Robert Bush

We love data at the Arts & Science Council (ASC).

We are fortunate to have access to resources, but we also have to make choices about how we direct them to support the sector, and research pays off every time. It allows us to connect with donors, elected officials, the chamber of commerce, and others about the impact of programs and services, as well as economic development efforts.

We are also fortunate to have the resources to commission research. For 10 years we have done a public opinion telephone survey through the Urban Institute at UNC-Charlotte. Since 2006, we have worked with WESTAF on the Creative Vitality™ Index; but, our biggest research partner has been and continues to be Americans for the Arts. Whether it is annual local arts agency surveys, past salary surveys, or United Arts Fund surveys, we fill them out.

While we love all of our partners, the most important (and requested) research we share with stakeholders is the results of our Arts & Economic Prosperity economic impact study conducted every five years.

Yes, it requires staff time to remind and nudge, coordinate audience intercept surveys, and make certain that every local cultural group had the opportunity to participate. Thanks to the vision of the North Carolina Arts Council, beginning with Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, we have statewide data and information on each of the regional economic development areas of the state.

You may think, those people in Charlotte have more money than sense to be investing in all this data, but this data gets us noticed—by donors, corporations, elected officials, chambers of commerce, and the list goes on.

I believe in art for art’s sake but I also know that numbers matter—balanced budgets, profits, and attendance figures to name a few. They help us tell our story in terms that people can understand. Read the rest of this entry »

Julie Muraco

Arts & Economic Prosperity IV is another seminal piece of research by the Americans for the Arts staff led by Randy Cohen. (Okay, so I am biased). But, passion for the arts runs throughout our organization. I hope to provide insight into how AEP IV might be used with corporate funding sources.

How to Use AEP IV with Corporate Funders: What Do the Numbers Mean?

It is probably a revelation to most corporate funders that the arts & culture industry generates $135.2 billion in economic activity, supports 4.1 million jobs, and generates an aggregate $22.3 billion in government revenue.

Some corporate funders may not be looking at how arts & culture within their community support their own business revenues or government revenues with expenditures on snacks and refreshments (think restaurants and restaurant suppliers), lodging (resorts or hospitality industries), transportation (buses/taxis), or retail establishments with shopping from clothing to gifts for home.

Corporate funders need to be shown the light. And if it is anything like corporations I have worked for, what turns the light on in corporations are numbers and quantitative data. Why?

Whoever you have approached with the data needs to deliver it to someone else, who will then deliver it to another layer of management, and so on before a decision is made. That includes the CEO.

But, may I clarify a point about “corporate funders?” It is no longer just a decision made in the executive suite with the CEO or CFO of the company. A “corporate funder” decision-maker might be found within the sales and marketing, human resources, or corporate communications departments. The numbers and the rationale for funding arts organizations based on the data needs to resonate with all of these people. Read the rest of this entry »

Olga Garay

With a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Mayors’ Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary Initiative received in 2009, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA/LA) launched the planning stages for the “Broadway Arts Center” (BAC).

Envisioned as a mixed-use affordable artists’ housing, performance/exhibition space, educational facility, and creative commercial center, and located in the Historic Broadway Theater District in downtown Los Angeles, the birthplace of vaudeville and cinema in the city, the BAC has been embraced by city government and the arts community alike.

In spite of its rich history and tremendous future potential, Broadway is currently viewed as not meeting its potential in a number of different ways. Broadway bustles during the day, but merchants are struggling with a 15–20 percent ground floor vacancy rate. This ground floor struggle is made worse when viewed in the context of more than a million square feet of vacant space in the upper floors along Broadway.

And while some theatres have been reactivated, most of the glorious historic theaters do not offer regular entertainment programming, and Broadway doesn’t serve the needs of the diverse downtown community—especially at night. DCA/LA strongly believes that this situation will quickly turn around when a cadre of artists, professors, and college students, living and working in the area, make Downtown their home.

Led by DCA/LA, the core project team includes the City Planning Department’s Urban Design Studio and Bringing Back Broadway, a 10-year initiative to revitalize the historic Broadway corridor.

Nonprofit partners include The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, a service organization dedicated to creating affordable housing for performing arts professionals; Artspace, the country’s premier organization dedicated to developing affordable spaces for artists and arts organizations; Local Initiative Support Corporation, an organization dedicated to helping nonprofit community development organizations transform neighborhoods; and the California Institute for the Arts (CalArts), an award-winning higher education institution dedicated to training and nurturing the next generation of professional artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Terri Schorzman

Boise is the most geographically isolated urban area in the lower 48. Despite this remote location, Boise residents have built a cultural infrastructure through forming community, regional, and national alliances. In turn, this infrastructure has helped shape Boise.

