When it comes to supporting the arts in America, we know that there are as many different strategies as there are communities. At the core of all of them, however, is the local arts agency (LAA). Broadly defined as an organization or program that works to foster and support the entire arts industry within a community, LAAs can take many forms—public or private, full time staff or all-volunteer operations, standalone or functioning under the umbrella of a different agency, and beyond. No matter what shape they take, LAAs seek to support all of the arts for all of the people within a community—a key component of our mission at Americans for the Arts. That is why we have, in close partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, chosen to undertake the 2013-14 Census of Local Arts Agencies. This comprehensive survey is designed to benchmark the financial health and programmatic trends of the richly varied, highly diverse, and extremely important work of the nation’s 5,000 LAAs and the communities that they serve. The data collection will commence in early 2014, so make sure you keep an eye out for our dedicated LAA Census webpage, coming soon!
Here to answer some of our burning questions about the survey—why it is so important, what we hope to learn, and how we plan on using the data—are two of the driving forces behind its conception: Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research & Policy at Americans for the Arts, and Michael Killoren, Local Arts Agencies and Challenge America Director at the National Endowment for the Arts. (Note: an abridged version of this interview was published in Arts Link, the quarterly membership publication of Americans for the Arts.)
Americans for the Arts Research Dept (AFTA Research): The NEA has made a significant investment in this research. Why is this work important to the agency?
Michael Killoren: A thorough understanding of America’s support system for the arts is incomplete without knowledge of the role of Local Arts Agencies, nationwide. We have current, comprehensive data on federal and state investment in the arts – this study will complete that picture, and help the American people better understand the role of LAAs in the nation’s arts infrastructure, as well as their contributions to the cultural vibrancy of the nation. Read the rest of this entry »