Special Report

Best American Small Towns for the Arts

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5. Carrboro, NC (Orange County)
> Arts institutions: 3.4 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 3.4 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 21,230

The arts scene in Carrboro flourishes at the ArtsCenter, where live performances and art classes for youngsters and adults are held. Along the Chapel Hill-Carrboro border is a gaggle of art spaces known as Attic 506, which were funded by the Orange County Arts Commission and the artists themselves. On the second Friday of each month, visitors can glimpse the artists’ works during an informal art crawl.

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4. Northampton, MA (Hampshire County)
> Arts institutions: 5.8 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 5.8 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 28,516

Another Massachusetts artistic hotspot, Northampton’s Arts and Culture Department promotes community-based arts programs and oversees the city’s Paradise City Cultural District, a span of 14 square blocks. The council awards grants twice annually to artists and arts groups.

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3. Woodstock, NY (Ulster County)
> Arts institutions: 5.0 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 5.0 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 2,266

When you think of Woodstock you likely remember the famous concert held there in 1969. But its art scene began much earlier in 1919, when the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum was established. Today, the organization continues its legacy as a “Colony of the Arts” with exhibitions by American artists.

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2. Santa Fe, NM (Santa Fe County)
> Arts institutions: 11.9 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 11.9 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 83,922

Since its founding in 1609, Santa Fe has thrived economicaly due to its artistic heritage and support for the arts. In the 1920s and 1930s, small galleries began to dot the city’s landscape, and today the city honors one of the country’s most famous artists at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

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1. Marfa, TX (Presidio County)
> Arts institutions: 75.0 per 1,000 establishments
> Arts employment: 75.0 per 1,000 employees
> Total population: 1,831

Marfa got its start as an arts haven when minimalist artist Donald Judd moved there in 1971 to find a place for large-form sculptures. Combining “cowboy chic” and contemporary art, Marfa now sports a collection of galleries and working artist studios. The town is known for its installation art, but also exhibits an array of textiles, paintings, and photography in a small southwestern town with only one traffic light. Ballroom Marfa serves as the center for its art scene, offering visual art, music, films, lectures, and workshops.

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