Steamboat reclaims spot on National Center for Arts Research’s Arts Vibrancy Index

A map showcasing Arts Vibrancy overall scores across the country, as measured by SMU DataArts and the National Center for Arts Research. Explore the interactive map at
courtesy of SMU DataArts

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Out of a pool of more than 900 communities across the United States, Steamboat Springs ranked No. 3 Small City on the National Center for Arts Research’s Arts Vibrancy Index. 

“This is huge news,” wrote Kim Keith, executive director of Steamboat Creates, formerly Steamboat Springs Arts Council, in an email. “Heck yeah!” 

The Center calculates arts vibrancy as a cumulative measure of each community’s levels of supply (measured in total number of arts providers), demand (total nonprofit arts dollars in the community), government support for the arts (measured in state and federal arts funding), and public support for the arts on a per-capita basis.

Steamboat was last on the list in 2016, then took a two-year hiatus from making the top-10 rankings. 

“I knew Steamboat would regain our position on the vibrancy index, but this far exceeds our previous rankings,” Keith wrote. “With world-class organizations like Strings Music Festival, Perry-Mansfield and the Steamboat Art Museum, combined with smaller cultural organizations and businesses, Steamboat Springs is getting the well deserved recognition as a creative hive that supports and encourages creative activities, events, education engagement.”

Keith noted that the city’s state-certified Creative District, Steamboat Creates’ intention is to both attract and retain a creative workforce of entrepreneurs, location-neutral businesses, cultural nonprofits, creative businesses and all genres of creative and cultural expression. 

Another critical factor to the increased investments in the creative sector is the awareness by the city of Steamboat and the Steamboat Springs Chamber of the economic impact that the arts have on the community, Keith added. Steamboat also took 11th place in “government support.”

That, she said, is the result of effective advocacy work in large part by the Creative District board, staff, volunteers, supporters and member organizations in delivering a consistent message of the number of jobs, earnings, revenues and cultural nonprofit contributions of the creative sector. 

Keith also credits Strings Music Festival and Perry-Mansfield  Performing Arts School and Camp, two of the largest arts organizations in the community, with attracting visitors from across the country, as well as the smaller nonprofit arts organizations with major impacts on the community, including Opera Steamboat, Yampa Valley Choral Society, Piknik Theater, Chief Theater, Elevation Dance, Steamboat Art Museum, Tread of Pioneers Museum and more than 15 art galleries. 

In addition to ranking third in arts vibrancy of small communities, Steamboat also placed first in “arts and culture organizations,” fourth in “independent artists per capita” and 12th in “arts dollars.” 

“(Steamboat ranking fourth in independent artists) is especially exciting for me,” Keith wrote. “The creative tribe in Routt County is positively growing into an important part of our community’s identity. This would not be possible without the philanthropic support from the community through donations, sponsorships and memberships.”

With Steamboat in the small cities category — defined as areas with an urban core of 10,000 to 50,000 people — are Jackson, Wyoming, in first place, Summit Park, Utah, in second, Bennington, Vermont, in fourth, and Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, in fifth.

The medium cities rankings, among cities with populations of 100,000 to 1 million, feature: Santa Fe, New Mexico, first; Pittsfield, Massachusetts, second; San Rafael, California, third; Missoula, Montana, fourth; and Charlottesville, Virginia, fifth.

Other Colorado cities to make a list include Breckenridge, 10th, and Boulder, eighth, in the top-10 rank of their respective size categories, and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, 20th in “large communities.”

Check out the SMU DataArts interactive map here.

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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