On January 31, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman posted a blog about (1) the issue of supply and demand in the arts and (2) the ratio of arts administrators to artists. I had the opportunity to augment the first point using additional data as well as clarify the second in my posting. Because these are two issues that may arise for you, we thought it worth posting here so you have the facts at your fingertips.
An examination of years of trend data indicate that demand for the arts is indeed lagging supply. The good news is that it also indicates that audiences are not walking away from the arts, but rather broadening how they choose to engage in the arts.
There is also one noteworthy correction to be made in the Chairman’s numbers and thus, one of his points.
On the supply side:
In our annual National Arts Index report, released just two weeks ago, we track the Urban Institute’s count of registered nonprofit arts organizations as one of our 81 national-level indicators. In the past decade, the number of nonprofit arts organizations in the United States has grown 45 percent (75,000 to 109,000), a greater rate than all nonprofit organizations, which grew 32 percent (1,203,000 to 1,581,000). Or to take the more startling look, between 2003 and 2009, a new nonprofit arts organization was created every three hours in the U.S.
While this is a good news story in terms of greater access to the arts for Americans, we are also seeing more of these organizations (those that file an IRS 990) ending the year with a deficit—41 percent in 2008, compared to 36 percent in 2007. While 41 percent of nonprofit arts organizations running a deficit is a serious cause for concern, this is actually on par with the universe of all charitable nonprofit organizations (which has me worrying about the entire nonprofit sector).
On the demand side:
Tens of millions of people attend concerts, plays, operas, and museum exhibitions every year—and those that go, usually attend more than once. While attendance numbers at artistic institutions have remained relatively flat over the past decade, the percentage of the country’s population attending these arts events is shrinking, and the decline is noticeable. Between 2003 and 2009, the percentage of the population attending art museums and performing arts events both decreased (-19 percent and -22 percent, respectively). While year-to-year, flat attendance may not seem significant, what is the 20-year implication of a shrinking share of the U.S. population attending the arts?
How the public participates in and consumes the arts is ever-expanding, and the Chairman lists some great demand-building examples in his blog. We see greater arts consumption via technology. One of my favorites is right here in D.C.: the Washington National Opera’s annual simulcast at the baseball stadium attracted 20,000 fans last summer! The number of Americans who personally participated in an artistic activity—making art, playing music—rose 5 percent between 2005 and 2009, while the number of people volunteering for the arts jumped 11.6 percent during the same time period.
The point to be clarified:
Regarding the Chairman’s “arts infrastructure” statistic (”5.7 million arts workers in this country and 2 million artists. Do we need three administrators for every artist?”)…According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 2.2 million artists in the U.S. workforce. The 5.7 million figure, however, is from our Arts & Economic Prosperity study, which measures the economic impact of the nonprofit arts industry. The figure represents the number of jobs supported as a result of spending by nonprofit arts organizations PLUS the impact of event-related spending by their audiences (e.g., meals, transportation). Thus, it includes not just arts jobs—but also non-arts jobs that are supported by the arts industry.
So, we can relax about that 3:1 administrator-to-artist ratio point and get back to the big questions about creating more “want” for the arts by the American public.