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Bozeman ranks in top 20 vibrant arts communities in America

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By Sarah Gianelli EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – According to the third annual Arts Vibrancy Index released by the National Center for Arts Research, Bozeman is among the top 20 most vibrant arts communities in America.

Bozeman ranked fourth in the small cities category, defined as an area with an urban core of 10,000-50,000 people. It was in the company of Breckenridge, Colorado; Summit Park, Utah; Bennington, Vermont; and Hudson, New York. Missoula ranked fourth in the medium-sized cities category.

NCAR, which is based out of Southern Methodist University, annually ranks more than 900 communities across the country by examining the level of supply, demand and government support for the arts in each city. Supply is assessed by the total number of arts providers in the community, including the number of arts and culture organizations and employees, independent artists and entertainment firms. Demand is gauged by the total nonprofit arts dollars circulating in the community, including program revenue, contributed revenue, total expenses and total compensation. Lastly, government support is measured by state and federal arts dollars and grants.

“We don’t select the communities, the data tells us what those communities are,” said NCAR Director Zannie Voss. Voss said she had never been to Bozeman, but can tell by looking at the data that the community is not dominated by a few large institutions, but by an abundance of smaller organizations and independent artists that lead to a diversity of arts-related offerings and opportunities.

In the national report, Bozeman is described as “a small, mountain town filled with artists, professors, and ranchers whose diverse styles are reflected in all aspects of life.” It ranks sixth in the country for independent artists and 16th for arts and culture organizations per capita, driving it to the 10th spot overall in the arts providers category.

Public art initiatives were also highlighted in the report, specifically the efforts of the Gallatin Art Crossing, which can be found in the Bozeman Sculpture Park and throughout the city. Bozeman’s numerous galleries and four museums—the American Computer Museum, the Children’s Museum, the Pioneer Museum, and the Montana Museum of the Rockies—were also mentioned.

“There’s simply a lot going on for a town of this size,” said GAC President Chuck Peck. “We have public art, performance art, galleries, and many institutions that are supportive of art. We shouldn’t separate the art from the good fortune that we have in our natural surroundings, as well as our vibrant downtown; all of these aspects enhance one another.”

Montana State University’s diverse arts department, and landmark local organizations such as the Bozeman Symphony, Intermountain Opera Company, Equinox Theatre Company, Montana Ballet Company, Dance Alliance Company, and Emerson Center for the Arts & Culture were also named in the report. The Bozeman Public Library’s role in the cultural community of hosting arts events year-round and housing the Bozeman Sculpture Park was also acknowledged.

“[Inclusion in the index] really means you’re in the top echelon of arts communities,” Voss said. “But rather than it be about competition, the report is really a wonderful chance to stop and take in the richness and artistic vibrancy that is happening in every region across the country—not just on the coasts or in the big cities. It’s not just making life more enjoyable, but it’s bringing communities together in a really important way.”

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