Arts Leadership and the Changing Social Contract

Posted by Emiko Ono On April - 15 - 2014
Emiko Ono

Emiko Ono

Since I began working in the arts in 2001, there has been a subtle but constant pressure on the sector to transform that can be both distressing and motivating. I will never forget the time in 2003 when Mark O’Neill, then the Head of Museums and Galleries for the city of Glasgow (Scotland), described how a population of shipyard workers reported that they did not attend a nearby museum because the price of admission was too expensive. The nauseating twist was that the museum did not have an admission fee. Last week, this story came to mind again as I spoke with Susie Medak, managing director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre and an arts leader with more than 25 years of experience. Susie’s hypothesis—that the tacit social contract between society and arts organizations is changing—is one I have found to be incredibly useful. The premise of her theory is that it is no longer sufficient for arts organizations to provide distinctive work, attract an audience, and secure financial support—it needs to include wider swaths of people who are largely not involved.  Read the rest of this entry »

Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2014

Posted by Randy Cohen On March - 20 - 2014
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 »

Karin Copeland

Karin Copeland

The goals of the arts, culture and creative sectors are often viewed as separate from or counter to those of the business community. The Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia is working hard to change this perception and build a wide, two-way bridge between these communities by creating awareness around the impact of creativity in the workplace and the contributions of arts and culture to a thriving economy.

The creative sector fuels exciting, vibrant lifestyles for citizens in the Philadelphia region; and the colorful, intriguing cultural life of Philadelphia drives people to move into the city, building a stronger hiring pool. Likewise, the business communities feed critical experience and resources into the lives of artists and art-making institutions. This is why the Arts & Business Council envisions a vibrant creative sector with strong leadership — in terms of professional staff and volunteer board leaders — and a cultural scene that continues to be one of our region’s greatest assets. Through our capacity-building services, we work every day to strengthen a creative sector that is already valued for how it enriches the quality of life in our region, the jobs it creates, the visitors it attracts, and the impact is has on our children. And we champion the cause of a creative sector that has the support of audiences, businesses, donors, volunteers and government agencies. Read the rest of this entry »

BEA’s Arts in the GDP Study: How You Can Help Make it Great

Posted by Randy Cohen On January - 28 - 2014
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

BEA is a Big Deal

In December 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) added to the canon of research on the economic impact of the arts with the new Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account—a measure of arts and culture in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Economic impact of the arts is not a new story.  What’s new is that an agency of BEA’s stature has undertaken the research.  The BEA is choosy about the satellite accounts it establishes and wouldn’t measure arts and culture unless it recognized the sector as important to the nation’s economic well-being and global competitiveness.

What did BEA find?  That arts and culture activity produce $504 billion dollars in goods and services annually in the U.S.—representing 3.25 percent of the nation’s economy—numbers larger than transportation ($448 billion) and agriculture ($174 billion), and only slightly behind construction ($530 billion).  The arts numbers were much larger than expected and turned enough heads at BEA headquarters to get the attention of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who provided a quote in the NEA’s release about the value of arts and culture (not an insignificant recognition). Read the rest of this entry »

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

In the waning days of 2013, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer cited examples of performing arts organizations experimenting with curtain times, holding some weeknight performances as early as 6:30 pm instead of the long-accepted standard of 8:00 pm. The reasons given included appealing to younger audiences, who might want to go somewhere else after the show; appealing to older audiences, who might appreciate getting home earlier; and appealing to everyone in between, who might find it easier to hire a babysitter or just to show up for work the next day. One of the early trends from this experimentation is that some midweek performances with earlier curtain times are pulling even with or outpacing once-hot Friday evening ticket sales.

In other words, Friday is the new Tuesday—or maybe Tuesday is the new Friday? Either way, this is as good a place as any to begin the conversation about what constitutes the “new normal” for the nonprofit arts and culture sector and how arts organizations continue to respond to the changing environment in terms of audience behaviors and, in the wake of the Great Recession, evolving funder behaviors, too.

Looking back at 2013, it was in many ways a year of contradictory trends in the arts sector: two steps forward, one step back, or perhaps the other way around. Growth, contraction, innovation, struggle, resurrection, collapse. Read the rest of this entry »

As Charity Goes, So Goes the Arts?

