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 »

Taking the Arts to Rural Counties

Posted by Jay Dick On November - 26 - 2013
Jay Dick

Jay Dick

I recently found myself in Santa Fe, NM for a meeting of the Steering Committee of the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Rural Action Caucus (RAC). While Americans for the Arts has partnered with NACo for over two decades, this was the first time that we have taken the arts out of the NACo Arts Commission and into one of the two the larger caucuses of the association (the other being the Large Urban Caucus).

While working with the NACo Arts Commission has proven to be beneficial in promoting the arts on the county level, it has been limited in scope. Many of NACo’s members didn’t even know there was an Arts Committee. Moving the conversation to the RAC exposes the benefits of the arts on a much larger scale.  There are 3,069 counties in America. Of this number, 70% are considered rural with populations under 50,000.  As we know, in every county there is always some form of arts and culture already in existence, but people often take them for granted. For example, at the beginning of my talk, I asked the attendees who had cultural resources, most, but not all raised their hand. After my talk, one County Commissioner approached me to say she didn’t raise her hand, but as I talked, she realized that in fact she did have cultural assets. She just took them for granted and didn’t see them as economic engines.   Read the rest of this entry »

Where Ecosystems Collide

Posted by Gregory Burbidge On June - 10 - 2013
Gregory Burbidge

Gregory Burbidge

The greatest biodiversity in the world occurs at the fringes between two ecosystems. That’s what I heard last month when hearing a panel discuss the intersection of arts and natural resources. The panel included a nature photographer, an education expert from Zoo Atlanta* and a landscape architect amongst others. It was fascinating to hear about people’s work at the spaces between the arts and other fields. It was a technical and ecologically specific fact, but one that likely resonates with all those working at the fringes of very different worlds.

Planning for Diversity
Last summer, the board of our metropolitan planning organization, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), voted unanimously to add arts, culture and creative industries into their scope of regional planning. Arts and culture were brought into a dialogue with transportation, land use, aging services, natural resources, workforce development and other regional planning priorities. The integration of arts into the functional areas of planning means the incredible resources and tools available at the commission are now being leveraged to help create solutions to the challenges that exist within the cultural community.

The creativity of my colleagues never ceases to astound me. While I thought it might be a challenge to talk about the fringes between the worlds of watershed protection and the arts, my peers who work to protect the Chattahoochee River Corridor, for example, were full of ideas about where these intersections occur. Land use planners, those who work with lifelong communities and transportation experts have all articulated what is unique about bringing arts and culture to the table, and what their field will be able to do with these new tools that they would not be able to accomplish otherwise. Diversity thrives where the fringe between ecosystems overlap.

Biodiversity in the Arts Ecosystem
The biggest challenges exist for our work not when we discuss where the creative industries meet other sectors but where we try to find the common ground within our own sector where areas of the creative industries overlap. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2013

Posted by Randy Cohen On April - 8 - 2013
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:

“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:

“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”

With the 2014 arts advocacy season upon us, the following is my updated “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”

  • Which of these would you rank as #1?
  • Do you have a #11 to add?
  • Tell us in the comments below!

You can download this handy 1-pager here.

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

2. Arts improve academic performance.  Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts or music. Read the rest of this entry »

STEM to STEAM: Finding a Seat at the ‘Cool Kids’ Table

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On March - 5 - 2013
Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

STEM is like the most popular kid in school these days. Everyone wants to sit at the same lunch table and share Doritos.

Fortunately for the arts community, we have a powerful resource as the national conversation transforms from STEM to STEAM: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) announced the formation of a Congressional STEAM Caucus last month.

The group had a successful kick-off on February 14. Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda, an advisor to the Caucus, regularly speaks about the inextricable connection between art and science and Bonamici echoed the sentiment at Oregon’s 2012 Arts Summit.

While our representatives in Washington, DC, are hard at work advising on federal policy, our state is also taking steps to assure we’ve got “STEAM heat” (thank you, Bob Fosse!).

In Governor John Kitzhaber’s proposed 2013–2015 budget, which is now being considered by the legislature, there is a proposal for an initiative called “Connecting to the World of Work.”

Included in that proposal is funding to support partnerships between schools, arts organizations and businesses to increase opportunities for students in grades 6–12 to connect with creative industries. There is conversation about including internships, mentorship programs, industry residencies in schools, and student residencies at industry firms.  Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Alchemy (or How Arts & Culture Voters Can Change Los Angeles)

Posted by Danielle Brazell On February - 1 - 2013
Danielle Brazell

Danielle Brazell

It’s election season in the City of Los Angeles. Eleven candidates are vying for the mayoral seat and a whopping 40 are vying for eight city council seats. Because of these changes in representation, the political landscape in Los Angeles will shift significantly.

We—as artists, as creative entrepreneurs, as arts administrators, curators, audience members, parents, and students—have the opportunity to leverage our collective voice to help chose who will represent our values.

Although forbidden by IRS regulations to endorse specific candidates, nonprofits can initiate a public dialogue about the role arts and culture play in building healthy, vibrant, and prosperous communities. And, for the past seven years, Arts for LA has been doing just that.

Our nonpartisan candidate survey is a way for prospective leaders to map out their vision for our city. Just four questions—and the 100 word responses from each candidate—have provided a window into what those running for office in the City of Los Angeles would do to invest in creativity:

  1. What was a meaningful arts and cultural experience you had growing up?
  1. What do you believe the role the City should play in the development and support of the region’s cultural infrastructure?
  1. How would you champion modifications to, or expansion of the City’s current funding stream for local arts and culture?
  1. What three things would you do to deepen the City’s investment in its creative economy (cultural tourism, in-direct and direct jobs, nonprofit, and for profit)?  Read the rest of this entry »

‘Imagination Takes You Everywhere’ (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Janet Langsam On November - 5 - 2012

Janet Langsam

The presidential election is just one day away and American entrepreneurship is on the line.

