The (In)Efficiencies of Scale (Part Two)

Posted by Michael Hickey On January - 25 - 2013

Michael Hickey

(Editor’s Note: Michael continues his response to our Animating Democracy Blog Salon from December 2012 in this post. It was originally published on his Man-About-Town.org site January 13, 2013.)

The Means of Production

When you “produce” something, that’s a very different process from “creating” something. Production is about assembly, and scaled production means you can bring all the pieces together in an orderly, timely fashion. Again, this works best when both inputs and outputs are standardized.

Automobiles, microfinance, and high school educations all share this in common. In my comments to Ian’s blog post, I noted that the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with it’s $300 million annual budget, “produces” quite a bit of art: that is, it has assembled a stunning diversity of work created by others. But the process it uses to produce this art is highly standardized, as is the way that we consume it.

When it comes right down to it, the Metropolitan Museum of Art actually creates very little art itself. The same is true for the other captains of the NYC cultural sector (Lincoln Center, MoMA, the Guggenheim, Carnegie Hall), and the rule holds true in other sectors as well.

Therefore: Greater scale = Greater standardization. Read the rest of this entry »

Eugene O’Neill’s Grant Writer Walks Into A Bar….

Posted by Bill O'Brien On December - 7 - 2012

Bill O’Brien

…and spots the dramatist hunched over in a corner booth, scribbling in his notebook. He walks over to the playwright, drops the first draft of Long Day’s Journey Into Night on the table and says, “That’s great, Eugene—but how am I supposed to prove economic growth or improved health and well-being with this?”

Obviously, this never happened. But if it did, it would be a great example of the conundrum we sometimes find ourselves in when we try to “scale up” societal benefits via the power of the arts. Identifying positive outcomes we’d like to pursue on policy levels at 20,000 feet can sometimes feel far removed from the missions being pursued by artists on the ground.

Trying to harness the power of the arts to provide broad public benefit in a strategized way is a good idea. The idea that our greatest American playwright should bend his art-making towards these aims is not. So if we’re trying to organize a way to share specific impacts of the arts so more people can benefit, how should we proceed?

In an art-science post called “The Imagine Engine!” on the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Art Works blog this spring, I stated that it may be possible for artists and scientists to “borrow freely from each other’s methods and practices and share insights with each other that they might be unable to find on their own.” This fall, through a program we’ve established via a partnership with the Department of Defense, we’re beginning to see evidence suggesting this hypothesis may be true. Read the rest of this entry »

STEM to STEAM with Drexel’s ExCITe Center

Posted by Sahar Javedani On November - 12 - 2012

When I began working at Drexel University earlier this year, one of the most interesting developments that fell on my radar was hearing of College of Engineering’s Professor Youngmoo Kim’s directorship of the Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center:

Professor Kim’s background in music includes performing with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and Boston Symphony Orchestra coupled with his Ph.D. degrees in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT and Masters degrees in Electrical Engineering and Music (Vocal Performance Practice) from Stanford University.

The mission of the ExCITe Center focuses on harnessing the talents of professionals working in the fields of research, education, civic engagement, and entrepreneurship as interdependent ingredients for creating transformative regional development. 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 »

It Takes a Village in Arts Education (Part 2)

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On August - 29 - 2012

Kristen Engebretsen

In my previous post, I described an arts education trend called “coordinated delivery,” in which I discuss the roles of some of the key stakeholders in arts education. Over the past year, Americans for the Arts has been refining our thinking about the theme, “It takes a village to educate a child.”

While the term “coordinated delivery” includes all of the major players that make arts education happen in a single community, it falls a bit short in defining all of the stakeholders, including those at the state and national levels, such as funders or legislators.

The field of arts education is a complex network of partners, players, and policymakers—each with a unique role. After the work we did last year in investigating coordinated delivery, Americans for the Arts wanted to create something that demonstrated how all of these players interact, and to help arts education practitioners understand their relationship with other stakeholders in arts education.

So…we created The Arts Education Field Guide.

The Field Guide is a 48-page reference guide that captures information in a one-page format for each arts education stakeholder, from national down to local partners. Each page defines a constituency and highlights its relationship to arts education in several key areas: support, barriers, successes, collaborations, funding, and national connections. The Field Guide is divided into sections based on federal/state/local tiers, and each page provides information that will help readers understand a stakeholder’s motivations and connections in arts education.

The Field Guide utilizes the concepts from biology of a network or an ecosystem. When bringing this concept to life, we wanted a way to graphically illustrate all of the key players in the field of arts education. I used Google Images to find a representation of the word “network” and then worked with a designer to come up with the motif for our ideas. We also utilized the term “field guide” (the kind that a botanist would use when trying to identify a plant or flower), as a play on words of “the field of arts education” to come up with the title.

Let’s take a quick look at the diagrams in The Field Guide: Read the rest of this entry »

It Takes a Village in Arts Education (Part 1)

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On August - 28 - 2012

Since I started my tenure at Americans for the Arts, we’ve been discussing variations on the theme of: “It takes a village to educate a child.”

