The Marriage of Arts, Economics, & Education

Posted by Tim Mikulski On March - 4 - 2013

The NABE FoundationThe NABE Foundation, the charitable arm of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE), and Americans for the Arts will present Paul Vancea with the the 2013 NABE Foundation Americans for the Arts Scholarship Award later today in Washington, DC.

The Scholarship Award was established in 2008 to encourage the integration of the arts into the economic education process. Recipients of the scholarship must come from economically disadvantaged households and have attended public school. Successful candidates demonstrate long-term participation in the study of, creation in and/or performance in one or more art forms, including dance, music, theatre, literary, visual/media arts; excel academically; and have formally declared the intent to study economics for policy purposes, or in applications in the private and public sectors.

The scholarship recipients are selected following a competitive review process which begins with a pre-screening of applicants by Americans for the Arts, followed by a review of finalists by a sub-committee, and ratification of recipients by the NABE Foundation Board.

Vancea is receiving a scholarship in the amount of $5,000 to support the study and application of economics in his undergraduate studies and professional career. He is currently a junior at Brandeis University, majoring in Economics, Business, and Film.  Read the rest of this entry »

Collective Impact and the Wisdom of Slow Culture

Posted by Bill Cleveland On December - 7 - 2012

Pomegranate Center works with communities to imagine, plan, and create shared public spaces designed to encourage social integration and build local identity.

In the world of commerce scaling up has a long history. In the eighteenth and ninetieth centuries, mass production spawned the industrial revolution. In the twentieth century, scaling applied to retail businesses like fast food and electronics manifested as chain stores and franchising.

The intention with these enterprises is to maximize profit by providing reliable and affordable products and services through economies of scale. In terms of profitability, mass production, chains, and franchising have been stupendously successful.

On the nonprofit side, given the significant gap between community needs and resources it is understandable that policymakers and funders are going to eager to find ways to extend the benefits of what they see as effective ideas and practice. Slow Food USA, Link TV, and KIPP charter schools are good examples of how innovative nonprofits have shared and spread the wealth.

The downside, of course is that one-size-fits-all predictability and sameness can have a sterilizing effect on the delicate strains of quirk and diversity upon which vital culture depends to multiply and thrive. For people like me who are concerned with community cultural development, or in the current vernacular, creative placemaking, this is no small thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Defining, and Scaling, Our Terms

Posted by Andrew Taylor On December - 5 - 2012

Andrew Taylor

Before we can have a useful conversation about taking cultural enterprises or community arts efforts “to scale,” we need to define what we mean by that. “Going to scale” usually means serving more people in more places with the same service structure. But that can happen in a number of ways.

First, a single organization can successfully increase its reach or impact by expanding. Second, other individuals or organizations can replicate successful projects or programs to serve more people in more places, while the original organization remains much the same. Finally, you can scale through a hybrid of the two approaches above, where a successful program provider creates a “franchise” to license or sell or support multiple instances of the same program.

In the commercial world, scalability of a project or business has mostly to do with economics, and the interplay of fixed and variable costs (sorry, we have to go there…but I’ll be brief). It all begins with the fixed investment required to build the project or process…how big the machine or system or service network needs to be to launch.

After that, it’s all about incremental revenue. Projects can scale if the incremental revenue from additional users is large enough to surpass the fixed costs quickly, and leave them in the dust (the customer pays you $10 and they only cost you $1, for example). When incremental revenue is slim (customer pays you $10, but cost you $9 to serve), a project can’t capture its fixed costs quickly, can’t surpass those fixed costs dramatically, and therefore can’t scale very well. Read the rest of this entry »

Economies and Diseconomies of Scale in the Arts

Posted by Ian David Moss On December - 4 - 2012

Ian David Moss

How does scale influence impact in the arts?

In 2007, back when I was a fresh-faced grad student, I actually addressed this question head on in the eighth post ever published on Createquity. I argued pretty strongly that scale in the arts was a myth, or at least not salient to the same extent as in other fields:

“It’s not that I don’t think large arts organizations do good work, or that they don’t deserve to be supported. What I’m going to argue instead is that there is a tendency among many institutional givers to direct their resources toward organizations that have well-developed support infrastructure, long histories, and vast budgets, and in a lot of ways it’s a tendency that doesn’t make much sense (or at the very least, could use some balance).

For one thing, those well-developed support infrastructures don’t come cheap. Consider the case of Carnegie Hall… [snip]

In contrast, small arts organizations are extraordinarily frugal with their resources, precisely because they have no resources of which to speak. It’s frankly amazing to me what largely unheralded art galleries, musical ensembles, theater companies, dance troupes, and performance art collectives are able accomplish with essentially nothing but passion on their side.