From Boise’s earliest days, the logistics of the city’s geographic isolation made it difficult to travel elsewhere for cultural amenities, which encouraged residents to develop local opera, ballet, orchestra, theater, and dance companies. By 1907, the city’s cultural life inspired attorney Clarence Darrow, here for a trial, to name Boise the “Athens of the Desert.”

In the past decade city leaders have encouraged Boise to “become the most livable city in the country” and in 2008 formed the Department of Arts & History from its predecessor the Boise City Arts Commission. This initiative illustrates that Boise’s leaders recognize the relationship between culture, economy, and livability.

Boise is fortunate that city leaders include arts and culture in discussion of the local economy, acknowledging that a robust creative economy is essential to the economic health of Boise. The city participated in Arts & Economic Prosperity II, III, and IV. The data from the earlier studies (II and III) provided the basis for the mayor and city council to award the Mayor’s Cultural Economic Development grants to several organizations in 2010 and 2011, a significant effort given the economic recession nationwide.

City leaders identified funding—generated by the rental of city rail property for two years—to cultural organizations that have an on-going positive impact on Boise’s economy. The funds made a big difference to these organizations, and helped at least two of them meet their budget for the year. In addition, one organization was designated the city’s first-ever Cultural Ambassador. Read the rest of this entry »

Buddy Palmer

I’m a fortunate community arts executive. I direct an organization, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham, which supports a vibrant ecosystem in the largest city, and cultural capital, of Alabama. Just a few years ago, in a public gathering, our former governor recognized Birmingham’s cultural sector as the region’s second greatest asset, just behind the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the state’s largest employer with a giant, nationally-recognized network of hospital and healthcare resources.

Birmingham lost one nonprofit contemporary art gallery in the recession; however, I am proud to say most of our organizations are being extremely resourceful at doing more with less. As nonprofits, we’re used to it, right?

And I’ve just received great news: the results of our local Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study show a more than 50 percent increase in annual economic impact from the data collected five years ago. We had an 80 percent survey-return rate from our organizations as compared with the national average of 43 percent. So, our cultural leaders are enthusiastic, capable, and determined to demonstrate our value.

We also have some important and encouraging signs as we move forward. The City of Birmingham is in the process of creating its first comprehensive plan in 50 years, and arts and entertainment tactics have been included in the area of “Prosperity and Opportunity” as well as “Housing, Neighborhoods, and Community Renewal.”

Perhaps even more significant, “Blueprint Birmingham,” a recently published economic-growth-strategy document commissioned by the Birmingham Business Alliance, our regional economic development authority, identifies “Arts, Entertainment, and Tourism” as one of only seven target sectors with the greatest potential for new job creation, retention of existing jobs, and overall wealth creation in the region. This recognition of the cultural sector as an engine for both community and economic development, when coming from unusual suspects, is a sure sign of progress. Read the rest of this entry »

Mara Walker

Mara Walker

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in the current edition of The Atlantic got me thinking.

I do believe a woman can have it all. Life is all about choices—this is just as true for men as it is for women.

I have a theatre degree and had seen women with their children playing hide and seek in rows of seating or with their Barbies in the aisles during rehearsals, one eye on their napping baby and the other on the actors they were directing and made a different choice for myself.

I so admired these mothers, but wanted something different and opted to try to impact theatres by being an attendee and board member and make my living advancing the arts in other ways.

I got lucky in working for Americans for the Arts, and its predecessor organization. I love this work. It is hard and important. That said, I was honestly relieved when my husband came home miserable from a job he hated and we agreed it would be best for him to stay home for a while. I wanted him to be happy and thought it would be great for him to be available to take my daughter to doctor visits and soccer practices.

It meant major financial sacrifices for sure, but it enabled me to do this job and at the same time rarely miss a soccer game, crew match, helping her study for exams, or walking her through a difficult social situation at school. I made an agreement with Bob Lynch (our President and CEO) that I would get in the office early and start running, but I would be out of here each night in time for dinner (with obvious exceptions for events and conferences).

There are great role models all around me. I have never looked for society to tell me who I am supposed to be, how I am supposed to spend my time, or what I am supposed to do with my life. I have gone with gut and drive. I never worried about whether a man was climbing higher or getting paid more. Read the rest of this entry »

Cathy Malloy

One of our favorite catchphrases is “the arts are the backbone of our region.” And that is especially true of the City of Hartford, where arts, heritage, and cultural organizations are so ingrained in the local economy.

