Special Report

Best American Small Towns for the Arts

With theaters, museums, and art galleries on seemingly every corner, major metropolitan areas act like magnets drawing in painters, actors, and musicians with hopes of making it big in the big city. Yet for many artists, a tranquil small-town setting might be more conducive to creativity. (For those who prefer the arts in an urban setting, these are America’s culture capitals).

According to Americans for the Arts, 2.6 million adults in the US, or about 1.6% of all workers age 16 or older. were employed in the arts in 2020. The advocacy group reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 11 arts-related occupations or occupational groups: architects; art directors, fine artists, and animators; designers; actors; producers and directors; dancers and chorecreographers; musicians; announcers; writers and authors; photographers; and other artists and entertainers.

To determine the best small arts towns in America, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on arts establishments and employment from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 County Business Patterns dataset. 

Click here to see the best small arts towns in America
Click here to see our detailed methodology

Regionally, New England holds a special allure for artists, with a total of eight towns on the list. Massachusetts is home to four of these small but vibrant artist colonies. Provincetown, Nantucket, Great Barrington, and Northampton offer art galleries and other venues for artists to exhibit their works. Yet three towns in the Southwest – Taos, Sante Fe, and number one-ranked Marfa in Texas – have also attracted artistic types for decades.

Local art councils sponsor many of the venues and events in the towns on this list and fund local artists. But the artists give back to the community, too. Tourists flock to these places not only to see hamlets surrounded by gorgeous scenery, but to also purchase original art and see live performances. In many ways, the local art communities are a driving economic force in these small towns. (Visit the must-see museums in every state).

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