A $5,000 contribution that would barely get you into the sixth-highest donor category at Carnegie might radically transform the livelihood of an organization like this. Suddenly, they might be able to buy some time in the recording studio, or hire an accompanist for rehearsals, or redo that floor in the lobby, or even (gasp) PAY their artists! All of which previously had seemed inconceivable because of the poverty that these organizations grapple with.” Read the rest of this entry »

Seat-o-nomics

Posted by Rick Lester On July - 19 - 2012

Conventional wisdom: A higher price (P1) results in a lower quantity sold (Q1), whereas a lower price (P2) results in a more sales (Q2).

Harry Truman famously expressed a desire to consult only with “one-armed economists.” Our 33rd president wasn’t fond of counsel that began, “On the one hand, this…” and was followed by “On the other hand, that…” Truman wanted straight talk without equivocation.

So, here is a bit of economic straight talk from the data vaults of TRG Arts. Forget everything you learned in that Econ 101 class you took in undergraduate school. You can also forget what you learned at business school. It doesn’t apply to tickets.

Competitive Freedom

Conventional wisdom holds that higher prices reduce demand. For instance, in the consumer universe of unlimited hamburger availability, McDonald’s will sell many at $1.00 and many fewer at $10.00. And, at $100, demand goes to zero.

But, supply and demand curves do not apply to the world of selling tickets.

Those curves depend upon an “open market” of goods and prices. Corn, wheat, and hamburgers are sold in huge open markets. There are vast numbers of buyers and sellers who are free to compete for the exchange of goods and services.

Price subject to desire.

This condition of competitive freedom does not exist when selling tickets.

For example, nonprofit organizations are run by volunteer boards who set, approve or use their clout to influence prices—prices that these same board members pay when they attend the performances presented by their organization. That’s just one reason why the best seats are frequently undervalued. Read the rest of this entry »

Collaboration Improves Local Arts Agency’s Public Art Program

Posted by Angela Adams On May - 16 - 2012

Angela Adams

Arlington County’s public art program benefited greatly from our collaborative effort with Virginia Tech and Americans for the Arts mentioned in Dr. Elizabeth Morton’s post from earlier this week.

Like many programs across the country, we are adjusting to the new normal of increased scrutiny of public spending as it relates to the arts. We are also adjusting to our recent relocation from the Department of Parks and Recreation to that of Arlington Economic Development and are just beginning to understand the difference in priorities between the two agencies and how these will impact our future work.

We are currently working on developing a white paper on the value of public art to Arlington through four lenses: community and social benefits; civic design and placemaking; economic; and aesthetic/experiential.

It is helpful that the field of economics has begun to look seriously at developing measurement tools for such intangible phenomena as human happiness or fulfillment as well as the intrinsic value of the arts, so there is an increasing body of literature to draw from here. The findings of the Virginia Tech students will similarly help us in making the case for how and why public art adds value to our community.

To summarize some of the more interesting (even surprising) findings of the four teams discussed in the previous post and their value to Arlington’s public art program: Read the rest of this entry »

Connecting Art to the Needs of the Community

Posted by Rebecca Yenawine On May - 3 - 2012

Rebecca Yenawine

In reading people’s Blog Salon posts I am glad to see innovative approaches to assessing the impact of public art, how inviting people to tell stories can be used as an assessment tool, and how one can look at arts impact on well-being and social cohesion.

I am even more convinced that it is important that the evaluation process be one that is engaging and inclusive of arts richness rather then an empty distillation of findings that caters to a potential funders need to assess impact.

This process must be more then about giving funders what they want or about being able to tell whether one program, artist or project is better than another, but rather, to help us understand arts role in our communities and on the individual so that we might advocate for a change in the way investment takes place.

If art is in fact offering a space for developing social understanding, for connecting and building relationships, and for developing greater cohesion, part of the story that needs to be told is about how and why this is a valuable counterbalance to a society whose bureaucracies emphasize productivity, economic success, and competition without fostering the larger social fabric of communities.

One possible way to frame evaluation is to make clear the problems that art addresses. Read the rest of this entry »

Who’s Number One? (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Will Maitland Weiss On April - 19 - 2012

Will Maitland Weiss

The sweet sixteen. The elite eight. The final four. But what does it really come down to…Who’s number ONE?!?!

In the case of The Economist’s Hot Spots: Benchmarking Global City Competitiveness (just released last week), IT’S NEW YORK.

A total of 120 cities were evaluated with 31 indicators for each city (21 qualitative and 10 quantitative) in “eight distinct, thematic categories” like “economic strength,” and “financial maturity,” and “social and cultural character.”

The Economist journalists write in their executive summary:

“Competitiveness is a holistic concept. While economic size and growth are important and necessary, several other factors determine a city’s competitiveness, including its business and regulatory environment, the quality of human capital, and cultural aspects. These factors not only help sustain high economic growth rates, but also create a stable and harmonious business and social environment. Against this backdrop, we define competitiveness as the demonstrated ability to attract capital, business, talent, and visitors.”