Posted by Roland Kushner On December - 12 - 2013
Roland Kushner

Roland Kushner

I was happy to see the editorial “Handsome is as handsome gives” from long-time musician and arts advocate Arthur C. Brooks in the Wall Street Journal on Nov 25. Brooks, also an accomplished social scientist and president of American Enterprise Institute, cites studies, cites studies showing how increased generosity is good for one’s health, well-being, and attractiveness.  He cheerfully encourages readers to give generously so they might reap those rewards for themselves.

It turns out that Brooks missed one other benefit of increased generosity: it’s good for the artistic instinct and the progress of the arts.  There is a strong connection between the vitality of the arts and private support of all charitable causes that has persisted over many years.  Here’s some interesting data about that connection.

Last August, Americans for the Arts released the 2013 National Arts Index report, our fourth annual measure of vitality of arts and culture in the U.S.  The report spanned 2000 through 2011.  Co-author Randy Cohen and I calculate the Index score from 78 indicators of attendance, participation, consumption, investment, returns, volunteering, performances, compositions, imports and exports, government funding at all levels, numbers of artists and more.  The Index shows how dynamic those years were for the arts.

And not only the arts … we experienced recessions, booms, crises, recoveries, wars, political changes, technological advances, demographic shifts, new social movements, and of course, changes in the arts.  Intuition and experience suggest how that some of those dynamic forces – mostly macroeconomic – are positively linked to the arts: GDP, employment, stock market, population, and income. Some behavior and attitude patterns are arts-friendly: charitable giving, consumer confidence, leisure participation.  Each of these forces (and others) has its own record of growth and decline in recent years. How closely do the arts track these other forces? Read the rest of this entry »

Giving: Arts and Culture

Posted by Tim McClimon On December - 9 - 2013
Tim McClimon

Tim McClimon

There are lots of good reasons to support arts and culture organizations in your community: encouraging creativity, fostering innovation, enhancing the quality of life, beautifying our parks and public spaces, educating young people and audiences, and just for pure enjoyment and personal fulfillment – to name a few. I mean, who among us hasn’t enjoyed listening to great music in a concert hall, watching spectacular dance on stage, engaging with provocative actors in a theater or visiting a world-class art museum?

But another reason to support the arts is the economic impact that arts and culture organizations have in their local communities and the jobs they create.

According to a recent study of 182 communities by Americans for the Arts (Arts & Economic Prosperity IV), the nation’s nonprofit arts industry generated over $135 billion in economic activity nationally in 2010 (for-profit arts and entertainment activity was excluded from this study). $61 billion of this activity was generated directly by the country’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations and $74 billion was generated in event-related expenditures by their audience members.

This economic activity supports over 4 million full-time jobs and it generates over $22 billion in revenue for local, state and federal governments every year – a yield well beyond the $4 billion that is allocated to support arts organizations by governments annually.

According to the report, arts and culture organizations are resilient and entrepreneurial businesses. They employ people locally, purchase goods and services within their communities, and promote their communities as tourist destinations and great places to live.

Additionally, when patrons attend events, they often pay for parking or transportation, eat at local restaurants, shop in retail stores, have dessert on the way home, pay a babysitter or stay in local hotels. Based on over 150,000 audience surveys, the typical arts attendee spends almost $25 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission – and this number is much greater in metropolitan areas. Read the rest of this entry »

Theories to Prevent Chaos

Posted by Erin Gough On November - 20 - 2013
Erin Gough

Erin Gough

Even those of us who have chosen to spend our lives in the arts rather than mathematics and the sciences have probably heard the preeminent example used to describe Chaos Theory. There is no shortage of cultural references to the so-called “Butterfly Effect,” including Jurassic Park’s claim that “a butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”

So what does that mean for those of us who are working in the arts education field? Too often our efforts feel like lots of wing-flapping and not enough knowing where to look to measure rainfall. We flap our wings and maybe one student will become a professional artist.  We flap our wings and perhaps a performance will inspire a student. We flap our wings harder and harder and yet the next Mozart will not come out of this year’s class of students. Unfortunately, some who control the purse-strings see funding of arts education in this way.  Few people are eager to invest their resources in what they see as chaotic or unpredictable.

