Missoula hit the top 10 for cities in its size bracket for "arts vibrancy," according to a report released Friday.
The Garden City was at No. 8 in the Top 20 medium and small cities with a population of less than 1 million, according to the the first "Arts Vibrancy Index: Hotbeds of America's Arts and Culture."
Bozeman placed sixth and Helena placed 12th.
The report is generated by National Center for Arts Research, a new organization based at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
"Missoula, MT, has an engaged and active populace, who are just as likely to participate in outdoor recreation as they are to go to the symphony or attend a theatre production," according to the report.
The per-capita rankings are generated by measuring and weighing data in three categories.
The "art providers" category includes independent artists; arts and culture employees; arts, culture and entertainment employees; and arts organizations.
Missoula was ranked 15th in the category, placing it in the top 4 percent on every one of those measurements.
"Throughout the year there are numerous festivals – film, literary, cultural, theatre, dance, music (Jazz, Roots, Choral, e.g.) – and monthly gallery walks," the report says.
Among the city's strengths is the "strong partnership" between downtown Missoula and the University of Montana.
The second category is "arts dollars," in which Missoula was ranked 51st, or in the top 10 percent. That includes program revenue, contributed revenue, total expenses and total compensation.
It points out that the city lacks a designated arts district, but has more than 60 nonprofit and arts cultural organizations.
"A handful are nationally known organizations but most are small, with few employees. Missoula is strong in most disciplines and attracts many writers, visual artists and musicians. The Missoula Children’s Theatre and Montana Repertory Theatre are behind Missoula’s Arts Dollars ranking of #6 in the theatre sector."
In the last category, government support, Missoula earned the 12th spot, placing it in the top 10 percent. The factors measured are state arts dollars, state arts grants, federal arts dollars and federal arts grants. The report noted "very strong federal support and a high number of state arts grants."
Bozeman significantly outranked Missoula in several categories.
"It ranks 6th in the country on independent artists and 10th on arts organizations per capita, driving it to the 9th spot overall on Arts Providers," according to the report.
Missoula was ranked 40th for independent artists and 32nd for arts organizations.
The authors note that art and cultural offerings are highly sought-after by community leaders and policymakers.
The report seeks to create "a set of data-based indices that highlight metropolitan areas whose arts and culture scenes pulsate with vigor and activity in a variety of ways."
Tom Bensen, executive director of the Missoula Cultural Council, said his immediate impression is that the report is flattering to all the Montana cities that ranked. The Cultural Council is a nonprofit agency that supports and promotes cultural events in the city and county.
He said rankings and reports such as these gain credibility over time as they track changes from year to year.
He noted that there were interesting geographic distributions in the report's first year.
The small- and mid-sized cities were dominated by the Rocky Mountain West, while on the East Coast the highly ranked areas were spread out.
"Other than those two caveats, I think it's great that Missoula is being recognized for what many of us here seem to know implicitly," he said.
He said organizations like his use the reports in their efforts to promote the importance of arts in the local economy, such as attracting businesses and tourists.
The arts community here is slowly starting to work more closely with organizations in the latter two areas and generate common goals, he said.