I love this stuff.

Let’s face it: I love when New York wins.

You love it when your city, your team, your organization wins—as you should; but, this isn’t a fluff press release from the tourism/convention agency and it isn’t, ultimately, about New York. Read the rest of this entry »

Investing in Emerging Leaders in the Arts

Posted by Sarah Cortell Vandersypen On March - 26 - 2012
Sarah Cortell Vandersypen

Sarah Cortell Vandersypen

“With the Government giving less to art and education, somebody’s got to give more. And that somebody is America’s corporations.” — Chase Manhattan Bank (Wu, 2002, p. 122)

During these challenging economic times, arts organizations and professionals must seek innovative funding opportunities. These opportunities include partnerships with the private sector. Americans for the Arts, in collaboration with the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) Foundation, has done just that.

In October 2010, I had the honor of receiving the 2010 NABE Foundation Americans for the Arts Scholarship. The scholarship was established in 2008 to encourage the integration of the arts into the economic education process. By investing in human capital, both organizations seek to promote creative thinking, innovation, and visionary leadership.

During the time I received the scholarship, I was completing my M.A. in Arts Policy and Administration at The Ohio State University. This unique program, a joint degree between the art education department and the John Glenn School of Public Affairs, challenges the way arts professionals think about the sector.

With its multidisciplinary approach, the program incorporates a variety of courses including economics, finance, policy formation and implementation, program evaluation, and nonprofit consulting. My graduate program has taught me to think critically about the policies and management of the nonprofit arts sector, and the NABE Foundation Americans for the Arts Scholarship has freed me to do the work I love. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop Stealing Dreams (Part One)

Posted by Seth Godin On March - 12 - 2012

Seth Godin

All week, we will be sharing (numbered) points from Seth Godin’s new education manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?). You can download a free copy of the full 100-page manifesto at Squidoo.com

3. Back to (the wrong) school

A hundred and fifty years ago, adults were incensed about child labor. Low-wage kids were taking jobs away from hard-working adults.

Sure, there was some moral outrage about seven-year-olds losing fingers and being abused at work, but the economic rationale was paramount. Factory owners insisted that losing child workers would be catastrophic to their industries and fought hard to keep the kids at work—they said they couldn’t afford to hire adults. It wasn’t until 1918 that nationwide compulsory education was in place.

Part of the rationale used to sell this major transformation to industrialists was the idea that educated kids would actually become more compliant and productive workers. Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn’t a coincidence—it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child-labor wages for longer term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they’re told.

Large-scale education was not developed to motivate kids or to create scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system. Scale was more important than quality, just as it was for most industrialists. Read the rest of this entry »

Finally Time for the Arts to Shine in “The Age of the Creative Economy”?

Posted by Hannah Jacobson On February - 21 - 2012

Hannah Jacobson

Delight or die; this is the new paradigm set forth by Steve Denning to adapt to the new creative economy.

In a particularly fickle consumer-centric universe, the increased focus on services as opposed to goods, he says, creates a need for “continuous innovation” and what he terms “radical management.”

This new economy will be David versus the Goliath of the outgoing manufacturing economy, and we all know who ultimately wins that battle—but it will require smarts, innovation, flexibility, a great survival instinct, and a lot of new energy.

Yet for the arts, how “radical” is it really to be focused on services, to continuously innovate to survive, and, perhaps most importantly, to delight audiences? If nothing else, the arts community provides a masterful example of survival in any economy—creative or otherwise.

So the idea of the “creative economy,” a concept that has more disparate definitions than can realistically be explored here—think about the spectrum of understandings that would arise from places as distinct as the United States, Norway, England, Australia, and far beyond—might be relatively new, but creativity in the economy and even creativity as a driver of the economy are functions that the arts have long recognized. Read the rest of this entry »

Rethinking Strategies

Posted by Felix Padron On December - 5 - 2011

Felix Padron

San Antonio is at a crossroads.

It is a city whose traditional identity has been shaped by generations of families rooted in the region and immigrants from Mexico. This identity has deep historical and cultural implications shaped by a unique set of economic and cultural dynamics; the backbone of a context that more often than not, influences most political efforts and outcomes.

Yet San Antonio is undeniably a growing city. The bulk of its population growth comes from the outside, creating a more heterogeneous cultural environment, where different and specific cultural identities are now being engaged.

The challenge becomes: Can San Antonio expand in a global economy while staying committed to an “authentic” culture?

This question is at the forefront of most discussions regarding the city’s future.

It is a delicate balance for San Antonians, and it makes it difficult to reach consensus when trying to formulate strategies that allow for the cross-pollination of innovation and cultural preservation. This is certainly a challenge for local arts and cultural organizations as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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.