A funder, whether it is a private foundation, philanthropically-minded community members, state legislators, or school board members, expect their investment to spur a lot of wing-flapping, but they also want to know exactly when and where they can expect to see results.

Read the rest of this entry »

Think Local! An Interview with Randy Cohen and Michael Killoren

Posted by Randy Cohen On October - 22 - 2013
Michael Killoren

Michael Killoren

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

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 »

Jody Ulich

Jody Ulich

Here’s the truth about cities: we are all competitive.  How many top-ten lists do you see every year—Most Livable, Most “Green,” Best for Families?  We all want to be on that list, and no one wants to end up falling short.  That’s why data can be so impactful for the decision-makers in a city, and it is precisely why economic impact studies are not new to the Fort Worth-area arts community.  Yet despite our long history of participating in different regional economic impact studies, we—like so many others across the country—saw our arts funding at risk and decreasing every year.  It became clear that in order for the numbers to be truly valid to our city leaders, we needed a study that reflected solely information from Fort Worth.  Those past reports—as robust as they might have seemed—never quite belonged to us, and never gained the traction we hoped that they would with decision-makers.

That is when Americans for the Arts came in with the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV ™ report, and we started to see an important shift in the thinking.  We stepped out to ask for the economic impact of Fort Worth, and only Fort Worth.  Americans for the Arts delivered and the Fort Worth community listened. We presented those findings throughout the community to business leaders and citizens – then finally to the City Council.    The Americans for the Arts data release was perfectly timed, coming out a month before our city budget was set in 2012.  Yet even then, the council still reduced the budget.

Fortunately, during that council meeting, our mayor stood up and said, “We have to stop this; we have to figure this out.”  She made a pledge to put together a task force of citizens to solve our shrinking budget, and true to her word, she put a very even-minded task force together.  Some were arts-supporters; some were business leaders who were not so sure city money should go to the arts.  Over the subsequent five months, the group went over our economic impact findings with a fine-toothed comb.  During that time they studied and talked to people in our community.  And they looked, too, at the graph showing how Forth Worth stacked up against other cities for arts funding: it didn’t look impressive.

So after months of studying the numbers presented in the Economic Impact Study, analyzing support in other cities, and listening to citizens, arts supporters, and arts organizations, our city council listened and responded—to the tune of $1.1 million, doubling our funding from last year.  It goes to show: personalizing your numbers makes a difference, and it never hurts to get the competitive fires burning, either. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Research: Fuel for Policy and Advocacy?

Posted by David Pankratz On September - 23 - 2013
David Pankratz

David Pankratz

What do musical chairs, speed dating, and crowd sourcing have to do with arts research? Well, on Day 2 of Americans for the Arts’ National Convention in June, co-hosted by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC), Randy Cohen, AFTA’s Vice-President for Research and Policy, and I, found out.

Context:  We knew that arts researchers and policy wonks from arts service organizations, academia, consultancies, and foundations would be among the 1,000 convention attendees coming to Pittsburgh. Randy and I also knew that opportunities for researchers and wonks (and geeks, too!) to gather in one place and explore issues connecting research, policy, and advocacy were, at best, rare. So we invited 40 such folks to do just that!

Format:  In the lobby of Bricolage, a small, progressive theater in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, four groups of 10 chairs each were divided by topic–Producing Arts Research, Evaluating Policies, Disseminating Research, and Leveraging Research for Advocacy. As participants arrived at 8:00 am, they scoured the room and chose, on a first-come, first-served basis, which group to sit in (the Musical Chairs portion of the program). Each participant then engaged in five animated, 5-minute conversations with others in their group (i.e., Speed Dating). According to Randy’s phone, the decibel level in the room rivaled that of a rowdy night club. Leaders of each group then shared highlights of those conversations with all the convening’s participants (Crowd Sourcing). 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 »

That Gut Feeling: Arts & Economic Prosperity in Chattanooga, TN

Posted by Dan Bowers On September - 17 - 2013
Dan Bowers

Dan Bowers

One thing I’ve learned during my years in the field of arts administration is that when it comes to the arts, decision makers are often willing to discount their intuition.  They ignore that gut feeling they have that the arts really do make a difference in their community, because it can be difficult to prove.  However, there is another lesson here as well: facts proven by valid research are extremely powerful and difficult to ignore.

