America’s Top ArtPlaces

San Francisco, CA / The Mission District

San Francisco, CA / The Mission District

ArtPlace has released a report on the “top 12 ArtPlaces” in the country – the neighborhoods or clusters that scored highest on a subset of the funder’s much-discussed vibrancy indicators: number of “indicator” businesses (“eating and drinking places, shops, personal service establishments and other businesses that cater to consumers”), percentage of independently owned businesses, walkability, percentage of workers in creative occupations (“artists, writers, entertainers, architects, engineers and designers”), number of arts-related nonprofit organizations, and number of arts-related businesses. The results are organized by ZIP Code and then ranked, with a half-mile radius being drawn around the epicenter of activity in each ZIP.

Carol Coletta of ArtPlace and Mayor Tom Barrett recognize the Third Ward as one of America’s Top ArtPlaces 2013.

Carol Coletta of ArtPlace and Mayor Tom Barrett recognize the Third Ward as one of America’s Top ArtPlaces 2013.

The list is clearly media bait – there have already been five events scheduled to provide mayors and city officials an opportunity to crow in public about making the inner circle, and ArtPlace is openly soliciting more. And, no surprise, the list does not provide any insight on how ArtPlace’s own investments fit in to the mix. That said, I do like the fact that it is quantitative rather than editorially-driven, and if what we’re really measuring is “rapidly gentrifying hipster paradises,” it passes the smell test at least for two of the places I’ve spent significant time: Washington, DC (the intersection of U Street/Adams Morgan/Dupont) and San Francisco (Mission District).

Washington, DC / Adams Morgan and the U Street Corridor

Washington, DC / Adams Morgan and the U Street Corridor

Having just recently moved to (and therefore looked for an apartment in) DC, it’s uncanny how well the methodology captured my preferences in that city. Although we ended up in the somewhat less exciting neighborhood of Cleveland Park for commuting-related reasons, I recall being instantly attracted by the obvious bustle and life around the corner of Columbia Road, Adams Mill Road, and 18th Street during early and subsequent visits. New York’s entries are a little more surprising – Manhattan is represented not by the West Village or the Lower East Side, but by Manhattan Valley, a term I have never heard before despite living in NYC for six years but that apparently refers to the area spanning upper Upper West Side and lower Morningside Heights. (A slightly odd choice to normalize the results by income, pushing up lower-income areas that have higher-than-expected concentrations of cultural resources, might be affecting what we’re seeing here.) Brooklyn also makes the list with what is now known as the BAM Cultural District (home to the new Barclays Center), rather than ultra-hot Williamsburg, I’m guessing because there aren’t enough nonprofit organizations in the latter neighborhood. I was surprised not to see the Boston area represented in the top 12, although both Back Bay and North Cambridge made a longer list of 44, representing the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. The press release notes that a “Top Small Town ArtPlaces” list is being prepared for later this year.

Brooklyn, NY / The intersection of Downtown, Fort Greene, Gowanus, Park Slope and Prospect Heights

Brooklyn, NY / The intersection of Downtown, Fort Greene, Gowanus, Park Slope and Prospect Heights

At the very least, it all makes for some pretty maps.

Related: the NEA’s Our Town gets a glowing review as an “example of powerful placemaking” in The Atlantic Cities.

Update: here’s some more local perspective from Dallas.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted January 28th, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    There appears to be a lot of interesting information in this report and I am looking forward to reading it in detail. I think that there could be a problem, however, with some of the data. The list of 44 art neighborhoods at the end of the report is described as “a complete list of the neighborhoods that ranked highest in each of the largest 44 metropolitan areas across the country….” In another place describing their methods, the claim is made that this list is based on results that “reflect the highest scoring neighborhood in each of the nation’s 44 largest metropolitan areas.” But in reality, the list does not include any neighborhoods from Phoenix, San Diego, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland or Kansas City, all of which I believe should be included in any categorization of the 44 largest metro areas in the United States. (I may have missed some of the other metro areas that were omitted.)

  2. Posted January 28th, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Paul, that’s a great point, and something I noticed as well; I specifically didn’t include the phrase “44 largest metropolitan areas” in the post because of it. At first I thought maybe it was because of the double-counting from certain metro areas (e.g., both Manhattan and Brooklyn in NYC; Boston and Cambridge in the Boston area; SF and Oakland in the Bay Area). But that doesn’t explain the exclusion of Phoenix, which is the #14 metro on the list, or Riverside, which is #12. It kind of looks like they used the largest 44 metros as an initial scope and then chose the hottest spots by city within that group of metros. But you’re right, any way you slice it, those descriptions you quoted above seem suspect.

    • Posted January 28th, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      Update: I bet it was by county, not by city, since metro regions are constructed by county. That would explain why both Manhattan and Brooklyn made the list even though they’re part of the same city. Geography nerds FTW!

      • Posted January 28th, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        On the ArtPlace website, I found what appears to be a different and more accurate description of the list of 44: “A report released by ArtPlace…identifies the Top ArtPlaces in 33 of the nation’s largest U.S. metropolitan areas with neighborhoods that have been exceptionally successful at combining art, artists and venues for creativity and expression with independent businesses, retail shops and restaurants, and a walkable lifestyle to make vibrant neighborhoods.” This seems like a more reasonable way to describe the list, and for whatever reason, 11 of the 44 largest metro areas did not have a neighborhood that met their criteria.

  3. alice20c
    Posted January 30th, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Interesting. It’d be more interesting to see the impact of this development on diversity and real estate prices, as well as the influx of corporate franchises. There’s quite a bit of negative fallout from all that “vibrancy” in NY. I’d like to see a survey of places that “undiscovered artists without a trust fund can actually afford to live and make art at the same time”.

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