Fresh Consumer and Business Data on the Local Arts Index Site

Posted by Roland Kushner On May - 28 - 2014
Roland Kushner

Roland Kushner

In 2010, Americans for the Arts launched the National Arts Index; this was followed in 2012 by its community-level sibling, the Local Arts Index.  The Local Arts Index (LAI) is the largest publicly accessible source of data on arts and culture at the county level.  It offers a free and easy-to-use web tool that displays information about the arts in every U.S. county in the form of 75 indicators, with data since 2009.  The site makes it easy for you to learn about your county (or the one next door, or where you’re thinking of moving) as an arts community.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Health and Vitality of the Arts

Posted by Randy Cohen On September - 20 - 2013
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

This week Americans for the Arts released its 2013 National Arts Index report—the annual measure of the health and vitality of the arts industries in the U.S.  This year’s report provides the fullest picture yet of the impact of the Great Recession on the arts—before, during, and after. The Index losses during 2008-09 were swift and measurable:  the two-year drop from 2007-09 far exceeded the five-year gains made between 2002 and 2007 (-5.4 percent vs. +3.6 percent, respectively).

The Index is set to a base score of 100 in 2003; every point difference is a 1 percent change from that year.  The National Arts Index score effectively leveled-off in 2011 at 97.0, down just a fraction from a revised 2010 score of 97.2.

  • During the economically robust years of 2002-06, over half of the indicators increased annually.
  • Between 2007 and 2009, however, less than one-third increased.
  • While the arts rebounded in 2010 (43 percent of the indicators rose), there was slippage in 2011 (just 38 percent increased).

arts index photo

The Index is composed of 78 national-level indicators—the latest annual data produced by the federal government and private research organizations—and covers the 12-year span of 2000-11.

Why do an Index? 

The arts are a fundamental component of a healthy society, based on virtues that touch the individual, community, and the nation—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times:

  • Aesthetics: The arts create beauty and preserve it as part of culture
  • Creativity: The arts encourage creativity, a critical skill in a dynamic world
  • Expression: Artistic work lets us communicate our interests and visions
  • Identity: Arts goods, services, and experiences help define our culture
  • Innovation: The arts are sources of new ideas, futures, concepts, and connections
  • Preservation: Arts and culture keep our collective memories intact
  • Prosperity: The arts create millions of jobs and enhance economic health
  • Skills: Arts aptitudes and techniques are needed in all sectors of society and work
  • Social Capital: We enjoy the arts together, across races, generations, and places

These are the reasons it is important to understand how the arts thrive, enabling them to deliver these valuable benefits. The health and vitality of the arts, therefore, should be of pressing interest to anyone who cares about healthy communities. Read the rest of this entry »

ICYMI: ARTSblog in August

Posted by Tim Mikulski On August - 31 - 2012

I’ve been trying to take the time at the end of each month to review some posts that you might have missed, and since August is a particularly vacation-filled month, I figured why not start now?

In case you missed it (ICYMI), here are some highlights from ARTSblog in August:

  • Arts Education Council member Jessica Wilt honored the memory of fellow council member Alyx Kellington who passed away in late July.
  • I found a video providing a tour of the public art and transportation project taking place in St. Paul, MN.
  • Arts for All’s Laura Zucker shared lessons learned as her Los Angeles-based organization celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Don’t forget to check ARTSblog often for new content, as we try to publish at least one new post each day, and keep an eye out for our second Arts Education Blog Salon the week of September 10!

The State of the Arts: The Arts are in a State

Posted by Stephanie Riven On August - 15 - 2012

Stephanie Riven

The findings in the recent 2012 National Arts Index describing the state of the arts are profoundly disturbing.

The Index reported a long list of measures that trend down for arts, music, and cultural organizations, among them: waning program budgets, attendance, funding, expenditures, and a decrease in the overall number of arts organizations themselves.

As arts professionals we have heard all of this before. It’s not time to bemoan our fate but it is time to refocus our energy to reverse these trends. Consider these three core strategies to begin the process:

1.  Setting and communicating a vision: We clearly need to seek out innovative leaders that can communicate big and bold ideas broadly, consistently, and in a wider context. Can we discard our identity as an “underdog” and provide a platform for people to speak about radical new suggestions for the future? By extending the context to include the pressing need for social change in this country, we will attract visibility, excitement, and extend our influence. In addition, we must be willing to listen when new ideas are proposed, give support and participate in implementation.

2.  Developing Collective Impact as a core strategy: Despite our diverse agendas, it’s time that we look past our differences and speak with a more cohesive, unified voice. In the process, we can learn important lessons from our colleagues in the social service and education sectors about collective impact. A commitment to collective impact would encourage us to abandon our individual agendas in favor of a collective approach to policy, practice, and the delivery of the arts and arts education.

3.  Establishing a commitment to community: Can we engage substantively with our communities and cultural partners, not just to sell tickets or extend the reach of our organizations but to improve the lives of all people in our communities? As Doug Borwick says on his Engaging Matters blog, “It is the creation and support of healthy, vital communities that provide the ultimate justification for the allocation of financial and human resources that the arts require. Communities do not exist to serve the arts; the arts exist to serve communities.” Read the rest of this entry »

Local Arts Index: The Performing Arts and Arts Education

Posted by Randy Cohen On August - 8 - 2012
Randy Cohen

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.

