Universities as Arts and Cultural Anchors

Moving Beyond Bricks and Mortar to Entrepreneurship, Workforce, and Community Development Approaches


  • Amanda Ashley Boise State University
  • Leslie Durham




arts economic developent, anchor institutions, artist workforce development, university arts entrepreneurship, university arts innovation


Economic developers commonly refer to universities as anchor institutions because they are large, rooted regional economic drivers that are sites of development, incubation, entrepreneurship, workforce readiness, and knowledge transfer. But most anchor research speaks generally about the university or focuses on STEM and not on arts and culture. Our study asks: what is the role of universities in anchoring arts and cultural innovation in the regional creativity ecology, and how are university leaders identifying, communicating, and investing as arts and cultural anchors? Through a qualitative comparative case analysis of four public universities in the Intermountain West combined with target interviews of field innovators and a synthesis of transdisciplinary literature, we deepen the concept of the university arts and cultural anchor and map a theoretical and practical shift from a traditional to contemporary form of anchoring. We identify four stages of anchor readiness, and we propose a pilot assessment tool for university leaders to determine their anchor stage based on awareness and investment. Our applied research helps universities move from being an arts patron to an arts entrepreneur, investor, innovator, and catalyst.


Image of several people standing near a pop-up art gallery in a metal shipping container near a sidewalk. Fall leaves cover the ground.




How to Cite

Ashley, A., & Durham, L. (2021). Universities as Arts and Cultural Anchors: Moving Beyond Bricks and Mortar to Entrepreneurship, Workforce, and Community Development Approaches . Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.34053/artivate.10.2.150