear in the top 40 cities”. That being said, cities in certain population ranges do tend to have higher arts vibrancy scores, including cities with a population under 300,000 or those between 1 and 3 million residents.

The highest rankings among the largest cities (population of 1 million or more) went to the metropolitan areas of Washington (D.C.), Nashville, New York, Boston, and San Francisco. Among cities with a population under 1 million, three of the top five cities were in Colorado: Glenwood Springs (#1), Breckenridge (#4), and Edwards (#5). Rounding out the top five were Santa Fe (New Mexico) and Jackson (Wyoming, including parts of Idaho).

Summary: 

The Arts Vibrancy Index attempts to identify cities that possess artistic vibrancy, which is defined to include per-capita measures of arts supply, arts providers, and government grant activity in the arts. The highest rankings among the largest cities (population of 1 million or more) went to the metropolitan areas of Washington (D.C.), Nashville, New York, Boston, and San Francisco. Among cities with a population under 1 million, three of the top five cities were in Colorado: Glenwood Springs (#1), Breckenridge (#4), and Edwards (#5). Rounding out the top five were Santa Fe (New Mexico) and Jackson (Wyoming, including parts of Idaho).