The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America


Research Abstract
The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America

Small art towns have come to epitomize rural cultural coolness because who wouldn't want to visit a lively, open-minded town. In this book you'll find communities across the and Canada that are attracting a new wave of cultural tourists, immigrant artists, culturally minded retirees, art gallery owners, musicians, mobile career professionals, theater directors, restaurateurs, arts festival promoters and coffee bar entrepreneurs.

A small art town is the type of community people love visiting on a weekend getaway. They might stay at a gorgeous B&B, have dinner in a great (but undiscovered) restaurant, wander around art galleries, antique shops, and flea markets, or perhaps visit an annual Art in the Park festival.

A small art town is the sort of place urbanites move to after selling their condo and finding a renovated farmhouse on five forested acres. On weekends these new residents enjoy art gallery openings and local musicians performing at cafes. On weeknights there are jazz concerts and dance programs at the local arts center, or maybe a Tennessee Williams play at the restored, art deco theater downtown.

A small art town is the sort of place where people can find a true sense of community. Families value small art towns because they place a high priority on neighborliness and security. Kids can walk home from school in safety, and the local cops know the name of nearly every teenager in town. Crime rates are reassuringly low, rendering armed response lawn signs pointless.

For the purposes of this book's third edition, a small art town has a full-time population of 65,000 or fewer. The book includes university towns like Lawrence, Iowa City and Athens, Georgia, which have part-time student populations approaching 30,000. With fewer than 100 residents, Round Top is the tiniest of the small art towns. With this edition, I have labored to broaden the community profiles to include all aspects of the visual arts, performing arts and music. Both mainstream and alternative arts venues are covered. Our national levels of arts participation, support and patronage are at all-time highs. Certainly, funding cutbacks at the federal level have hurt arts programs in many urban centers. But, for the most part, the entrepreneurial spirit that's driven the small art town phenomenon has emerged unscathed - in large part because small town residents have long demonstrated an amazing level of independence. Dozens of small-town downtowns have been revitalized and preserved and tens of thousands of jobs have been created as a direct result of arts-driven economic development. And each year this phenomenon takes root in even more small communities from coast to coast.

It's this combination of traditional can-do-ism teamed with an infusion of creative thinking and entrepreneurialism that's fueled the arts explosion in small towns. (p. 1, 3)

Alabama: Northport.
Alaska: Homer.
Arizona: Bisbee, Flagstaff, Sedona.
Arkansas: Eureka Springs, Hot Springs.
British Columbia: Nelson, Salt Spring Island.
California: Carmel, Eureka and Arcata, Grass Valley and Nevada City, Mendocino 
                and Fort Bragg, Mill Valley, Ojai, Santa Cruz.
Colorado: Aspen, Creede, Durango, Loveland, Salida, Telluride, Vail.
Florida: Key West, New Smyrna Beach, Panama City and Seaside.
Georgia: Athens.
Idaho: Moscow, Sandpoint. Sun Valley.
Illinois: Quincy.
Iowa: Cedar Falls, Iowa City.
Kansas: Lawrence.
Kentucky: Berea.
Louisiana: Natchitoches.
Maine: Belfast, Camden, and Rockport. Deer Isle and Blue Hill, Portland.
Maryland: Easton.
Massachusetts: Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Northampton, Provincetown.
Michigan: Saugatuck and Douglas.
Minnesota: Grand Marais, Lanesboro, Stillwater.
Mississippi: Ocean Springs, Oxford.
Montana: Bozeman and Livingston, Flathead Valley, Helena, Missoula.
New Hampshire: Hanover and Lebanon, Keene and Peterborough, Portsmouth.
New Jersey: Lambertville, Red Bank.
New Mexico: Magdalena, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Taos, Truth or Consequences.
New York: Ithaca. Jamestown and Chautauqua Lake, Peekskill, Woodstock.
North Carolina: Beaufort and Morehead City, Chapel Hill, Wilmington.
Ohio: Athens, Yellow Springs.
Ontario: Niagra-on-the-Lake, Stratford.
Oregon: Ashland, Cannon Beach, Joseph and Enterprise.
Pennsylvania: Easton.
Quebec: Baie St. Paul.
South Carolina: Beauford and Hilton Head.
Tennessee: Woodbury.
Texas: Big Bend, Kerrville and Fredericksburg, Rockport, Round Top.
Utah: Park City.
Vermont: Burlington, Montpelier.
Virginia: Abingdon, Charlottesville.
Washington: Bellingham, Olympia, Port Townsend, Walla Walla.
West Virginia: Berkeley Springs, Lewisburg.
Wisconsin: Bayfield and Madeline Island, Door County.
Wyoming: Jackson.
Towns by rank.


Villani, John
3rd edition
1-56261-405-3 (p)
242 p.
December, 1997