Not Martha's Vineyard, the Teton mountain range, nor Alaska's capital city could keep Breckenridge and Summit County from capturing the top slot in this year's Arts Vibrancy Index, an annual nationwide survey of artistic communities.
Having first appeared in 2014, the study by the National Center for Arts Research at Southern Methodist University ranks cities of similar sizes in three groups: small, medium and large.
Some of the communities are fairly compact and easy to determine. Others, like the metropolitan divisions that make up the Chicago MSA, are spread across large distances and numerous states, according to the researchers.
The study itself is relatively new and still evolving. In 2014 and 2015, for example, small- and medium-sized cities were lumped in together, whereas this year they were divided into separate classifications.
In the first year the report was issued, Breckenridge finished fourth behind No. 1 Glenwood Springs; No. 2 Santa Fe, New Mexico; and No. 3 Jackson, Wyoming.
In 2015, Jackson moved up to No. 1 while Glenwood Springs fell to No. 2 and Santa Fe came in third. Meanwhile, Breckenridge held steady at No. 4, ahead of Edwards at No. 5 and two Montana cities in sixth and seventh.
Interestingly, Jackson fell to No. 9 on the small cities list this year, while Glenwood Springs failed to make the cut and Breckenridge jumped into the top slot for small cities.
It came as welcome news for local tourism officials on an otherwise cold, gray day, and Robb Woulfe, president and CEO of BreckCreate, was quick to point out this designation is a reflection of the entire Summit County arts community, not just one group.
The results are based largely on data collected from various sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the IRS, as the survey aimed to gauge the demand, supply and public support for arts and culture in 937 communities across the country and ranked them.
The rankings provide order, but do not show how close or far one city may be from the next even if they are ranked side-by-side. As a result, there could be large gaps or close bunches not reflected in the rankings.
"Our measures are aggregated across the 11 arts and cultural sectors that are featured in NCAR's reports: Arts Education, Art Museums, Community, Dance, Music, Opera, Performing Arts Center, Symphony Orchestra, Theater, Other Museum, and Multidisciplinary Performing Arts," the 2017 report states.
Specifically, researchers weighted what they called "art dollars" and "art providers" the heaviest, giving each 45 percent, while tossing "government grant activity" a passing nod with the remaining 10 percent of the ranking.
For the study, art dollars were defined as the quantifiable demand for nonprofit arts and cultural programming while researchers measured the number of arts providers in any given community with data showing the number of arts employees, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, arts, culture and entertainment firms, and independent artists in the community. Predictably, grant activity included the number and amounts of state and federal grants in the community.
Breckenridge received its highest marks in the arts providers portion of the survey, ranking third overall and in the top 10 for arts and culture employees and arts and culture organizations.
Another high mark, the city ranked ninth overall for arts dollars, with the subset categories of program revenue, contributed revenue, total expenses and total compensation all ranked between 10th and 14th nationwide.
For grant activity, Breckenridge was considerably lower on the scale, coming in 61st overall.
Additionally, the study focused on the Breckenridge MSA, which is Summit County, and the top ranking is a reflection of the wealth of applicable criteria across the county's 619 square miles more than it is just for Breckenridge.
Coincidentally, Breckenridge finished ahead of second-place Summit County, Utah, another community bolstered by its nearby ski resorts.
Rounding out the top five for the small cities were, respectively, Bennington, Vermont; Bozeman, Montana; and Hudson, New York, also known as "Upstate's Downtown."
Juneau, Alaska, which came in No. 8 for small cities, was the only ranked city outside contiguous U.S. in any classification. Behind Alaska's capital city for the small cities were No. 9 Jackson, Wyoming, and No. 10 Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, which includes Martha's Vineyard and the surrounding islands.
No state was better represented across the board than Massachusetts, which had two cities each in the small (Nos. 6 and 10), medium (Nos. 1 and 9) and large (Nos. 6 and 12) classifications, while states without a single city on any list included Nevada, Arizona, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan, Maine, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Delaware and Rhode Island.
Additionally, Denver was ranked 14th for the large cities and the only other Colorado location to make any of the three lists.
For the complete report, go to SMU.edu/artsresearch.