Arts + Culture Research Network

Arts + Culture Research Network

The Arts + Culture sector is a vital contributor to the Rhode Island economy. The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts in collaboration with the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission partnered with The College & University Research Collaborative are partnering to develop a Research Network that will discover new knowledge to inform statewide decisions as well as promote cross-sector collaborations.

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Arts + Culture: The Creative and Cultural Economy Initiative

Arts + Culture: The Creative and Cultural Economy Initiative

In what ways and in what time frame does investing in arts and cultural organizations benefit Rhode Island?

In November 2014, voters approved authorization for Rhode Island to issue $35 million in Creative and Cultural Economy Bonds. Policymakers in RI want to know the return on that investment. The answer is not readily available due to a lack of data skills, techniques, and tools that are not readily acquired or accessible to the arts community. Without appropriate tools, training, and support, data collection efforts result in low-quality data and unwelcome burden for organizations. The challenge is to balance the need for quality evidence to support policy while minimizing the burden of collecting quality sector-wide data.

The research team conducted extensive community forums to inform the development of a data collection instrument. The instrument was developed to capture organization-level and project-level data in line with the organizations’ annual reporting cycles. The team distributed surveys to nine organizations who benefitted from the bond funds, including three named in the bond statute, three other art-centric organizations and three preservation organizations. The organizations user-tested the survey for clarity of questions and directions, keeping in mind the goal of easing the data collection burden. 

From the information gathered during the development and testing of the data collection instrument, researchers made the preliminary observation that the average organization, in the sample of nine organizations, shows a positive return on the State’s  investment. Continued data collection efforts with larger sample sizes are necessary to validate and replicate the results of this pilot survey.

Additionally, the forums revealed the sector’s self-identified role in ‘placemaking’ as an important link between culture, economics and community development.

The development and testing of a data collection tool is the first step. Going forward, the annual collection of organizational and project data, when completed consistently with appropriate resources, would permit year-by-year analyses.  Longitudinal analyses would aid state policymakers in understanding the immediate and long-term impact of sector investments. 

Organizations may benefit from access to shared services for data collection. Partnering with local universities may provide access to build capacity within the state to utilize the data.

To read the full-report, click here.

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The Creative and Cultural Economy

New Year, What’s New? 

In April of 2016 we gathered to launch the Arts + Culture Research Network and announce an inaugural research initiative, The Create and Cultural Economy. As we begin the New Year, we want to check in and update you on our progress and let you know what to expect in 2017… 

The long-term vision of the Arts + Culture Research Network is to help grow a robust research resource that can assist Rhode Island’s cultural sector in answering questions related to the growth and vitality of this important part of the economy and to leverage the collective knowledge in our state. 

As the Arts + Culture Research Network expands, some of the questions that are explored might include: What are the health benefits of art? How can history provide guidance to increasing civic engagement? Or how can arts and culture provide innovation in education, especially in STEM fields?  

The Creative and Cultural Economy

In September 2016, four Rhode Island scholars were selected to participate in a cross-disciplinary research team that is exploring how to measure Rhode Island’s creative and cultural assets. Their research will focus on how arts and culture impact the economy, education, community development and quality of life. 

Over the last few months the team has been meeting to determine how they can best leverage their diverse expertise to support a creative and meaningful approach to this collaborative research project. The team determined that they will focus on creating and piloting an easy-to-use assessment tool that will enable public and private stakeholders in Rhode Island’s cultural community to evaluate individual cultural institutions’ progress related to investments made by the organization and their supporters. 

A primary goal for the team is to ensure that their approach is not burdensome for the cultural organizations being assessed, nor for their agents conducting the assessment. It would not duplicate any past or current data collection efforts, but rather enhance future efforts and serve as an ongoing longitudinal analysis that could impact programmatic decisions, operational investments and strategic growth.

This month they plan to engage participants across the state who will use this data in a series of forums. They hope that these forums will help to determine what data is most meaningful and useful for Rhode Island. They will also identify opportunities and potential barriers related to data collection efforts. Each session will include discussion of a particular thematic area where cultural organizations have impact – economy, education, community development and quality of life. 

Stay tuned as we continue to report on their efforts and provide ways for you to engage. 

About the Research Team

Francis J. Leazes, Ph. D., Rhode Island College
A resident of Providence since 1985, Professor Leazes currently is the Director of the undergraduate Public Administration Program at RIC. He is the author of articles on Nonprofit Administration, Urban Politics, Public Budgeting and Finance, and co-authored Providence: The Renaissance City (published by Northeastern University Press, 2004), a political analysis of Providence in the years 1960-2000. His current teaching and research interests include program evaluation, economic development, arts, culture and tourism and the educational opportunities presented by digital technology and public cemeteries.

Stacey Springs, Ph. D., Brown University
Stacey received her PhD in Pharmaceutical Economics and Health Policy, and her research activities bridge methodologies of health care policy analysis, health economics and evidence synthesis. Dr. Springs was recently appointed an Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) funded Research Fellow (K12) focused on Comparative Effectiveness (CER) and Patient Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR).

Marc Vogl, M.P.A., Brown University
Marc Vogl is a consultant to non-profits, foundations and government agencies in the cultural sector, and a Visiting Assistant Professor of Practice at Brown University’s Center for Public Humanities (2016). Marc provides facilitation, planning, coaching services and research support to arts organizations and funders in the Bay Area and across the country.

William Zywiak, Ph. D., Bryant University
William Zywiak, PhD, has served as an evaluator of three innovative programs: the Byrne Housing Project, the RI Jail Diversion Trauma and Recovery Program, and the California Community College: Student Mental Health Program. He has extensive experience developing assessment measures, analyzing qualitative data, conducting advanced statistical analyses on quantitative data, and reporting and integrating qualitative and quantitative results.

About the Arts & Culture Research Network
In November of 2014, voters of Rhode Island approved a Creative & Cultural Economy Initiative that involved a FY2015-FY2018 investment and distribution of $35M in funding awards to advance the cultural foundation throughout the state. To track the return on this investment, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts in collaboration with the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission partnered with The College & University Research Collaborative to launch the Arts + Culture Research Network and an initial research initiative, The Creative and Cultural Economy. The first meeting of the Arts + Culture Research Network was held in April 2016.

About The Collaborative
The Collaborative is a statewide public/private partnership of Rhode Island’s 11 colleges and universities that connects public policy and academic research. The Collaborative’s mission is to increase the use of non-partisan academic research in policymaking and to provide an evidence-based foundation for government decision-making in Rhode Island. Learn more at

Established in 1967, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) is charged by the state legislature to stimulate public interest and participation in the arts and to serve as the liaison to the state arts community.

RISCA affirms and supports the diversity of persons and ideas both within the organization and throughout the state.

About The Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission
The Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission is the state agency for historical preservation and heritage programs. The Commission operates a statewide historical preservation program that identifies and protects historic buildings, districts, structures, and archaeological sites. The Commission also develops and carries out programs to document and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Rhode Island's people.

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