We are told by the candidates that 60% of all jobs come from small businesses. So, I thought I’d check in with Chris Wedge, who is the brains, the heart and the innovator of Blue Sky, an animation studio that produced “Ice Age,” “Robots,” and the soon-to-come “Epic.”

Blue Sky, once a very small business, started out in Elmsford (NY), then located in White Plains, and now has expanded, moving its artists, writers, producers, designers, modelers, riggers, filmmakers, cameramen, photographers, sculptors, composers, lighting and costume designers, editors and other creators to new studios in Greenwich, CT.

With roots still in Westchester, however, (Chris and family reside in Katonah) Wedge has collaborated with the Katonah Museum and Jacob Burns Film Center on a joint exhibition, film and education program about the art of animation. This unique program introduces observers to Blue Sky’s creative process, from initial concept to finished frame through original drawings, storyboards, props, movie clips, and hands-on technology.

Though Blue Sky is a small business, in comparison, say to Twentieth Century Fox Animation, with whom they work, it is also a creative business of which there are some 3,988 in Westchester alone, employing 15,279 people, according to a study by Americans for the Arts.

So, as one left brain person to another, I asked Chris Wedge what it takes to be a creative entrepreneur like himself.

“You just can’t put a limit on possibilities,” he says. ‘You must be open to discovery and surprise. Don’t think too hard. Fun is important. Get out of your own way. Do the work that feels right. The more one investigates, the clearer the potential becomes.” Read the rest of this entry »

San Jose: The Arts at the Heart of Economic and Cultural Development

Posted by Kerry Adams-Hapner On July - 12 - 2012

Kerry Adams-Hapner

Let me begin by saying this: art is at the heart of everything we do. Preserving, advancing, and celebrating culture and expression is our fundamental mission here in San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA).

We strategically position that mission to align with economic development goals, which is authentic to our city’s culture and climate, benefits the sector and enables us to advance our core mission. I don’t have that “intrinsic” versus “instrumental” debate; intrinsic impact is a foregone conclusion for me and the economic benefits enable strategic alignment, a.k.a. partnerships and resources.

In San Jose, the OCA is a division of the Office on Economic Development. I am both the Director of Cultural Affairs and a Deputy Director of Economic Development. Recognizing that a vibrant community attracts talent, and talent attracts companies, our economic development strategy fosters the vital cycle between cultural development (the arts), workforce development (the people), and business development (the companies).

We fulfill our cultural development goals through three primary strategies: attracting and retaining destination quality events; promoting high quality public art and placemaking; and providing arts industry support.

We foster the arts industry through nonprofit grants and support, cultural facility management, and support for creative entrepreneurs—comprised of artists and the commercial creative sector. Each function has its inherent, intrinsic cultural value—celebrating heritage, creativity, and the arts. And yet, we celebrate and amplify the economic side of these functions—culture as a catalyst for business through the nonprofit and commercial industries.It is also a means of building a sense and brand of place, a magnet to attract other industries. 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 »

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 »

The Creative Economy: A New Opportunity for the Arts

Posted by Christine Harris On November - 15 - 2011

Christine Harris

For much of our recent history, the arts have been considered a ‘nice to have,’ a quality of life amenity that certainly helps make a difference in the community, but expendable when there are tough budget or resource choices.

We are painfully aware of being excluded as serious priority from the public funding and the arts education conversations. But, there is a new table that we can join with a strong and purposeful voice — and that is the ‘economic development’ table.

I’m not just talking about economic impact (which many development specialists eschew), or community/quality of life, but measured, quantifiable economic development in the same manner as biotech, healthcare, or construction industries.

While many in the arts community believe that anything connecting us with the same tools to business somehow ‘taints’ our value or impact or role, the truth is — if you are not at the economic development table these days, you are just not part of the conversation — period — like it or not.

But the reality today is that we can demonstrate the value of being seated at that table, perhaps for the very first time. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Skills Vital for a Successful Economy

Posted by Robert Lynch On September - 12 - 2011

Robert L. Lynch

When I chose creative writing focusing on poetry as my college major, my parents slipped into a mild depression. On the other hand, they were buoyed up by the fact that I chose to stay in school rather than devote myself full-time to my rock and roll band. It all worked out, and both skills, poetry and music, have stood me in good stead.

At Americans for the Arts, we believe that these skills learned through arts education develop well-rounded children who are prepared for employment in both the creative economy AND in the 21st century workforce.

For instance, if your friend’s child wants a job in the arts, her parents may panic (like mine did) from reading current media articles about the arts sector dwindling in size. But, I have good news. Today, if someone is looking for a job in the creative economy, they have a lot of options.

No niche industry, arts are a big business in this country. Our 2011 analysis of Dun and Bradstreet data reveals that 756,007 arts businesses exist across the nation and employ 2.99 million individuals. These are businesses that we participate in for enjoyment (such as seeing a movie, attending a concert, or reading a novel); engage in for business (architecture, design, and musical instrument manufacturing companies); and invest in to enrich community livability (such as museums, public art, performing arts centers). Read the rest of this entry »

Making the Case for the Arts Session - #AFTA11

It is now more important than ever to defend funding and preservation of the arts. This was the subject of “Making the Case for the Arts,” a session at this year’s Americans for the Arts convention.

While many reasons for supporting the arts were addressed, Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research and Policy at Americans for the Arts, presented research mostly on the significance of the arts with regard to education, the economy, personal development, and healthcare.

Education. Studies show that, regardless of income level, students who are highly active in the arts are less likely to drop out of school by 10th grade (1.4 percent vs. 4.8 percent). Read the rest of this entry »