During the 2011 Annual Convention, we had two arts education leaders (Ayanna Hudson and Margie Reese) discuss how this works in their respective communities. At the time, we were calling this phenomenon “coordinated delivery.”

We featured this trend in our Fall issue of ArtsLink. “Tete-a-Tete: Integrated Arts Education Approaches” defines coordinated delivery as “collaboration across communities for both shared delivery of arts instruction by arts specialists, teaching artists, and general classroom teachers AND shared leadership for arts education among arts agencies, education agencies, parents, and businesses.”

The article highlights the similarities and differences between two well-known coordinated delivery systems in the country: Arts for All in Los Angeles (Ayanna) and Big Thought in Dallas (Margie).

Here are two charts to illustrate the idea of coordinated delivery:

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 »

Tracy Graziani

At the recent Americans for the Arts Annual Convention the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV research was released to the public and the media. One of the trends noted in the presentation is the increasing urbanization of America. More and more people are moving to cities. This reality is posing unique challenges for small and medium-sized cities and towns.

In the 90s the big box stores descended upon Middle America with pervasive force, edging out “mom and pop shops” left and right. Some bemoaned the change, others viewed it as progress, and ultimately the “boxes” took over.

In the recent economic downturn many of those big box stores have left small towns, or significantly reduced their inventory. Now the residents can’t buy what they need at the big box or the “mom and pop,” so they turn to the internet or drive to a larger town. Of course the problem with this is that the commerce is then benefiting another community either where the online business resides or simply a bigger city in another county nearby.

The decreased tax revenue as well as the loss of commerce has a direct negative impact on the livability of these communities. Either the taxes have to go up or public services like nonprofits, schools, police, fire, and roads suffer. At least in our small town, the latter is what we have faced.

This leads us back to where we started—the research. When the livability of a community is subpar, educated and affluent people are more likely to leave, hence the migration to larger cities and towns. Some people even refer to this migration as “brain drain.”

Mansfield, OH, is a town that typifies this scenario. The arts organizations, nonprofits, and public services are all struggling to find their way in an economy that is increasingly unfriendly to small towns. The people of Mansfield, like the people in countless small towns across America, love their community and have high hopes for reviving their hometown. They have come together in some interesting ways as we adapt to the tougher times. Read the rest of this entry »

Economic Data Provides the Base for Public and Private Sector Advocacy

Posted by Jennifer Cover Payne On July - 12 - 2012

Jennifer Cover Payne

Eighteen years ago there was little research documenting the economic impact of arts and culture in the Greater Washington DC metropolitan region. The key advocacy message focused primarily on the intrinsic value of arts and its ability to transform communities.

Most of the information conveyed was subjective or limited to research conducted by specific arts organizations for their marketing purposes. The organizations, all part of the DC metropolitan region, did not cross jurisdictional boundaries to collaborate as research partners. The Arts & Economic Prosperity (AEP) studies eliminated the regional jurisdictional research barriers.

The Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington connects the six leaders of the arts councils and commissions representing: the District of Columbia; the City of Alexandria in Virginia; Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia; and, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland. The arts council and commission leaders meet several times a year under the umbrella of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington to discuss their arts projects, regional arts challenges, and successes.

Before the economic downturn, when local governments had more money, the AEP studies were part of the rationale that the city and council members used to grant millions of dollars to arts organizations that were building new or renovating old venues. Now the data supports the budget decision-making process for the arts and is essential to the vitality of arts programs throughout the region. Read the rest of this entry »

Documenting the Return On Our Investments

Posted by Robert Bush On July - 11 - 2012

Robert Bush

We love data at the Arts & Science Council (ASC).

We are fortunate to have access to resources, but we also have to make choices about how we direct them to support the sector, and research pays off every time. It allows us to connect with donors, elected officials, the chamber of commerce, and others about the impact of programs and services, as well as economic development efforts.

We are also fortunate to have the resources to commission research. For 10 years we have done a public opinion telephone survey through the Urban Institute at UNC-Charlotte. Since 2006, we have worked with WESTAF on the Creative Vitality™ Index; but, our biggest research partner has been and continues to be Americans for the Arts. Whether it is annual local arts agency surveys, past salary surveys, or United Arts Fund surveys, we fill them out.

While we love all of our partners, the most important (and requested) research we share with stakeholders is the results of our Arts & Economic Prosperity economic impact study conducted every five years.

Yes, it requires staff time to remind and nudge, coordinate audience intercept surveys, and make certain that every local cultural group had the opportunity to participate. Thanks to the vision of the North Carolina Arts Council, beginning with Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, we have statewide data and information on each of the regional economic development areas of the state.

You may think, those people in Charlotte have more money than sense to be investing in all this data, but this data gets us noticed—by donors, corporations, elected officials, chambers of commerce, and the list goes on.