They are a primary driver of tourism, welcome millions of visitors each year, and support hundreds and hundreds of jobs; the arts have a huge impact on the service sectors—like restaurants, parking lots and small businesses—that depend on an influx of patrons from the surrounding suburbs.

Without the arts, Hartford would be just another commuter town, a nine to five destination for state and city employees.

The best illustration of the importance of the arts to the city’s economy is the Hartford Arts and Heritage Jobs Grant Program, one of the many grants initiatives managed and administered by the Greater Hartford Arts Council. These grants are a partnership between the City of Hartford and the Arts Council, and are specifically designed to really quantify and measure the impact of arts, heritage, and cultural programming on the city’s “bottom line,” and to show how a vibrant arts community can generate jobs and play a vital role in redefining the urban environment.

Since 2009, the city has invested over $2 million in arts programming, events, and micro-enterprise businesses in the arts—everyone from graphic designers to local vendors providing much-needed services to artists living and working in Hartford.

The program has seen tremendous success, generating almost $4.5 million in economic activity and, most importantly, supporting dozens of full and part-time jobs. “Job creation” initiatives have certainly become the latest national craze, and this program has a three-year track record of creating and supporting jobs through the arts—a testament to the impact of the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Janet Langsam

Here in Westchester (NY), when we talk about the arts and the economy, we have a great story to tell. Working with Americans for the Arts, we have done successive reports every five years since 1995, building our economic impact to $156 million, with some 4,800 jobs.

It is a daunting task reaching out to 150 affiliates, begging data from overworked colleagues, doing live interviews with arts-goers and culling the information; but we do it because it is the single most important tool in our advocacy arsenal.

As an internal document, the report becomes our barometer; we know those are the numbers we have to beat in the next report. As an external document, it gets the attention of thought leaders in our community and perks up the ears of our legislators. It has also built broad community support. In a quick (and not so dirty) community SWOT analysis last year, 95 percent responded that the arts are important to Westchester’s economy.

Yet, as most arts councils, we struggle with the “conversation”—that is, how we talk about the value of the arts in tandem with this “dollars and cents” version of our net worth.

To help us shape the “net value” conversation, we developed a “Why Do the Arts Matter?” series of ads, featuring prominent business leaders saying things like:

“Art has the power to bring people together—especially at a time when every effort is being made to divide people in the world” Read the rest of this entry »

Paul Tyler

This summer has brought the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City an unusual opportunity.

With the timing of the results from two major research projects, the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV (AEP IV) and the Local Arts Index (LAI) results, we have a complex and impressive overview of the arts ecology in Kansas City, one that’s never been seen before.

So, we’ve decided to host our first press conference in years. The event will include not just the highlights of the AEP IV figures, but also some of the key findings and takeaways from our Local Arts Index reports, all at the same time. This is without a doubt a big challenge, when you consider there’s so much information to cover.

The Kansas City metropolitan area sprawls over two states, five counties, and multiple cities, townships, and municipalities—I’ve heard that there are 117 different political jurisdictions here. We have five different LAI reports, one for each of the counties in our service area. That’s over 750 pages of detailed charts, graphs, and copy!

Then there’s also a regional report that combines all of the separate data into one unified look at the whole community, which also has some fascinating elements that are noteworthy. It’s humbling to realize that we can barely skim the surface of the information during a single event.

But the sheer volume of data now available is part of what drove the decision to take this approach. The two reports taken together provide the most complete and finely detailed study of the Kansas City arts community ever created. Breaking the data down into smaller segments would be easier, but it’s vital to get all of this information into the public sphere sooner rather than later. We’re in the beginning stages of regional community cultural planning, and waiting until the fall to release a second major study would slow our timetable for this considerably. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mona Lisa’s face in the middle of a dollar bill teased the story, and the headline read, “Arts groups create beautiful economic music together.”

The Omaha World-Herald story was Nebraskans for the Arts’ first one out there regarding the release of Nebraska and City of Omaha Arts and Economic Prosperity IV (AEP IV) data. A success!

Nebraskans for the Arts, the state’s advocacy organization for public arts funding and arts education, is based out of Omaha, the city drawing half of the state’s arts and culture economic impact according to AEP IV. It felt only fitting to make the initial announcement of the study findings here.

