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 »

A Nation at Risk: 30 Years Later

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On May - 1 - 2013
Kristen Engebretsen

Kristen Engebretsen

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves…We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.” ~ from A Nation at Risk

Last Friday I attended an event at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute looking at the impact of the report released back in 1983, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform. According to the Fordham Institute’s website:

“Thirty years ago, A Nation at Risk was released to a surprised country. Suddenly, Americans woke up to learn that SAT scores were plummeting and children were learning a lot less than before. This report became a turning point in modern U.S. education history and marked the beginning of a new focus on excellence, achievement, and results.”

The report language itself called for many sensible reforms, including more instructional time, higher standards for courses and content, stringent high school graduation requirements, and demanding college entrance requirements.

But the sound bite that came out of the report was that we have a “desperate need for increased support for the teaching of mathematics and science.” And, “We are raising a new generation of Americans that is scientifically and technologically illiterate.” Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Discount the Back-Up Singers

Posted by Charles Jensen On April - 9 - 2013
Charles Jensen

Charles Jensen

This week, hundreds of advocates are gathering in and around Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, to communicate to our national elected officials the value and impact of the arts on local communities, on families, on individual lives.

This is an important day, not just for the arts community, not just for our Senators and Representatives, but for the people served by us, those who cannot be in Washington having these conversations.

I’ve worked within and outside of advocacy over the course of my career in the arts, so I understand why arts administrators are willing to make the commitment to travel to Washington, or even to their own state legislature, to promote the value of the arts. I know there is confusion about what roles arts nonprofit staff can take in the name of “advocacy” without jeopardizing their 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

And I know our arts leadership, those most likely to speak with legislators, are also our busiest, most called-upon experts, and often feel that devoting several days to the work of advocacy is the best they can do under their current circumstances.

But, friends, it’s not all. The work happening in Washington this week is the chorus of the song we sing all year long: the arts build communities. The arts turn around lives. The arts stimulate the economy.  Read the rest of this entry »

Join Arts Advocacy Day from Your Desk (or Couch)

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 8 - 2013
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

As Congress returns to work in Washington, DC, this week they will face more than just angry tourists who came to see the not-quite-in-bloom cherry blossoms.

Today, advocates are receiving training from experts and tomorrow 500 arts advocates from across the country (and even Japan!) will take to the Hill on behalf of their local arts and arts education programs.

The good news is that you don’t have to be here to participate (although we’d love you to come next year!). In fact, you can pick and choose your ways to support the arts over the next two days.

1. Send a letter to your member of Congress! Head over to our Action Center and send an email stating your case for funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, arts education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, and encouraging their participation in the House Arts and STEAM Caucuses.

2. Watch the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy live online! At 6:30 p.m. EDT join us live as we stream Yo-Yo Ma’s lecture and performance tonight via our YouTube channel. You won’t want to miss his inspiring story!   Read the rest of this entry »

Research & Red Flags in Child Development

Posted by Kristy Callaway On March - 22 - 2013
Kristy Callaway

Kristy Callaway

While my blog posts are usually much more lively (even controversial), for this Salon I wanted to provide a few seminal resources.

Teaching the arts to a three-year-old is much different than a six or a 16-year-old. Here are some resources to help parents and educators alike understand some child development milestones so that they are creating appropriate experiences for early childhood arts experiences…

First, some basics of child development:

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) leads the way toward excellence in high-quality early care and education. NAEYC provides a list of empirically based principles of child development during birth through age eight. Below is a gross abbreviation, please visit their website.

1. Domains of children’s development—physical, social, emotional, and cognitive—are closely related. Development in one domain influences and is influenced by development in other domains.

2. Development occurs in a relatively orderly sequence, with later abilities, skills, and knowledge building on those already acquired.

3. Development proceeds at varying rates from child to child as well as unevenly within different areas of each child’s functioning.  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 »

Welcome to Youth Arts Month

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On March - 1 - 2013
Kristen Engebretsen

Kristen Engebretsen

March 1 kicks off a month-long celebration of youth participation and learning in the arts. Many states, cities, and organizations have their own way of celebrating.

Here is just a random sampling of ideas I’ve seen from around the web:

1. National Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week, March 24–30

2. March is Music In Our Schools Month

3. Youth Art Month

4. March for the Arts in Education Month: Empowering Youth through the Arts

5. Theatre in Our Schools Month

At Americans for the Arts, we’ll be hosting a Blog Salon about early childhood education later this month (March 18–22), but for today’s kickoff of Youth Arts Month, we wanted to share something special.

