The 30 Most Arts-Vibrant Rural Counties in The U.S.

Characteristics of Arts-Vibrant Rural Areas

Our research team identified several characteristics among these top-ranked rural counties that seem to set them apart. While some characteristics reflect broader geographic or socioeconomic factors beyond the control of arts leaders, others are directly tied to the arts infrastructure that communities create and support.

Tourist Destinations – Many of the counties are popular travel destinations due to their natural beauty or significant landmarks. The influx of visitors supports a higher-than-average number of arts organizations and artists relative to the local population. Examples include Nantucket County in Massachusetts, Park County in Montana, Door County in Wisconsin, and San Juan County in Colorado.


Wealthy Community Members – Some counties boast higher-than-average household incomes and other indicators of community wealth. In rural areas, this local affluence can support an outsize number of arts institutions. Examples include Hinsdale County, Colorado.


Major Foundations – a few counties are home to major foundations. While these foundations may or may not contribute significantly to local arts, their presence may support a higher-than-average amount of arts activities. Examples include Clark County, Kansas.


Plethora of Small and Mid-Sized Organizations – These areas benefit from a large amount of small and medium-sized arts organizations relative to the local population. Examples include Windham County, VT (with more than a dozen arts and cultural organizations with budgets below $50,000), Addison County, VT, and Polk County, NC.


Anchor Institutions – Some areas have one particularly large institution that may attract visitors and participants from beyond the county limits. This might include arts centers or social service organizations that integrate arts into their programming. Examples include Howard County, Arkansas and Tyrell County, North Carolina.


What sets the arts apart in your county? Let us know in the comments below.

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