The National Association of Counties recognizes the importance of arts vibrancy

Hillsborough Handmade Parade

(Hillsborough Handmade Parade: Credit Donn Young for Orange County, NC)

Guest article from the National Association of Counties

The National Association of Counties (NACo) is excited that SMU’s National Center for Arts Research’s (NCAR) 2017 Interactive Arts Vibrancy Heat Map features data at the county level! It is encouraging to see the many hotspots on the map and to learn about the thriving arts communities across our nation’s counties in the NCAR Arts Vibrancy Index III report.

NACo’s vision is to achieve healthy, vibrant and safe counties across America, and the arts are an integral part of that vision. The arts can provide a window of opportunity into many of the issues counties tackle on a day-to-day basis, including economic and community development, public health, justice and public safety.  Many counties across the nation—as evident in the heat map—are investing in arts and culture, both directly and indirectly, as a means of strengthening their economies, building more robust communities and enriching the health of American cultural and intellectual life.

County-led work in this space spans from public space design to the preservation of historic buildings to the encouragement of arts education—from elementary school to county jails—to cultural events that draw visitors from across the region, nation and globe. Counties also invest in the arts through local ordinances, tax incremental financing, the inclusion of design metrics in community planning and support for local nonprofits and arts events, just to name a few. 

NACo brings county officials together through its Arts & Culture Commission to exchange ideas, build new leadership skills, pursue transformational county solutions and exercise exemplary leadership in public service to support the adoption of arts and culture initiatives within their communities.. Through workshop sessions, mobile tours, special publications, and its annual Arts & Culture awards, NACo strives to demonstrate how the arts can be used by county officials to provide solutions to many of the challenges that they face. 

In line with this work, the NCAR county heat map is a great resource for our members to gauge the vibrancy of their arts communities. When paired with the Arts Vibrancy Index, it can provide a better understanding of the role of the arts in communities along with examples of ways counties might improve the arts vibrancy of their community going forward.

According to NACo Arts & Culture Commission Chair Commissioner Kay Cashion of Guilford County, NC, “SMU’s National Center for Arts Research’s (NCAR) Arts Vibrancy Index and Heat Map are important resources for counties across the nation to better understand the value of the arts to our communities. It is vital that we continue to measure the vibrancy of the arts in order to show our constituents and the nation its economic and social impact. We are grateful for the work NCAR does to help visualize what an important asset the arts are to counties across the nation.”

Over the next two years, NACo—in partnership with Americans for the Arts and with support from National Endowment for the Arts—will work directly with rural to mid-sized counties to drive creative placemaking within their communities. This effort nicely complements the  Index’s key findings that the “overwhelming majority of arts vibrant cities have a population either under 300,000 or between 1,000,000 and 3,000,000.” As NACo continues its arts and culture efforts, we hope to cultivate and share new success stories that highlight this and other insights contained in the report.

Thank you to NCAR for its dedication to the arts - and to counties!