Wednesday, January 20, 2010

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First-Ever National Arts Index Measures Health and Vitality of Arts in the United States

Washington, DC — January 20, 2010 — Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts, today announced the National Arts Index at a press conference held at the National Press Club and kicking-off its 50th anniversary year. The National Arts Index is the first study designed to measure the health and vitality of the arts industries in the United States. The National Arts Index is composed of 76 national-level research indicators produced by the federal government and private research organizations.

The National Arts Index fell 4 points in 2008 to a score of 98.4, reflecting losses in charitable giving and declining attendance at larger cultural institutions, even as the number of arts organizations grew. The 2008 downturn in the Index was not wholly unexpected. With 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations and 600,000 more arts-related businesses, 2.24 million artists in the workforce, and billions of dollars in consumer spending, the arts industries largely track the nation’s business cycle. A score of 105.5 would return the Index to its highest point, measured in 1999.

“We will make up the lost ground, but it is going to take several years. Based on past patterns, Americans for the Arts estimates an arts rebound to begin in 2011,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “For our part, we will dedicate 2010, which is our 50th anniversary, to strengthening the arts field by developing new business models for arts delivery that better suit an evolving industry as well as strengthening audience demand.”

The Index is set to a base score of 100 in 2003. Every point difference represents one percent change. There is no uppermost Index score, though higher is better. For example, a score of 125 would convey that arts and culture are more highly valued as a fundamental component in American society—characterized by strong financial health, ample capacity, innovation, vigorous participation, and a vital competitive position.

“The current economic crisis offers a unique and important opportunity to begin a national conversation about the value of the arts—to us as individuals, communities, and a nation. We need to rethink a nonprofit arts sector that in many ways remains tethered to support models that have remained unchanged for a half century. Arts organizations need to find creative ways to engage their audiences, build on the public’s growing interest in personal creation, and stimulate audience demand,” said Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute and one of the project’s advisers.

“The National Arts Index will be a terrific tool for policy makers for the next 50 years. For the first time, Americans will really know how the country’s cultural system is doing. By widening our lens to count arts-related careers, personal creativity, and the health of arts businesses, we can demonstrate an undeniable link between art and art making and a high quality of life in our democracy. This study is a great step forward,” said Bill Ivey, director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University.

Other key findings from the National Arts Index report include:

  • Demand for the arts lags supply.  Between 1998 and 2008, there was a steady increase in the number of artists, arts organizations, and arts-related employment.  Nonprofit arts organizations alone grew in number from 73,000 to 104,000 during this span of time.  That one out of three failed to achieve a balanced budget even during the strongest economic years of this decade suggests that sustaining this capacity is a growing challenge, and these gains are at risk.
  • How the public participates in and consumes the arts is expanding.  Tens of millions of people attend concerts, plays, operas, and museum exhibitions, yet the percentage of the U.S. population attending these arts events is shrinking, and the decline is noticeable. On the increase, however, is the percentage of the American public personally creating art (e.g., music making and drawing). Technology is changing how Americans experience the arts and consumption via technology and social media is also up.
  • The competitiveness of the arts is slipping. While the nature of arts participation is changing, not all arts organizations are equally adept at meeting changes in demand. The arts, in many ways, are not “stacking up” well against other uses of audience members’ time, donor and funder commitment, or spending when compared to non-arts sectors.

“As with key business measures like the Dow or the GDP, we now have a way to measure the health of the arts in America. The arts are a key industry in the U.S. economy, creating jobs, contributing to the vitality of our communities, uplifting the spirits of our nation, and helping to develop the creative and innovative workforce needed to remain globally competitive. The National Arts Index is a major advancement in measuring the components of the health of the arts in America,” said Albert Chao, president and CEO, Westlake Chemical, Houston, and a member of the Business Committee for the Arts, a business leadership program of Americans for the Arts.

“Our work in all parts of the country suggests that the National Arts Index will have a valuable impact on local communities of every kind,” said Rip Rapson, president of The Kresge Foundation. “The Local Arts Index—the local application of this national tool—will help local leaders in 100 communities make better-informed decisions about arts and culture investments. It will also contribute to heightened community understanding of the importance that arts and cultural activities play in a community’s economic health and social vitality.”

The Kresge Foundation has awarded Americans for the Arts a $1.2 million grant to use the findings from the National Arts Index to create a companion Local Arts Index, as well as the supporting workshops and materials necessary to assist communities in the effective application of the local data.

The Index researchers have incorporated the study’s 76 indicators into nine measurement categories that provide a decade-long view on trends in philanthropy, participation, and creativity as well as the relationship of the arts to other areas of American life, such as employment and education. These measures include: Capacity & Infrastructure, Participation, Contributed Support, Employment, Nonprofit, Creativity, Arts Education Demand, Arts Business, and Competitiveness.

The report also presents the 76 indicators as components of a comprehensive and interdependent system called the “Arts and Culture Balanced Scorecard.”  This model groups the 76 indicators into four components: financial flows, capacity, participation, and competitiveness.

The Rockefeller and Luce foundations provided additional support for the development of the Index. The National Arts Index was written by Dr. Roland J. Kushner, an economist and assistant professor of business at Muhlenberg College, and Randy Cohen, vice president for Local Arts Advancement at Americans for the Arts.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. With offices in Washington, DC, and New York City, Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at