I believe in art for art’s sake but I also know that numbers matter—balanced budgets, profits, and attendance figures to name a few. They help us tell our story in terms that people can understand. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Present Arts & Economic Impact Data to Corporate Funders

Posted by Julie Muraco On July - 11 - 2012

Julie Muraco

Arts & Economic Prosperity IV is another seminal piece of research by the Americans for the Arts staff led by Randy Cohen. (Okay, so I am biased). But, passion for the arts runs throughout our organization. I hope to provide insight into how AEP IV might be used with corporate funding sources.

How to Use AEP IV with Corporate Funders: What Do the Numbers Mean?

It is probably a revelation to most corporate funders that the arts & culture industry generates $135.2 billion in economic activity, supports 4.1 million jobs, and generates an aggregate $22.3 billion in government revenue.

Some corporate funders may not be looking at how arts & culture within their community support their own business revenues or government revenues with expenditures on snacks and refreshments (think restaurants and restaurant suppliers), lodging (resorts or hospitality industries), transportation (buses/taxis), or retail establishments with shopping from clothing to gifts for home.

Corporate funders need to be shown the light. And if it is anything like corporations I have worked for, what turns the light on in corporations are numbers and quantitative data. Why?

Whoever you have approached with the data needs to deliver it to someone else, who will then deliver it to another layer of management, and so on before a decision is made. That includes the CEO.

But, may I clarify a point about “corporate funders?” It is no longer just a decision made in the executive suite with the CEO or CFO of the company. A “corporate funder” decision-maker might be found within the sales and marketing, human resources, or corporate communications departments. The numbers and the rationale for funding arts organizations based on the data needs to resonate with all of these people. Read the rest of this entry »

Paul Tyler

This summer has brought the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City an unusual opportunity.

With the timing of the results from two major research projects, the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV (AEP IV) and the Local Arts Index (LAI) results, we have a complex and impressive overview of the arts ecology in Kansas City, one that’s never been seen before.

So, we’ve decided to host our first press conference in years. The event will include not just the highlights of the AEP IV figures, but also some of the key findings and takeaways from our Local Arts Index reports, all at the same time. This is without a doubt a big challenge, when you consider there’s so much information to cover.

The Kansas City metropolitan area sprawls over two states, five counties, and multiple cities, townships, and municipalities—I’ve heard that there are 117 different political jurisdictions here. We have five different LAI reports, one for each of the counties in our service area. That’s over 750 pages of detailed charts, graphs, and copy!

Then there’s also a regional report that combines all of the separate data into one unified look at the whole community, which also has some fascinating elements that are noteworthy. It’s humbling to realize that we can barely skim the surface of the information during a single event.

But the sheer volume of data now available is part of what drove the decision to take this approach. The two reports taken together provide the most complete and finely detailed study of the Kansas City arts community ever created. Breaking the data down into smaller segments would be easier, but it’s vital to get all of this information into the public sphere sooner rather than later. We’re in the beginning stages of regional community cultural planning, and waiting until the fall to release a second major study would slow our timetable for this considerably. Read the rest of this entry »

An Avalanche of Economic Impact Data

Posted by Ben Davidson On July - 9 - 2012

Ben Davidson

Way back in May of 2009, Americans for the Arts began recruiting local, regional, and statewide partners for the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV national economic impact study. After three years of day-to-day project managing, data collecting, number crunching, and report writing, the study is finally complete and the findings have been released. Trust me, NO ONE is more excited about that than I am!

A research project of this scope and magnitude delivers a myriad of emotional highs and lows. Mistakes are made; then mistakes are fixed. Deadlines are missed; then “extended” deadlines are set. We all know the drill.

I am 100 percent certain that at least once, each of the 182 study partners wished I would just go away and leave them alone. I’m incredibly thankful that each of the partners stuck with the process. Their hard work made this study the largest and most comprehensive of its kind ever conducted. Many people have asked me about the specific challenges and successes of the project, and I’m happy to share my perspectives on a few of each.

CHALLENGES

1. Providing project oversight for 182 separate partners is a difficult task. It’s a frustrating feeling when you send an e-mail to 182 people, and your inbox immediately starts filling with requests for clarification. I knew immediately when my directions weren’t clear enough.

2. Utilizing multiple sources of data can be confusing. In the states where the Cultural Data Project (CDP) has been implemented, we used CDP data in addition to our AEP IV organizational survey (so that arts organizations submitting a CDP profile didn’t need to complete our survey as well). This tactic definitely reduced the burden on the organizations from which we needed to collect data. Unfortunately, it definitely increased the burden on my team and on our study partners located in those CDP states.

3. The fact that the study partners collected more than 150,000 audience-intercept surveys was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because it is unquestionably the largest sample of audience spending data that has ever been collected. It was a curse because that equates to 32 legal-sized boxes full of surveys that required sorting, coding, and data entry. As my team processed the mountain of surveys, we stacked the boxes in my office. This worked fine until one Monday morning when I arrived at the office and discovered that a stack nine boxes high had collapsed across my desk—spilling neatly bundled surveys out into the hall, crushing my work phone, and staining my office door with blue ink from the boxes. Colleagues said I was lucky that I wasn’t at my desk when it happened, but I thought it might have been a fitting way to meet my demise…  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.