The 8th Annual Arts Vibrancy Index from SMU DataArts Compiles List of 40 Most Vibrant Arts Communities Across the U.S., Based on Measures of Per Capita Supply, Demand and Government Support for the Arts
CLEVELAND, OH, November 13, 2023 – SMU DataArts, the National Center for Arts Research, released its 8th Arts Vibrancy Index, which identifies Cleveland-Elyria as number 12 in the list of 20 large communities in the United States through an analysis of the level of supply, demand, and government support for the arts in more than 900 communities across the country. Organized into three separate lists based on community population size, totaling 40 communities across the country, this year’s Arts Vibrancy Index is the first to include numerical rankings since 2020, a reflection of arts organizations returning to in-person activities and performances following the easing of pandemic restrictions. Cleveland, along with neighboring Elyria, has consistently appeared on the Arts Vibrancy Index since its debut on the rankings in 2018.
This year, Cleveland is ranked 12th on the annual list of large communities in the nation -- the highest ranking it has ever achieved.
Related research by SMU DataArts shows that Local Arts Agencies (LAAs) like Assembly for the Arts and Cuyahoga Arts & Culture are powerful catalysts of arts vibrancy which ensure that the arts remain an integral part of community life. Fluctuations in a community’s ranking occur from year to year for a variety of reasons, including the opening of an arts district or closing of a performance space as well as local economic conditions.
Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) is the region’s largest funder for arts and culture. Since 2006, CAC has invested $230 million in over 470 organizations, including SMU Data Arts, to gather and share local nonprofit arts data through CAC’s grant application process.
“It’s important to have data to demonstrate the strength of Cuyahoga County’s creative community,” said Jill M. Paulsen, executive director of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. “Each year, CAC-funded organizations contribute information to SMU DataArts to help us tell the story of the sector’s impact and shine a light on their work.”
Jeremy V. Johnson, CEO and president of Assembly for the Arts, said, “Cleveland is now ranked 12th in the nation in terms of Arts Providers, Arts Dollars, and Government Support, joining the company of arts-heavy cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. The Arts Vibrancy Index demonstrates the arts’ enduring importance, resiliency, and vibrancy in Greater Cleveland, which is why it’s essential to maintain public support for this important part of our economy.”
Arts-vibrant communities can be found in every region of the United States—a finding which arises from an objective analysis of the data, and not from selecting communities by hand to achieve geographic representation.
“The arts and culture sector was hit hard by the pandemic, and some organizations and communities are still recovering. The Index is an opportunity for communities to affirm and celebrate the individuals and organizations that are the sources of arts vibrancy in their region, whether that’s artists who have mastered a local craft tradition over generations, a cultural festival that families enjoy year after year, or a cherished historic theater, museum, or arts-education center. For organizations, funders, local citizens, and public officials, the Arts Vibrancy Index is a powerful resource that leverages data-driven evidence to illuminate how the arts contribute to an area’s economy and public life,” stated Dr. Zannie Voss, Director of SMU DataArts. “One way that public leaders can spark arts vibrancy in their communities is by expanding funding for local arts agencies, which spurs arts employment, stimulates more artistic activity, and increases the strength of geographically dispersed arts-vibrant cultural resources throughout communities.”
In addition to the top arts-vibrant communities listed in the Arts Vibrancy Index, arts-vibrancy scores for every county in the United States can be viewed on an interactive map that identifies arts and cultural strengths that are present in every community. (Also known as Metropolitan or Micropolitan Statistical Areas, these communities have boundaries that are defined by the United States Census Bureau.)
Large Communities (population: 1 million +)
On the list of the most arts-vibrant communities with populations of 1 million or more, one city is new to the list: Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI. San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA, sits at the top of the list for the first time since 2018 and Philadelphia, PA, has moved into the top 5 for the first time ever. After debuting in the 20th spot in 2020, Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN, has skyrocketed to the 11th spot.
- San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA
- New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
- Boston, MA
- Philadelphia, PA
- Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
- Frederick-Gaithersburg-Rockville, MD
- Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA
- New Orleans-Metairie, LA
- Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN
- Cleveland-Elyria, OH
- Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA
- Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA
- Seattle-Bellevue-Kent, WA
- Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI
- Chicago-Naperville-Evanston, IL
- Louis, MO-IL
Medium Communities (population: 100,000 – 1 million)
Medium communities are home to populations ranging from 100,000 to 1 million people. Canton-Massillon, OH, is new to this list, while Santa Fe, NM; San Rafael, CA; and Pittsfield, MA, have appeared on the list of top medium communities every year since 2015. Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo-Portage, MI, are returning to this list following their 2022 debuts.
- Pittsfield, MA
- Santa Fe, NM
- Ithaca, NY
- San Rafael, CA
- Kalamazoo-Portage, MI
- Boulder, CO
- Missoula, MT
- Canton-Massillon, OH
- Burlington-South Burlington, VT
- Ann Arbor, MI
Small Communities (population <100,000)
Small communities are defined as areas with populations under 100,000. Jackson, WY-ID, and Bennington, VT, have made the list of small communities every year since 2015, with Jackson maintaining its ranking as first among small communities for the past four years.
- Jackson, WY-ID
- Brevard, NC
- Steamboat Springs, CO
- Bennington, VT
- Easton, MD
- Glenwood Springs, CO
- Hailey, ID
- Juneau, AK
- Brookings, SD
- Oneonta, NY
The overall Arts Vibrancy Index is composed of 13 unique measures which cover aspects of supply, demand, and public support for arts and culture, and are adjusted for cost of living and population differences among communities. In this year’s index, the analysis approach was updated to weight the 13 inputs based on their relative explanatory power for the underlying concept of arts vibrancy. This approach improves measurement consistency in the face of data availability delays or other changes in individual datasets from year to year. All financial metrics have been adjusted for cost of living in order to level the playing field. The cost of doing business varies based on local conditions, so the same dollar goes further in some communities than others.
ABOUT ASSEMBLY FOR THE ARTS
Assembly for the Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a focus on advocacy, cultural policy, racial equity initiatives, research, marketing that elevates the region, and services for nonprofits, artists, and creative businesses. It is governed by a volunteer board with a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. Assembly by design operates in close partnership with Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, a government agency, and Assembly for Action, a 501(c)4 political action nonprofit to serve the entire creative sector. Assembly is supported through major funding from: The Cleveland Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Ohio Arts Council, Huntington, KeyBank, The George W. Codrington Charitable Foundation, and Fred & Laura Ruth Bidwell. www.assemblycle.org
ABOUT CUYAHOGA ARTS & CULTURE
Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) is the region’s largest funder for arts and culture, helping hundreds of organizations in Cuyahoga County connect millions of people to cultural experiences each year. Since 2006, CAC has invested $230 million in over 470 organizations, making our community a more vibrant place to live, work and play. CAC is a separate government entity and a political subdivision of the State of Ohio. For more information, visit cacgrants.org.
ABOUT SMU DATAARTS
SMU DataArts, the National Center for Arts Research, is a project of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University. The mission of SMU DataArts is to provide and engage both organizations and individuals with the evidence-based insights needed to collectively build strong, vibrant, and equitable arts communities. Its research efforts range from academic papers published in leading journals, applied research undertaken with community partners, and actionable insights shared directly with arts practitioners. Its programs provide business intelligence tools and resources to help arts leaders leverage data to answer critical management questions and connect research analyses to their own work. Recent publications include research reports on emergence from the COVID-19 crisis; the alchemy that drives high performing arts organizations of color; audience diversity, equity and inclusion in large performing arts organizations; impact of investments made in diverse creative communities; and more.