That’s why last year, when a seven out of nine City Council members were newly-elected to the local government, ArtsBuild was there to welcome them with more than just an ask, and more than a promise that any funding to the arts would provide a real and tangible return on investment.  We came armed with the proof—our customized Arts & Economic Prosperityreport from Americans for the Arts.  The payoff?  Just a few weeks ago, we received word that the City Council approved an increase of $49,000 for ArtsBuild over the City’s 2012 funding.

With the economy still growing hesitantly, $49,000 is no drop in the bucket. This is a 22 percent increase in our allocation from the City from last year.  Clearly, these dollars will make an enormous difference to the arts community in Chattanooga.  This decision by the City Council, however, is symbolic of something larger: an understanding that the arts are more than just window dressing for our City.  This investment demonstrates that the arts are integral to creating the kind of place where we all want to live and work.  Read the rest of this entry »

Nancy Rubino

Nancy Rubino

Amy Charleroy

Amy Charleroy

In a recent survey conducted by the College Board of nearly 1000 K-12 principals and superintendents, more than 75% of respondents said that nationally, arts education should be given a greater priority level than it currently holds in American schools. They also indicated that they believe that the primary benefits of arts education are that they strengthen students’ creative thinking abilitiesbolster cognitive development, contribute to a well-rounded educational experience and enhance students’ emotional well-being. However, when asked what factors could most effectively work in favor of keeping arts programs in schools, school leaders responded the arts curricula need to clearly address state educational standards (in the arts as well as in other subjects), college admission requirements, and the Common Core standards. These two sets of answers at first seem unrelated, or at least as if they reflect completely different sets of priorities, but they are both true: the arts do provide significant and wide-ranging benefits including those cited by the administrators surveyed; recent research credits arts participation with bolstering creative thinking skills, increasing graduation rates, and improving students’ overall engagement with school. On the other hand, arts educators also know that the security and continuity of their programs often relies on their ability to draw connections between the activities of their classrooms and the content and skills emphasized in non-arts subjects. These kinds of connections don’t need to feel forced or artificial: arts experiences do authentically engage students in habits of problem solving, presenting their own original ideas, and analyzing and interpreting the ideas of others – all skills central to the Common Core, and to studies across the curriculum. Read the rest of this entry »

Bigger than Baseball: The Power of Economic Impact Data

Posted by Lydia Antunes Black On August - 16 - 2013
Lydia Black

Lydia Antunes Black

When we partnered with Americans for the Arts to conduct an Arts & Economic Prosperity ™ customized economic impact study for Lee County , we were expecting to gain numbers—quantitative benchmarks against which we could eventually measure our progress.  We did get numbers, and plenty of them, but the value of the data exceeded all of my expectations.  Our community’s Arts & Economic Prosperity story is about funding and advocacy.  But above and beyond that, it is about the new ways we found of connecting to one another within the nonprofit arts sector and nationally through the data collection process. It’s about how we learned an entirely new language that has allowed inroads into business and government through the analysis and report.  Our community’s story is about rallying the many groups doing important work on the ground, and helping to bring us together through our shared goal of supporting the arts in Lee County.  This report belongs to us all.  That is why, despite our organization growing from 300 members to 1000, or turning around a deficit into a balanced budget, the customized Arts & Economic Prosperity report is still the piece I am most proud of in my tenure as Executive Director.

The Lee County Alliance for the Arts works hard to support itself, a truth supported by the fact that earned revenue accounts for more than 80 percent of our operating budget.  For that reason, we carefully considered our decision to spend those dollars on an economic impact study.  But there is no doubt in my mind that the return on investment has more than made up for it.  Today, we are still reaping the benefits of our commitment.  Before the study, we were not speaking the same language as our business and government leaders. With the economic impact findings, we are now able to prove, with hard numbers and data, that the arts community is a socio-economic driver and an important partner in the economic revitalization of Lee County.  We, the nonprofit arts community, are part of the solution. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

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.