Document Type


Publication Date



The Idaho Commission on the Arts commissioned Idaho Policy Institute (IPI) to review best practices related to the establishment of state creative district (CD) programs. Specifically, IPI sought to answer the following research questions:

  1. Where are creative district efforts typically housed?
  2. What is the most effective role for state arts agencies?
  3. How do communities seek and receive creative district certification?
  4. What baseline metrics are used to evaluate creative districts?
  5. What other data elements are identified at the beginning of cultural planning efforts?

Drawing on existing research and a review of all active programs in 18 states, this report identifies several creative district best practices and lessons learned.

Certification process: States require potential districts to meet various eligibility criteria involving entity types, public involvement, funding, staff and leadership, planning, assets, and boundaries. Certification processes also vary in terms of program benefits, application process and materials, review process, and reporting requirements.

District governance: Creative district leadership can involve governmental, quasigovernmental, nonprofit (non-arts or arts), private for-profit, and artist-led efforts. These models come with different funding sources and types of community representation. Research suggests that certain models may work better for different districts.

State leadership: State arts agencies typically manage the entire creative district process, but some agencies only oversee district authorization or program administration. To administer creative district programs, arts agencies have partnered with a range of other state agencies, including ones focused on tourism, transportation, economic and business development, housing, recreation, and humanities.

Evaluation metrics: States use various evaluation metrics to measure the impact and success of individual creative districts. Metrics suggested in previous research and covered in program materials include a range of data categories and types, while some states allow districts to report progress through narrative responses or give communities the flexibility to choose their own data.


This report was prepared by Idaho Policy Institute at Boise State University and commissioned by Idaho Commission on the Arts.