Most of the formal studies of cultural policy concentrate on the role of central governments and their approaches to supporting the arts, creative industries and heritage. Less attention has been given to cultural policy at the sub-national level despite the fact that the states in the United States, the provinces in Canada and the states of Australia, for example, all run extensive programs of cultural support. This paper introduces some new thinking about the role and contribution of cultural programs at the sub-national level, illustrating these ideas by reference to the role of the states in the United States. It is based on a pilot project for the Mapping of State Cultural Policy in the United States. This project, which is just beginning, draws its inspiration from the Council of Europe’s Program of Reviews of National Cultural Policies and has been funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.