Special Report

Best American Small Towns for the Arts

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20. Santa Cruz, CA (Santa Cruz County)
> Arts institutions: 6.3 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 6.3 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 64,522

Located on Monterey Bay along the California coast, Santa Cruz combines a beachy vibe with a flourishing arts community. The city hosts several art-themed festivals, including the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Santa Cruz Film Festival, Capitola Art and Wine Festival, and Santa Cruz Blues Festival.

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19. Camden, ME (Knox County)
> Arts institutions: 7.3 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 7.3 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 3,468

Described as the Jewel of the Maine Coast, Camden is nestled in the state’s mid-coast region where famous artists such as painter Andrew Wyeth and sculptor Louise Nevelson once lived. Artists and photographers have created works of art inspired by the magnificent views of nearby Camden Hills and Penobscot Bay.

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18. Charlottesville, VA (Charlottesville city)
> Arts institutions: 1.8 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 1.8 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 47,096

Charlottesville’s music scene has produced some legendary artists, including Dave Matthews who started his band there while bartending in the city and Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus. Today, the John Paul Jones Arena and the historic Paramount Theater host musical acts of all genres, while classical music lovers can see a classic opera at the Charlottesville Opera.

17. Port Townsend, WA (Jefferson County)
> Arts institutions: 2.5 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 2.5 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 9,551

Situated at the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula on the Puget Sound, this historic seaport hosts a world-class jazz festival, as well as blues and fiddle festivals. Visitors can glimpse local art during the Port Townsend Gallery Walks. A mild climate makes sightseeing a year-round experience.

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16. Livingston, MT (Park County)
> Arts institutions: 1.4 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 1.4 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 7,575

Although Livingston’s economy is largely agricultural-based, it also boasts a thriving arts community. In addition to galleries featuring local artists, the town is known for its literary heritage, too. Local author Walter Kirn makes his home in the Paradise Valley enclave, and the town offers many bookstores for book lovers to browse.

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