Today we are releasing the first part of a new Arts Education Navigator series of e-books designed to help educators, students, and advocates navigate the complex field of arts education.

Part of our partnership with Vans Custom Culture, each e-book in the series will cover a specific topic, ensuring arts education supporters like you are equipped with the knowledge, statistics, and case-making techniques needed to effectively communicate with decision-makers.  Read the rest of this entry »

Shared Outcomes and Collective Impact for Scaling Up

Posted by Victor Kuo On December - 5 - 2012

Victor Kuo

What are funders interested in scale and results talking about these days? A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Grantmakers in Arts 2012 Conference in Miami.

This year’s conference theme was “Forging Connections,” and I found the notion of connections incredibly relevant for scaling impact. Creating vibrant, livable communities is the responsibility of not just one project or organization, but rather partners across a sector and the entire community working together for change.

We explored an example of a community aspiring to build connections involving entire sectors, such as the arts, education, and workforce development.

The Greater Cincinnati area has a strong history of collaboration. Leading funders, such as the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, are considering ways to take a collective approach to achieving social impact.

Specifically, they are talking about a collective impact approach described in “Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work” that identifies five key factors to facilitate change:

1) a common agenda,  2) shared measurement, 3) mutually reinforcing activity, 4) continuous communication, and 5) backbone support. Read the rest of this entry »

Idea Sharing and Project Scaling: Tools to Survive

Posted by Laura Belcher On December - 4 - 2012

Laura Belcher

Does it ever feel like you are constantly having to start from scratch? New marketing campaigns—new collateral materials—new social media strategies—new community engagement ideas—the list could go on and on…How do we get off the hamster wheel?

One way to reduce the repetitive efforts is by sharing and scaling ideas that can translate to multiple constituencies and communities.

One of the realities of the arts field is that we are extremely fragmented across the country. It is not hard to picture the director of development in Milwaukee having the same conversation with their board about diversifying revenue as the director of development in Kansas City or San Jose or Tampa.

power2give.org is one example of an successful means to reduce duplication of efforts. Launched in Charlotte by the Arts & Science Council (ASC) in August 2011, power2give.org is a nonprofit cultural sector crowdfunding site now operating in nine other communities.

Picture a network of like-minded arts administrators from multiple communities sharing ideas, materials, proposals and challenges to the benefit of each participating organization. Also envision national arts funders being able to leverage investments across a common platform to increase scope and breadth of reach. These were the goals of scaling an idea (power2give.org) from pilot to sustainable operations.

In the new economy that we are working in, it is important for every organization to leverage all the resources available to it to increase audience involvement, to increase donor engagement and community relevance. This is important work and is what ensures the relevance of arts organizations whether they are united arts funds, local arts agencies, or cultural programming institutions. Read the rest of this entry »

Data Mining: Digging for Nuggets to Make Pricing Decisions

Posted by Jenifer Thomas On October - 4 - 2012

Jenifer Thomas

Every time someone questions the value of data mining, I can’t help but hear the Gold Rush-era adage, “There’s gold in them hills!”

The wealth of information gleaned from data analysis can provide great guidance in decision making, especially in relation to pricing. And if you’re a data junkie like me, you might enjoy data mining, too.

Analyzing data gives insight into how the audience values our product. We can then price according to that value.

For example, an organization may assume that its box seats are the best in the house, and price them accordingly. But as the first performances near it’s clear that total sales are increasing, but the boxes aren’t selling. Often this prompts a frantic decision to discount those seats to encourage sales. But hold steady! A more reasoned approach is to ask a few honest questions:

  1. Is the box ticket price too high?
  2. Is our perception of the value of a box seat too high?
  3. Are the range and relationship of the prices out of whack?

Here’s where data comes in—mining into where people are choosing to sit in the house and what they are paying often gives answers.

For example, if we look at the data and see that demand is actually strongest in front-and-center orchestra radiating out, and there is little demand for the boxes, then the audience is spelling it out for us. They value the orchestra seats more and are willing to pay a price they deem reasonable for that value. The box seats are not as valuable to our audience, and the pricing is not reflecting that difference in value. Read the rest of this entry »

Private Sector Survey Says… (from the pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Valerie Beaman On August - 16 - 2012
Valerie Beaman

Valerie Beaman

Are you interested in learning what our business-focused affiliates have been paying attention to this year?