The impact of the arts has changed the face of Omaha: from the Holland Center’s masterful concert hall, to the mural projects of Kent Bellows Studio and Center for the Visual Arts and the burgeoning theater scene epitomized by BLUE BARN Theatre and Omaha Community Playhouse—the latter boasting as the largest community theater in the nation. These organizations are some of those who proudly took part in the economic impact survey and are eager to use the findings in their board rooms, grant applications, and business sponsorships.

We’re a community who invests in the arts—and the AEP IV launch spoke to this. Nebraskans for the Arts was honored at the quick acceptance of both Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle and Greater Omaha Chamber President and CEO David Brown to speak at the press conference. We were also bolstered by Todd Simon, senior vice president and family owner of Omaha Steaks, a long time supporter of the arts community, agreeing to share remarks. It showed the civic and business interests of the city can be paired with its philanthropic community—that these entities and individuals value the arts as an industry as well as their fundamental value to individuals. Read the rest of this entry »

Camille Russell Love

There is an undeniable compatibility with the arts and the City of Atlanta local economy. According to the newest evidence provided by the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report on Atlanta, our nonprofit arts and culture organizations are a $300 million industry.

This calculation is a combination of the expenditures of these organizations ($168.1 million) and that of the attendees to cultural events ($131.9 million), excluding ticket prices. This local spending by residents and visitors to arts events benefits not only local business but local government as well.

Local government revenue from the above mentioned cultural expenditures, according to the AEP IV study, are $14 million. Proper distribution of these above mentioned government funds, in support of Atlanta’s booming arts industry will continue to heighten the city’s economic standing—without question. A good example of this cyclical relationship is a 2011 project of the Office of Cultural Affairs, Elevate/Art Above Underground. Local businesses, ranging from mom and pop shops to large hotel chains, gathered in support this downtown contemporary art and culture initiative.

Downtown Atlanta received a rather bold, immediate, and affirmative reaction following Elevate’s implementation. Elevate/Art Above Underground, a 66-day performance and visual arts exhibition in 2011, filled vacant properties, street corners, and plazas to showcase artwork ranging from 13-story murals to contemporary dance, video, installation, and poetry.

Although public funding allocated through our percent for art program was the direct source for the artist commissions, additional funding to execute an exhibition of this caliber was provided through local Atlanta businesses. Donation of art space, hotel rooms, theatrical lighting, food, advertising, and cash support nearly doubled the exhibition’s initial budget. Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Johnson

In Iowa’s Creative Corridor, we are fortunate to enjoy an excellent quality of life. That is largely due to the abundance of arts and culture in our community.

Nestled in America’s Heartland, Iowa’s Creative Corridor is the region along I-380 in east central Iowa including Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and more than two dozen other municipalities. The Corridor is home to hundreds of arts organizations, multiple higher education facilities, nearly 30 Fortune 500 companies, and more than a dozen international organizations.

Iowa’s Creative Corridor brings innovation to the world through a unique fusion of art, science, and technology. Examples range from artistic endeavors like the world-famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which has resulted in 28 Pulitzer Prizes, to Rockwell Collins, a company that supplies the nation with aviation and information technology systems for defense and commercial avionics markets.

We live in a global economy where creativity is a key driver. The ability to attract and retain skilled employees is a central issue for businesses today. An increasing number of people choose where they want to live first and find a job in that area. Quality of life has never been so important to attracting talent, and the arts are significant to creating a quality of life that people seek out. In addition, the arts support inclusion in our communities by bringing people of diverse backgrounds together for shared experiences and by celebrating what makes us each unique and different.

Representing more than 150 arts organizations, the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance (ICCA) nurtures a sustainable cultural community in Iowa’s Creative Corridor through advocacy, promotion, professional development, and raising awareness of arts and culture opportunities. In a region with a spirit of creative innovation, ICCA works to foster collaboration within the arts community, as well as between arts organizations and the business community. Read the rest of this entry »

Jay Dick

Here we go again…

On Friday, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vetoed the South Carolina Arts Commission’s budget. This is the third year in a row for such a veto, two by Governor Haley and one by former Governor Sanford. It should be noted that prior to Governor Sanford’s veto, he systematically cut the Commission’s budget over the seven years leading up to the veto during his last year in office.

To complicate matters, the legislature failed to submit a budget to the Governor until after the start of the new fiscal year that began on July 1. The Commission, under the veto, has no budget and thus, has had to shut down pending the legislature voting to override the veto on July 17 (House) and 18 (Senate).

