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The Region Where The Most Creative Americans Live Might Surprise You

Attention young artists: Don’t move to New York just yet.

Image via Eddy Klaus/Unsplash.

The “creative class,” a term coined by urbanist author Richard Florida, describes a vast group of American workers who implement some amount of ingenuity into their everyday tasks. Whether that’s coming up with brand new ideas or rethinking outdated ones, professions in the arts — and less obvious ones like science and technology — all draw upon creative thinking to evolve and thrive.


While many might assume the creative class lives in the big, liberal cities that dot America’s coasts, that assumption is about to change. According to survey results released in 2016 by the National Endowment for the Arts, a lot more creative types live in the middle of the country than you might think. Working with the Census to figure out which residents are involved in the arts, the NEA found through a 2014 poll that the creativity divide doesn’t occur between the Midwest and the coasts — it’s between the North and South. The Washington Post even put together a striking infographic based on the NEA’s results that shows how stark the creative divide is between this country’s northern and southern states.

To be clear, being a creative person isn’t as narrowly defined as painting a portrait or writing a poem every day. According to the NEA’s reports, art is defined as performing a number of activities including dance, acting, and singing as well as creating films, sculptures, photographs, leatherwork, pottery, jewelry, etc. Northern states like Montana, Idaho, and Oregon all reported art participation rates of at least 65% while in southern states like West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Florida, art participation leveled out at about 30%.

But if you’re wondering what’s prompting this great divide, the NEA does provide some answers. Apparently, education plays a big role in the promotion of art. Conversely, areas with high poverty levels tend to have a much lower prevalence of artistic opportunities. This makes sense considering schools that struggle to meet minimum requirements aren’t prioritizing extracurricular, artistic activities.

On the bright side, if you thought you had to live in a coastal city to reach your artistic potential, hopefully this survey has broadened your horizons.

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