On January 20, Americans for the Arts released the National Arts Index—a new framework to measure the vitality of the U.S. cultural sector based on 76 national indicators grouped by 4 overarching themes: Financial Flows, Organizational Capacity, Arts Participation and Competitiveness. In a field where obtaining data can be like pulling teeth, assembling the breadth of this information is an accomplishment in itself. For me, the real value is that we finally have in place an annual, national reflection of a creative sector that embraces a range of activity inclusive of both nonprofit and commercial cultural delivery models.
Reflections aren’t always pretty though. The National Arts Index shows us definitively over an 11-year period that the rules of engagement have changed. Buffeted by changing demographics, the economic business cycle, technology and increasing diverse cultural choices, traditional art forms that have been historic cornerstones of American public life and cultural identity are struggling to compete successfully to obtain the sources of financial support and the audience numbers they need to survive. By revealing long term trends and a key annual measurement of the vitality of the sector, the Index provides an additional incentive to seriously rethink how we support the development of creative expressions and access to the creative process through new models of engaging individuals and communities in the arts. Read the rest of this entry »