Respondents of the annual Private Sector Survey were asked to answer questions regarding their programs and initiatives fostering collaboration between arts and business. The survey requested detailed information regarding specific programs that support arts and business relationships.

Programs like board training are often components of local arts agencies, but many programs designed to engage the business world may be new to the wider field. We invite you to explore the survey and learn more about how your organization can expand its partnerships with the business world.

The 2011 Report surveyed eight Arts & Business Council (ABC) affiliates, 11 Business Committees for the Arts (BCA), 13 Business Volunteers for the Arts (BVA) affiliates, and 56 United Arts Funds (UAF), making up a universe of 83 organizations that focus on collaboration between arts and business. Of these 83 organizations, 52 completed survey responses. (To learn more about all of our private sector affiliates, visit our Private Sector Network page.)

Here are some of the most relevant statistics collected in this year’s survey:

  • Nearly three-quarters of the responding organizations (71 percent) served multiple county regions or combined city and county regions. The average population size of the geographic area served by all responding organizations was more than 7.1 million.
  • Responding organizations provided a total of $70.2 million in the form of grants or contracts to support arts organizations and/or individual artists during fiscal year 2011. A total of 3,028 arts organizations and individual artists were supported by this funding.
  • Responding United Arts Funds raised a total of $80.9 Million in 2011.
  • Total arts organizations served through responding UAF, ABC, BVA, and BCA arts and business partnership programs: 3,920.
  • Total businesses served through responding UAF, ABC, BVA, and BCA arts and business partnership programs: 3,791.
  • The most common programs that served arts organizations were seminar and/or workshops, advocacy resources, technical assistance, arts management training, and publicity & promotion services.
  • The most common programs that served businesses were networking opportunities, board training and/or placement, ticket discounts, and seminars, forums, and workshops.
  • 67 percent of the Private Sector Network affiliates hold recognition events that honor business support for the arts.
  • 35 percent of responding organizations operated some type of board development programs during their fiscal year 2011. These programs made a total of 216 board placements, served approximately 702 people, and were predominantly funded by a combination of grants, fees, and sponsorships. Read the rest of this entry »

You may have read that the Arts Council of Fort Worth is facing a 25 percent budget cut (from $716,000 annually to $450,000) in the proposed city budget that the city council will take up for a vote next month.

It just so happens that Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy at Americans for the Arts, was slated to be in town promoting the local results of our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study as this news came out.

As you can see from this local news report, the arts council is doing all the right things and already changing minds as they advocate for alternatives to the proposed funding changes:

When it comes to local arts advocacy, you want to have a utility belt full of reasons to make your case, and the Arts Council of Fort Worth is doing the right thing by using our excellent local research (Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, Local Arts Index) as well as their own outreach to rally community arts leaders, elected officials, and the local media to get their message out in the month before the city council vote.

Although it is too soon to tell if this intense advocacy campaign will pay off when it comes to the city council on September 18, the fact that council members are willing to listen to the proposed use of hotel tax funding (a model that several other cities use to fund the arts) or another source so that funding will be dedicated rather than just another line item in the general fund, is a very encouraging sign.

Stay tuned to ARTSblog for updates on this story!

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 »

Proving the Economic Power of Local Arts Agencies

Posted by Theresa Cameron On July - 13 - 2012

Theresa Cameron

Well its official, our Local Arts Agency Blog Salon (catch up and read all of the posts with that one easy link) was a home run!

We heard from more than 20 bloggers representing all parts of our great nation about ways communities and their arts economic development strategies are being harnessed to create the 21st century creative community.

This week, bloggers have given very specific examples of how having the right message and the right data can help propel a community forward. The arts at the local level are being taken seriously because of the data, the stats, and the vision.

We all know that the arts are very important for many reasons but it was particularly interesting to hear from bloggers about how having the right data can get you a seat at the table to make your case.

In particular, it was interesting to learn from the corporate side about how to present arts and economic impact data to corporate funders—and that there are many layers of messengers before the data gets to the CEO—and that doing your homework will help you overcome the objections and obstacles with that potential funder.

I loved seeing the photograph of the Mona Lisa on the dollar bill from The Omaha World-Herald.

And what about Boise? Who knew that Boise is the most geographically-isolated urban area in the lower 48 and that the arts infrastructure has helped shape the city create a haven for arts organizations?

So, many thanks to our wonderful, diverse group of bloggers. They are the “rock stars” of using the research and data to shift ways community leaders are thinking and using the arts as a local development strategy!

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.