Nearly 50 percent (!) of the indicators in the Local Arts Index are now available for viewing. Haven’t stopped by lately? Take a moment to check out the “Where I Live” page to see what is new, and take a few minutes to see how where you live compares to other communities.

We’ve been releasing indicators in a series of groupings of related subjects, museums and collections-based organizations for instance, and most recently the performing arts.

Newly released this week is a group of arts education measures. And soon we’ll be releasing the ability to generate mini-reports, grouping specific indicators that you may find valuable.

But first the performing arts…There are two windows into the performing arts in these recently released indicators: popular entertainment and the lively arts. How do they describe your community, and how do they compare and contrast to other communities like yours?

Do some members of your community spend their dollars on attending popular entertainment (the national average is $20.43 per capita) and do others also attend the live performing arts? These two do not necessarily conflict and they may well complement each other, so the answer to both questions is very probably “yes.”

There is a long-held practice of associating “active arts participation” with the traditional live arts—ballet, symphony, opera, theater—which are normally produced and presented by nonprofit entities. But we can also gain a sense of local engagement through attendance and expenditures on popular entertainment that includes rock, hip-hop, and country as well as comedy and other forms of stage entertainment. 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 »

Local Arts Index: Museums, Zoos, Libraries, and More

Posted by Randy Cohen On July - 9 - 2012
Randy Cohen

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.

One approach to the Local Arts Index is through examining groups of indicators that address related subjects, such as museums and collections.

If you look around your community or your region, you’ll probably see that there are various museums to see—museums of art, science, history, and more. And there are other kinds of collections on display, living collections of animals and plants. Perhaps you have visited one of these museums in your community in the past few months. Or a zoo, arboretum, or botanical garden with your family and/friends to enjoy the outdoors but to appreciate how the items are presented and displayed. Perhaps these are some of the places you think of as a routine part of the life in your community or places to go when you are a local guide to family or friends in from out of town.

We think of these collections-based organizations as contributing to a community’s arts in culture in two ways. One is as resources for culture and learning, a second is in their roles as destinations for visitors.

Earlier this year, we released an indicator on the adult population visiting art museums. More recently, we released four additional indicators that measure collections-based organizations where you live. These organizations and institutions that are based on a collection—historical, canonic, living—are deeply rooted in our communities and provide places for reflection, learning, observing, and enjoyment.

Here’s some info on those four: Read the rest of this entry »

Randy Cohen

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.

I unpack my suitcase in about 30 cities per year. Every community I visit has its own unique cultural character. You can see it in the landscape of the built environment, the distinctive mix of organizations—old and new, large and small—when walking the cultural districts and among the public art, sampling local culinary delights, and seeing evidence of the artists at work. So, how to capture that character using the numbers? This is one of the primary objectives of the Local Arts Index.

Last time we released an indicator about the number of artist-entrepreneurs that the Department of Commerce counts at the county level. This week, we share county-level findings about the competitive environment for old-and-new and large-and-small nonprofit arts organizations.

The “millennial” share—the old and the new

It is well known that the number of arts nonprofits grew substantially between 2000–2010 (76,249 to 113,188, according to the Urban Institute).

To explore the relative impact of “old vs. new” arts organizations, we created an indicator that measures the share organizations that are “millennial”—that is, established January 2000 or later. A larger or smaller share of new arts organizations is one element of the character of a community, showing the entrepreneurial vigor in the nonprofit sector. Read the rest of this entry »

Local Arts Index: How Many Artists are Working in Your County?

Posted by Randy Cohen On May - 18 - 2012
Randy Cohen

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 indicators #7 and #8 (out of 50).

Solo artists are the spark!

Independent artists are one of the most vivid pieces of evidence that the arts are thriving in a place. Solo artists, regardless of artistic medium or discipline, are very often both the fuel and the spark of a local arts scene. Many artists are also entrepreneurs, launching their work into the world through their own studios, performance spaces, and readings. Overall, we think of the presence of solo artists as a marker of the capacity of a community to deliver the arts.

The Census Bureau provides data on the number of “non-employer” businesses (a business with only a proprietor and no staff) for many industries, including some arts ones. This indicator measures the number of solo artists per 100,000 residents of a county.

Nationally, there were 678,000 of these “artist entrepreneurs” in 2009. While this is almost certainly an “undercount,” it is an interesting measure that can be tracked at a county level over time, so we include it in our national and local arts indexes.

In the typical county, 148 solo artist businesses can be found.  Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Local Arts Index: NEA & State Arts Agency Grants in Your County

Posted by Randy Cohen On May - 4 - 2012
Randy Cohen

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 indicators #4 and #5 (out of 50).

The arts are supported by public funds from municipal, regional, state, and federal governments. A telling measure of the competitiveness of the arts organizations in your county is how well they are competing for public dollars compared to other counties.

Two indicators show arts county funding over multiple years to grantees by (1) the National Endowment for the Arts and (2) your state arts agency.

