Cincinnati jumps to No. 11 on list of most arts-vibrant large regions

Greater Cincinnati is one of the most vibrant arts communities in the United States.

The region – which includes parts of southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana – claimed the No. 11 position on this year’s SMU DataArts’ eighth Arts Vibrancy Index. That’s a nine-spot jump from its debut on the list in 2020.

The index, which is supported by the National Center for Arts Research, identifies the 40 most arts-vibrant communities in the United States through an analysis of the level of supply, demand and government support for the arts.

The report provides insight into which of more than 900 communities across have the highest scores on three key measures: arts providers, arts dollars and government support. Each region is organized into one of three groups based on population size – large, medium and small. Greater Cincinnati is in the large category, which is for regions with populations of more than 1 million people. 

Alecia Kintner, president and CEO of ArtsWave, believes the ranking affirms two things about Cincinnati: arts organizations throughout the region continue to play an important role in driving economic vibrancy and social connectivity, and residents of the region are highly “arts-engaged.”

“We also know that you cannot separate the quality and variety of arts experiences here from the decades of strategic, philanthropic investment in the arts by individuals and businesses,” she continued. “This index provides a new way to talk about return on that investment.”

The goal of the Arts Vibrancy Index is to recognize that arts and cultural organizations are inextricably tied to their communities, according to Dr. Zannie Voss, director of SMU DataArts.

Scores stem from data provided by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, as well as feedback from their communities in order to identify factors that affect the health and sustainability of arts organizations.

San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif, reclaimed the top spot on the list for the first time since 2018.

For the first time, Milwaukee-Waukesha, Wisc. appears on the list. It’s No. 18 in the large region. After being absent from the top lists for over five years, Pittsburgh, Pa. (large); St. Louis, Mo. (large) and Juneau, Ak. (small) have returned to the index.

Canton-Massillon, Ohio debuted on the index this year at No. 8 in the medium category. Cleveland-Elyria finished No. 12 among large regions, one spot behind Cincinnati.

No other cities in Ohio, Kentucky or Indiana made the top 40.

The multi-county Cincinnati region received its highest scores in Hamilton County in Ohio, as well as Kenton and Campbell counties in Northern Kentucky. All three scored at least a 98 overall score.

Cincinnati ranked especially high for earned program revenue, such as ticket sales, and contributed income or philanthropic gifts. The high mark in government support is the result of the region’s arts organizations ability to win competitive state and federal grants.

“This speaks to the quality and continual innovation demonstrated by our region’s arts institutions because, for these grants, they are evaluated against peers across the nation,” Kintner said.

Voss described the Index as an opportunity to affirm and celebrate the individuals and organizations that are the sources of arts vibrancy – 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 education center.

This year’s index is the first to include rankings since 2020. That’s a reflection of arts organizations returning to in-person activities and performances following the easing of pandemic restrictions.

“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,” SMU’s Voss said.

Arts Vibrancy Index


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