Document Type

Occasional Paper

Paper Type

Faculty Research

Publication Date

Summer 2018


This paper uses a varied literature to define “art” as literary, musical, or visual creations, and theatrical, dance, or musical performances that: are not motivated by utility; play some role in interpreting a culture or place; and are recognized as art by some number of audiences, vendors, producers, and critics. Thus, art benefits cultures and places through its interpretive value.

The production and dissemination of artistic creations requires a constellation of materials, standards, techniques, producers, and vendors that is called an “art world” relevant to that type of art. Though the impulse to create art is universal, art worlds are manifested unevenly across cities within a country and across districts within a metropolitan area. These distributions differ for different types of arts and artists, but have some dependence on the division of labor and on economies of scale. Therefore it is not surprising that New York and Los Angeles dominate (different types of) art worlds and art creation in North America. However, some much smaller metropolitan areas exhibit proportional concentration in specific art fields. In addition, large metropolitan areas contain quite-separate districts of art production and dissemination. This paper concludes with a brief case study of visual-arts districts in New Orleans.

Occasional Paper Number