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First-Ever Creative Vitality Index for Wake County

Earlier this month WESTAF (Western States Arts Federation) released a first-ever Creative Vitality Index (CVI) for Wake County. The CVI was conceived as a tool that states, counties, cities and towns can use to assess and enhance their creative edge. The 2008 Creative Vitality Index for Wake County was 1.28 (where the national baseline score is 1.00). This is good news for Wake’s creative economy, which remained strong compared to the nation during a time of economic recession, with a CVI exceeding the national baseline by 28%.

Great coffee shops, crowded bookstores, a dynamic music scene, well-designed buildings, thriving art galleries—these are the elements in communities that drive the new economy.  In places like Boston, Seattle and Raleigh, this kind of energetic, open atmosphere attracts good companies and skilled workers interested in a high quality of life. Every community can strengthen its economic and cultural health by fostering policies that support creative vitality.

“We already knew Wake has a strong and growing arts community. Now we have the data to back that up,” says Eleanor Oakley, President and CEO of United Arts. “The CVI is an incredible tool for local arts and community leaders. It allows us to place Wake County in a national context and to discuss the importance of strengthening the arts in our schools and community,”  Ms. Oakley continued.


The CVI™ is an annual measure of the health of the creative economy in a city, county, state or other geographic area.  Think of it as the volume of creativity in a given area.  The creative economy as defined in the CVI™ includes for-profit and not-for-profit arts-related enterprises.  Using readily available data on employment and community participation, the CVI reflects the vigor of this sector of the economy and culture.

The Index tracks 36 selected occupational categories—including art directors, musicians, photographers, editors, dancers, exhibit designers and authors—that are highly correlated with measured skill sets in creative thinking, originality and fine arts knowledge.

The Index has two major components.  One measures concentrations of arts-related  EMPLOYMENT, the other measures seven indicators of community PARTICIPATION in the arts:

  • Income of not-for-profit arts organizations
  • Income of other not-for-profit organizations with a record of arts activity
  • Per capita CD and bookstore sales
  • Per capita musical instrument and supply store sales
  • Per capita photography store sales
  • Per capita revenues of art galleries and individual artists
  • Per capita measurements of performing arts participation

The baseline score for the Creative Vitality Index is 1.00—this is the national core using the same data streams used locally.  A region’s score reflects a value relative to this national baseline; a score of 1.0 or greater means that the area has a relatively strong arts sector.  The 2008 index value for Wake County was 1.28, reflecting the strength of Wake’s creative economy when compared to the nation.  Wake outperforms the nation on a per capita basis in five of the eight CVI ™ categories.

Wake County Index 2006: 1.29
Wake County Index 2007: 1.19
Wake County Index 2008: 1.28

The true application of the CVI™ is in reflecting change from year to year in a given community.  With an annual update, the Index will track the evolution of Wake’s creative sector and help maintain its strength and liveliness.


  • The Wake County creative economy remained strong compared to the nation during a time of economic recession, with a CVI™ exceeding the national baseline by 28 percent.
  • Jobs within highly creative occupations continued to grow in Wake County; despite economic conditions, these jobs increased at a rate of nearly 2.5%.
  • Strong occupational growth was seen among Audio and Video Equipment Technicians, Musical Instrument Repairers and Tuners, and Actors.
  • Wake County has high concentrations of Technical Writers, Multi-Media Artists and Animators, Architects, Audio and Video Equipment Technicians, and Public Relations Managers.
  • In 2008, there were over 14,600 highly creative jobs in Wake County.
  • In 2008, creative occupations per capita in Wake County exceeded the national average by 18%.
  • In 2008, creative occupations per capita in Wake County exceeded the North Carolina statewide average by 46%.
  • In 2008, nonprofit arts and arts-active organizations in Wake earned revenues of over $150 million.
  • In 2008, photography retailers in Wake County earned over $5.6 million- a per capita rate 38% greater than the national average.

For a chart comparing other similar metro areas with Raleigh and/or copy of the full Creative Vitality Index, please contact Lisa McIntosh at lhmcintosh[at]

About the United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County
The United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County, based in Raleigh, NC, was incorporated in 1990. Our mission is to build better communities through support and advocacy of the arts.  The United Arts Council offers grants to schools, organizations, communities and individual artists. United Arts also provides services to the community such as advocacy, resource development, professional/leadership development and special projects. The grants, programs and services of United Arts reach over 1.2 million people annually in Wake County. This year’s funding will support over 690 public music, dance and theatre performances, festivals and art exhibitions; over 3,700 classes/workshops in the arts for youth outside of school; and 147,000 hours of programming in 137 Wake County schools.

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