Art at the heart of place – review of “The 100 Best Art Towns in America/Canada”


I purchased this very informative and detailed book (The 100 Best Art Towns in America) by John Villani in 2005 shortly after its fourth edition had been released. It provides an interesting synopsis of how small to medium-sized communities around the nation and in Canada have successfully become trendy art centers.  While we may quibble (and I do) about some of the communities that were included and/or excluded, the book does a great job of highlighting the success stories.

Personally, I thought the Great Lakes and Midwest states seemed to be a bit shortchanged in the book and an overabundance of communities from New England and the Rockies were included.  Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia had no representatives whatsoever. For one example, Nashville, Indiana in Brown County and Berkeley Springs, West Virginia should be both be included in the Top 100, in my less than expert humble opinion.

As more communities recognize the positive impacts that artists can bring to their local economy and the placemaking attributes of a vibrant art culture, hopefully future editions of the book will include towns from a larger variety of states and/or will be expanded to include a great number of communities.

Even with the quibbles, I still recommend Mr. Villani’s book as a useful and informative resource for any established or aspiring art community.  Here’s Mr. Villani’s lists of Top 10 Best Small and Large Art Towns.

Ten Best Small Art Towns (<30,000 population) (page x)

  1. Naples, Florida
  2. Ashland, Oregon
  3. Provincetown, Massachusetts
  4. Taos, New Mexico
  5. Northampton, Massachusetts
  6. Aspen, Colorado
  7. Eureka, California
  8. Marfa, Texas
  9. Salt Spring island, British Columbia
  10. Brattleboro, Vermont

Ten Best Large Art Towns (30,000 to 100,000 population) (page x)

  1. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  2. Loveland, Colorado
  3. Sarasota, Florida
  4. Hot Springs, Arkansas
  5. Asheville, North Carolina
  6. Boulder, Colorado
  7. Portland, Maine
  8. Lawrence, Kansas
  9. Bellingham, Washington
  10. Chico, California
This entry was posted in art, books, cities, civics, culture, density, diversity, economic development, economic gardening, entertainment, entrepreneurship, fun, history, land use, placemaking, planning, tourism, urban planning and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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