Summit County second to none in arts world |

Summit County second to none in arts world

Dissecting the annual Arts Vibrancy Index, it's easy to see why Breckenridge has been ranked the No. 1 small community in the U.S.

By Eli Pace /
Eli Pace

The 2017 report was released earlier this year by Southern Methodist University, and the index aims to gauge the demand, supply and public support for the arts in more than 900 communities across the U.S. — divided into three categories dictated by population.

Researchers ranked the communities by looking at various pieces of data showing the number of art providers, arts dollars and government grant activity in any designated location. They weighted arts dollars and arts wproviders the heaviest, with each accounting for 45 percent of the final score, while giving government grant activity the remaining 10 percent.

This formula worked heavily in Breckenridge’s favor, as Summit County easily surpasses what most communities under 100,000 people can offer in terms of arts providers and arts dollars, but finished well below that in terms of government grants.

Breckenridge received its highest marks in the arts providers portion of the survey, ranking third overall, and finished in the top 10 for its high number of arts and culture employees, and arts and culture organizations, two data used to determine the number of arts providers.

The high ranking actually belongs more to Summit County than it does Breckenridge alone. That’s because the study included all the Breckenridge metropolitan statistical area, which is Summit County.

To fully understand how Summit County did so well in the index, we can start by looking at its strong tax base bolstered by nearby ski resorts and the high volume of tourism traffic that comes with the resorts.

Then we should consider Breckenridge’s and Summit County’s commitment to the entertainment opportunities those tourists help support. Just think of all the winter and summer festivals at the four Summit County resorts — from Copper Mountain to Arapahoe Basin with Breckenridge and Keystone in between. Also, there are a plethora of nonprofit arts groups like Breckenridge Backstage Theatre and the Dillon Lake Theatre Company, just to name two that operate in the same sphere. Toss in a natural surrounding that draws artists to the mountains like bears to honey, and the full picture starts to take shape.

By itself, Breck likely wouldn’t have ranked so high, but combine all of these pieces together in Summit County, and the Breckenridge MSA becomes hard to compete with in a measure like this, if not impossible.

Perhaps equally as telling, second place on the list of small communities went to another Summit County — one in Utah — that’s also significantly bolstered by nearby ski resorts and outdoor entertainment options.

I’ve heard people say we live in a postcard in the High Country, but it’s more than the view that makes it so great. Undoubtedly, we have some great advantages here — and snow might just be one of them — that make this a place many people, not just artists, want to be.

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