Special Report

Best American Small Towns for the Arts

10. Great Barrington, MA (Berkshire County)
> Arts institutions: 14.2 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 14.2 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 2,070

Though probably not as well known as other Massachusetts art hubs like Provincetown and Nantucket, Great Barrington, nestled in the Berkshires, has an impressive lineup of artistic venues. The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center offers live theater to opera. The Bernay Fine Art Gallery displays a collection of contemporary art from artists around the world.

9. Lucas, KS (Russell County)
> Arts institutions: 5.1 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 5.1 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 370

Called the Grassroots Arts Capital of Kansas, Lucas is known for treasures that can best be described as quirky. From fried eyes painted on the sidewalk to creations concocted from ordinary materials, Lucas has a unique take on modern art – especially at its famed Garden of Eden, where out-of-the-ordinary sculptures reside.

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8. Ojai, CA (Ventura County)
> Arts institutions: 2.3 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 2.3 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 7,534

A haven for writers, photographers, artists, and musicians, Ojai is packed with artistic venues from the Ojai Art Center to the Ojai Valley Museum to the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts (honoring the late ceramic artist hailed as “the Mama of Dada”). The Ojai Playwrights Conference Summer New Works Festival gives new writers a stage for their plays. The Ojai Storytelling Festival and the Ojai Music Festival are other top attractions for artists and art-lovers alike.

7. Blue Hill, ME (Hancock County)
> Arts institutions: 5.4 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 5.4 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 901

Surrounded by Blue Hill Bay and Blue Hill Mountain, Blue Hill has long welcomed craftspeople and artists. Visitors can take in the beautiful New England scenery while picking up locally made items such as hand-made pottery and blankets, as well as sculptures and paintings by local artists.

6. Mill Valley, CA (Marin County)
> Arts institutions: 6.7 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 6.7 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 14,330

This Northern California enclave hosts an eclectic array of art, thanks to the Mill Valley Arts Commission. The organization sponsors monthly art exhibits at City Hall and the Community Center as part of First Tuesday ArtWalk. Other sponsored events include Concerts in the Plaza and the Paint Off shows.

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