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Cincinnati ranked in top 20 vibrant arts communities in United States

The Queen City is ranked 20th in SMU's report that measures "hotbeds of America's arts and culture"

Southern Methodist University's DataArts, the National Center for Arts Research, recently released its Arts Vibrancy Index Report, which measures the hotbeds of America's arts and culture. For the first time in the annual report's history, Cincinnati ranked 20th on the large metropolitan area list of vibrant arts communities.

"At a moment of such considerable environmental hostility and uncertainty about the future, we offer this report as a celebration and reminder of the arts' enduring importance, resiliency and vibrancy," states the report's executive summary. "We should not forget the essential role that the arts play in fueling community development, emotional health, cultural literacy, social cohesion and integration, and creative expression."

The report draws upon 2019 data, taken before the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled or postponed events and temporarily closed arts organizations across the country. According to ArtsWave's press release about the report, Cincinnati is one of only four Midwest cities to be among the top 20 and it's one of only four to be newly added to the overall list. In total, the index considers more than 900 communities. 

Researchers assessed arts vibrancy by analyzing four measures under three main rubrics: supply, demand, and public support for arts and culture on a per capita basis. They gauged supply as total arts providers, demand with measures of total nonprofit arts dollars in the community, and public support as state and federal arts funding.

CCM was Cincinnati’s original arts incubator when it was founded in 1867, serving as a magnet drawing talent to our region from around the world. More than 150 years later, the college continues to educate and inspire the whole artist and scholar for positions on the world’s stage, wherever or whatever that stage might be. Our stars of tomorrow are not only performers, designers, technicians and educators. They are creative thinkers, innovative problem-solvers, community leaders and entrepreneurs at arts organizations in Cincinnati and throughout the country.

A breakdown of SMU's Arts Vibrancy's data on Cincinnati, including national rankings on arts providers (136th), arts dollars (14th) and government support (91st). Image/SMU DataArts.

The Arts Vibrancy Index Report specifically highlighted the Queen City's many arts organizations, including the Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Ballet, Playhouse in the Park, CCM and UC's College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP).

Read Cincinnati's listing in the Arts Vibrancy Index Report:

"Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN, boasts a diverse economy, ranging from sectors in manufacturing to financials to marketing, providing an incubator for growth. The city’s German heritage and prominence in the mid and late 19th century created deep arts roots and a vision as an arts city by early founders and philanthropists. The city is adorned with mural art painted over the last 25 years by arts apprentices in a youth employment program, and is home to architecturally significant buildings ranging from preserved Italianate brownstones to Zaha Hadid’s first U.S. commission, the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). Cincinnati refers to itself as “the city that sings.” The May Festival is the longest-running choral festival in the Western Hemisphere, dating back to 1873. A newly formed Young Professionals Choral Collective is the fastest-growing group of its kind in the nation, with more than 1,200 members. Cincinnati is home to a top-10 U.S. orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra; the second-oldest opera company in the country, Cincinnati Opera; the Cincinnati Ballet; Tony Award-winning Playhouse in the Park; Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati; and one of the few Shakespearean theaters to complete the canon, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Cincinnati is also home to a professional school of music [as well as performing and media arts], the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), and a leading College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP), both at the University of Cincinnati. The Art Academy of Cincinnati got its start at the Cincinnati Art Museum, which was founded in 1881 and became the first art museum west of the Alleghenies. The Taft Museum is a small art museum housed in a National Historic Landmark, with European and American masterworks. Cincinnati is recognized as a top city in North America for film production because of its locally based on- and off-camera talent. Locals often note that Cincinnati has more festivals than it has weekends. In 2017 and again in 2019, Cincinnati created a new four-day festival called BLINK, one of the largest light, art, and projection mapping events in the nation. In 2019, nearly 1.5 million people visited Cincinnati to experience BLINK, which spanned 30 city blocks and two states by crossing over the Ohio River into Kentucky. Cincinnati is home to the nation’s first and largest community arts campaign, the ArtsWave Community Campaign, which has raised and invested over $340 million in the region’s arts since 1949. ArtsWave funds 125 organizations every year through an impact-based framework called the Blueprint for Collective Action in the Arts Sector, which drives a more vibrant regional economy and more connected community. Given this commitment to the arts, it is no surprise that Cincinnati ranks in the top 2% on all Arts Dollars measures. Over the last two decades, ArtsWave has committed to broaden support for small, mid-sized, emerging, and multicultural arts organizations, which has helped create a greater balance in the arts landscape. There has been significant capital investment in the arts in the last several years as well: a $160M restoration of historic Music Hall; expansion of Ensemble Theatre; construction of a new home for Cincinnati Shakes; creation of the outdoor “Art Climb” staircase at the Art Museum; and more. Underway is a new Center for Dance and home of Cincinnati Ballet; new 4,500-seat music venue at The Banks built by the Cincinnati Symphony; and new main-stage theater at Playhouse in the Park."