local arts agencies
History and Types of Local Arts Agencies
The arts in America are more accessible to the public now than at any time in the nation’s history. This is due, in large part, to the remarkable growth and impact of the nation’s local arts agencies—community-based organizations that integrate the arts into the daily fabric of their communities and ensure cultural vitality. In just the past 50 years, the number of local arts agencies (LAAs) has blossomed from 400 to 5,000. Once primarily nonprofit, volunteer-driven organizations that presented programming, they are now are a mix of public and private agencies that leverage billions of dollars in support to advance the arts, ensuring broad access to the arts and improving the quality of their community.
Types of Local Arts Agencies
Local arts agencies can serve populations of any size and are located in urban, rural, and suburban areas. They can focus on one activity or dozens of activities, based on the needs and desires of the community. Some communities have more than one local arts agency, which is effective for the community as long as both are not competing to conduct the same programs or services. LAAs can represent a single jurisdiction (such as a city, town, or county); multiple jurisdictions (such as a metropolitan or tri-state area); or smaller areas (such as a neighborhood within a city or county). LAAs reflect the diversity of the communities they serve—including people of all ages, ethnic and racial backgrounds, and special interest groups, such as people with disabilities and older individuals. Each is uniquely designed to meet the needs and enrich the lives of its constituency.
With the estimated 5,000 LAAs in the United States, 75 percent are private nonprofit organizations, whereas 25 percent are public agencies of a city or county government.
- Private LAAs
- More likely to be private, nonprofit organizations
- Their revenues usually include a mixture of individual and business donations; membership dues; foundation support; earned-income activities; and grants or service contracts from local, state, and federal governments
- According to our census data, private nonprofit. LAAs are more likely to be actively engaged in marketing and public relations, online art and event calendars, audience development, volunteer recruitment, board development, and individual giving
- Public LAAs are more likely to be actively engaged in advocating for dedicated public funding issues and cultural districts
- Usually found in smaller communities
- Public LAAs
- Generally, public meaning they are art of the city or county government
- Their largest source of revenue is from local government
- Their largest expenditure is for awarding grants and contracts to local artists and cultural institutions
- Increasingly, public LAAs are located throughout municipal government (e.g., mayor’s office, local economic development departments, and tourism and community development agencies).
- Usually found in medium to large communities
Local arts agencies are diverse organizations, but all share the goal of being a catalyst for the arts in their communities. LAAs are increasingly called on by arts and community leaders to use the arts to address social, educational, and economic development issues. Today’s success of LAAs is a tribute to the dedication, creativity, and entrepreneurial nature of the agencies and their leadership, and their continuing ability to adjust to the unique needs of the communities that they serve.