Governor Haley issued 81 vetoes totaling $67.5 million for everything from a slight pay raise for teachers to a North Myrtle Beach museum, the preservation of African-American history sites in Charleston, a commuter mass transit service between Camden and Columbia, prescription drugs for AIDS patients, and a nonprofit that serves sexual assault victims.

But, it was only the Arts Commission and the Sea Grant Consortium that were totally eliminated—a move that puts 38 state employee’s jobs in limbo.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell is calling legislators back July 17 to consider overrides. He had planned to wait until mid-September, but Harrell said the two agencies’ predicament, as well as the money for teacher raises, should be addressed sooner. The Senate is coming back on July 18.

Governor Haley’s reasoning for her veto of the Arts Commission is that she would rather let taxpayers decide what charities they want to support. She said it’s not a government function.

The Arts Commission is a charity?! Read the rest of this entry »

María Muñoz-Blanco

Preparing for a briefing to our (Dallas) City Council’s Art, Culture, & Libraries Committee on the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study, I thought about doing a bit of random testing on the research findings.

I just wanted a few talking points, really, to localize the fantastic data collected, analyzed, and interpreted by the dynamic duo of Randy Cohen and Ben Davidson. I didn’t quite finish my “scientific” research in time for the briefing, but but then Theresa Cameron emailed with an invite for this Blog Salon…and so here it is.

Totally random, not quite scientific, some would say rather biased research. But it does add up.

My first test: event-related spending. To check on the non-local audience spending, I volunteered myself as the test subject and trekked to the lovely city of Fort Worth (38 miles from home, across municipal and county boundaries) to spend the day visiting the Fort Worth Cultural District.

I started at the Amon Carter Museum to view the fantastic exhibition American Vanguards: Graham, Davis, Gorky, de Kooning & Their Circle; followed by a personal pilgrimage to see one of my favorite artworks in North Texas; then a quick peek at the construction of the Kimbell’s expansion; then checked out the work of local artists at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. I still had the Cowgirl Hall of Fame Museum on my to do list, but at 104 degrees, it was time to stop walking around.

So…like a good Texan, when the heat gets to you…a bit of retail therapy always helps. On my way in, I spied the Montgomery Street Antique Mall, so it was only fair to stop by on my way back to Dallas.

The tally for my day-trip as a cultural tourist in Fort Worth: $209.32. Read the rest of this entry »

Ben Davidson

Way back in May of 2009, Americans for the Arts began recruiting local, regional, and statewide partners for the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV national economic impact study. After three years of day-to-day project managing, data collecting, number crunching, and report writing, the study is finally complete and the findings have been released. Trust me, NO ONE is more excited about that than I am!

A research project of this scope and magnitude delivers a myriad of emotional highs and lows. Mistakes are made; then mistakes are fixed. Deadlines are missed; then “extended” deadlines are set. We all know the drill.

I am 100 percent certain that at least once, each of the 182 study partners wished I would just go away and leave them alone. I’m incredibly thankful that each of the partners stuck with the process. Their hard work made this study the largest and most comprehensive of its kind ever conducted. Many people have asked me about the specific challenges and successes of the project, and I’m happy to share my perspectives on a few of each.

CHALLENGES

1. Providing project oversight for 182 separate partners is a difficult task. It’s a frustrating feeling when you send an e-mail to 182 people, and your inbox immediately starts filling with requests for clarification. I knew immediately when my directions weren’t clear enough.

2. Utilizing multiple sources of data can be confusing. In the states where the Cultural Data Project (CDP) has been implemented, we used CDP data in addition to our AEP IV organizational survey (so that arts organizations submitting a CDP profile didn’t need to complete our survey as well). This tactic definitely reduced the burden on the organizations from which we needed to collect data. Unfortunately, it definitely increased the burden on my team and on our study partners located in those CDP states.

3. The fact that the study partners collected more than 150,000 audience-intercept surveys was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because it is unquestionably the largest sample of audience spending data that has ever been collected. It was a curse because that equates to 32 legal-sized boxes full of surveys that required sorting, coding, and data entry. As my team processed the mountain of surveys, we stacked the boxes in my office. This worked fine until one Monday morning when I arrived at the office and discovered that a stack nine boxes high had collapsed across my desk—spilling neatly bundled surveys out into the hall, crushing my work phone, and staining my office door with blue ink from the boxes. Colleagues said I was lucky that I wasn’t at my desk when it happened, but I thought it might have been a fitting way to meet my demise…  Read the rest of this entry »