Total NEA grants per 10,000 population, 2005–2009

This indicator is a measure of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants dollars per capita in the county. It is calculated by summing NEA funding to grantees in each county over the years 2005-2009 and dividing by the 2010 population.

For ease of comparison, it is presented as a figure for every 10,000 residents. The benefit of aggregating over five years is that it avoids single-year spikes and dips, and gives a better sense of how NEA funds serve the county over time rather than at just one moment. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts: The Mother of Invention (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Janet Langsam On May - 3 - 2012

Janet Langsam

Every morning, I turn on the treadmill, tune into the Today Show and run until I bank 150 calories to earn a glass of Chardonnay at the end of the day.

Matt Lauer and the NBC crew are usually just eye candy and background chatter, but [April 25] they hit a nerve talking about college degrees that may be “useless” like “fine arts, drama, philosophy, religious studies,” when it comes to getting a job. Lauer quoted a recent poll that said that one out of two recent college grads are either unemployed or underemployed.

Donny Deutsch, one of the Today panelists said, “I never looked at a (college) major in my life in hiring people.”

And a good thing too since the National Arts Index published by the advocacy organization Americans for the Arts, indicates that interest in the arts as a college major is growing. It says that from 1996–2010 more than 1.5 million degrees were awarded in visual and performing arts, with annual graduations growing steadily from 75,000 to 129,000—an increase of 73 percent.

Could all these college bound kids be wasting their time? Read the rest of this entry »

10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2012 (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Randy Cohen On April - 11 - 2012

Randy Cohen

Almost one year ago, I posted The Top Ten Reasons to Support the Arts in response to a business leader who wanted to make a compelling case for government and corporate contributions to the arts.

Being a busy guy, he didn’t want a lot to read: “Keep it to one page, please.”

With the arts advocacy season once again upon us…(who am I kidding, it’s always upon us!)…here is my updated list for 2012 which now includes new stats from our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study.

10 Reasons to Support the Arts

1. True prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. They help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, the arts are salve for the ache.

2. Improved academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service—benefits reaped by students regardless of socioeconomic status. Students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with one-half year or less.

3. Arts are an industry. Arts organizations are responsible businesses, employers, and consumers. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $135 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 4.1 million jobs and generating nearly $22.3 billion in government revenue. Investment in the arts supports jobs, generates tax revenues, and advances our creativity-based economy.

4. Arts are good for local merchants. The typical arts attendee spends $24.60 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Non-local arts audiences (who live outside the county) spend nearly twice as much as local arts attendees ($39.96 vs. $17.42)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community. Read the rest of this entry »

Without the Data, You’re Just Another Person with an Opinion

Posted by Randy Cohen On April - 11 - 2012

Three years before writing Future Shock in 1970, futurist Alvin Toffler first wrote The Art of Measuring the Arts, and noted, “A cultural data system is needed to provide information for rational policy-making in the cultural field and to assist those outside the field in understanding their impact on it.”

This week, Americans for the Arts released the 2012 National Arts Index report, which delivers a 2010 score of the health and vitality of the arts in the U.S.

From its low point in 2009, the Index rose slightly from 96.3 to 96.7 in 2010.

This year’s report bears witness to how the arts sector fared during the Great Recession—and the losses were swift and measurable.

In 2010, half of the 83 indicators measured increased, which is equivalent to pre-recession, 2007 levels. In comparison, only one-third of the indicators were up in 2008 and in 2009, just one-quarter increased.

Here are just a few top-level findings from the 2012 National Arts Index:

1. There has been significant growth in the number of nonprofit arts organizations: In the past decade, the number of nonprofit arts organizations grew 49 percent (76,000 to 113,000), a greater rate than all nonprofit organizations (32 percent). Or to look at it another way, from 2003-2010, a new nonprofit arts organization was created every three hours in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »

Americans for the Arts released its second annual National Arts Index scores this week and the findings won’t surprise you: the 2009 Index score of 97.7 is the lowest Index score in the twelve years it measures.

  • The 2009 score represents a drop of 3.6 percentage points from 101.3 in 2008.
  • There were 3,000 new nonprofit arts organizations created during the 2007-09 recession years but attendance at mainstream arts organizations and events continues a long-term decline.
  • In 2008, 41% of nonprofit arts groups reported a deficit to the IRS, up from 36% in 2007.

While our country’s flagging economy has surely presented a number of challenges for the arts, the Index does hit some resonating high notes:

  1. Americans are seeking more personal engagement in the arts. Personal arts creation and volunteerism is growing. The number of Americans who personally participated in an artistic activity increased 5% between 2005 and 2009, while volunteering also jumped 11.6 percent.
  2. The number of artists in the workforce has increased 17% from 1996 to 2009 (1.9 to 2.2 million).
  3. Demand for Arts Education is up. There are more college-bound seniors with 4 years of arts or music and in the past decade college arts degrees conferred annually have risen from 75,000 to 127,000.

What does this mean for your community? Comment below about how you see personal arts creation and volunteerism growing in your community or tell us about arts programs that are innovative in building audience demand. And be sure to visit the National Arts Index page.