Randy Cohen

This post is one in a series highlighting the Local Arts Index (LAI) by Americans for the Arts. The LAI provides a set of measures to help understand the breadth, depth, and character of the cultural life of a community. It provides county-level data about arts participation, funding, fiscal health, competitiveness, and more. Check out your county and compare it to any of the nation’s 3,143 counties at ArtsIndexUSA.org.

Today we release Local Arts Index indicator #6 (out of 50).

Total nonprofit arts organizations per 100,000 population (Based on those filing IRS 990s)

The vigor of the arts rests in many ways on the thousands of nonprofit organizations that present and organize arts programs in communities around the country. In many arts disciplines—such as visual and performing arts, historical and museum organizations, and arts education—nonprofit status is the norm.

This indicator measures how many nonprofit arts organizations are in a county per 100,000 population, demonstrating the breadth of the nonprofit arts sector in a community as experienced by its residents.

With all the attention given to arts funding, cultural policy and economics, and the impact of the arts on a community, it is especially significant to show how available nonprofit arts groups are as part of the capacity of the arts in a county.

Nonprofit arts organizations that filed an IRS Form 990 can be found in 1,204 counties in the U.S. Nationally, the average in those counties is 20.9 arts organizations per 100,000 population, and the median county has 15.3. Also nationally, the total number of nonprofit arts organizations increased from about 75,000 in 1999 to 113,000 in 2010.

It is worth noting, however, that only about 35 percent of these organizations file a Form 990 in any given year. The likely reason for 65 percent not filing is that they are small (organizations with less than $25,000 in total revenues are not required to file Form 990).

All of this data comes from the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute.

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