Measuring Successful Arts and Culture Strategies
Leaders across the country are increasingly recognizing that the arts and culture sector provides not only social and cultural benefits, but also economic ones. Local investments in arts and culture can help improve quality of life and revitalize neighborhoods, attract businesses and residents to previously neglected urban areas, increase tourism revenues, and create jobs for artists, designers, and makers.
As Rhode Island looks for ways to reinvigorate its economy, the arts and culture sector represents a promising opportunity. In 2009, the state was home to over a thousand arts and culture organizations, which produced more than 5,200 jobs and contributed $324 million in economic activity.1 In addition to hundreds of galleries, museums, historic sites, festivals, and fairs, the state is rich in “human capital,” from the innovators who created arts organizations such as AS220 and The Steelyard to the arts and humanities faculty, alumni, and students at local colleges and universities.
As Rhode Island’s leaders seek to better understand the economic potential of the arts and culture sector, they can look to metrics and strategies developed in other localities across the country. Our research aims to provide an overview of the existing landscape and offer ideas for steps Rhode Island can take to promote its arts and culture economy.
FIG. 1 RHODE ISLAND ARTS, CULTURE & HUMANITIES NONPROFIT SECTOR
National Center for Charitable Statistics
FIG 2. HIGHLIGHTS IN RHODE ISLAND'S CULTURAL HISTORY
Perhaps the most symbolic event in the ongoing identification of arts and culture as an industry occurred in 2013, when the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, began tracking and analyzing detailed data on the arts and culture industry.2 This initial effort revealed that 3.2% of the nation’s GDP—over $500 billion—is generated by the arts and culture sector.
The arts and culture industry has shown itself to be both a short- and long-term tool for promoting the economic development of cities and states.3 It attracts innovative, vibrant new businesses in fields such as publishing, advertising, music, dance, design, and architecture, and creates jobs for artists who anchor local cultural production. Arts and culture can also play a key role in urban revitalization and community renewal, as well as the development of cultural tourism opportunities. Current estimates indicate that for every $1 spent by arts and culture organizations in Rhode Island, $2.10 is generated in the spillover economy in restaurant patronage, hotel reservations, and related business.1
DATA & METHODS
To address our research questions, we conducted a number of interrelated qualitative research activities:
1) We surveyed national and regional arts and culture data repositories and reviewed reports and indices created using these data. This review was designed to identify commonly used measures for tracking the arts and culture sector and evaluating its economic and social impact.
2) In order to identify promising strategies for promoting arts and culture, we reviewed and presented ten case studies of arts organizations and programs representing a range of types of arts initiatives from across the country. Information about these initiatives was gathered from existing reports and data, direct inquiries with the organizations, and in-person and telephone interviews with organizational staff.
3) To gather context about the arts and culture community in Rhode Island, we conducted semi-structured interviews with eleven stakeholders representing government agencies, nonprofit arts venues, funding agencies, cultural tourism organizations, and community groups.
4) To understand the current policy context in Rhode Island, we reviewed existing state-level strategic plans that focus on developing the arts and culture economy, including plans from the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts and RhodeMap RI.
FIG. 3 POTENTIAL INDICATORS FOR A RHODE ISLAND ARTS & CULTURE INDEX
Our review of existing arts and culture indices and data collection efforts demonstrates that a significant amount of empirical and descriptive data is already available for measuring the arts and culture sector in Rhode Island. Our stakeholder interviews also revealed that measurement is a challenge for local organizations and that these organizations typically track a variety of data to evaluate their effectiveness and growth.
These findings suggest that a centralized Rhode Island Arts & Culture Index could have value not only for policymakers, but also for local organizations seeking a common set of metrics.
Promising Strategies for Promoting Arts & Culture
Our review of case studies from across the country revealed a number of strategies for promoting arts and culture and findings about how the sector can serve as a tool for broader economic development:
- Some cities and states have seen positive economic outcomes from making the arts and culture sector central to their local “brand” and efforts to attract tourists.
- Geographically clustering arts and culture activities and organizations into arts districts can help magnify engagement.
- In addition to bringing in money for specific events and businesses, arts districts can fuel broader renewal and attract investment in urban neighborhoods.
- Incentives such as dedicated, low-cost real estate for studios, residences, and arts-related businesses can help attract and retain artists and creative workers with high levels of human capital to contribute to the local economy.
- Localities rely on a wide variety of funding sources for supporting arts and culture initiatives, including private donations, corporate sponsorships, ticket revenues, and city and state grants. Some jurisdictions have found leveraging private investment to be a particularly promising strategy.
FIG. 4 SAN ANTONIO'S RIVER WALK: A SUCCESSFUL ARTS & CULTURE HUB
The case studies also suggest the important role arts and culture can play in economic innovation hubs. These are “locations that support an open innovation business model, foster co-location, and promote easy and constant interaction among many different industries and a wide variety of creative workers, from artists to scientists to engineers.”1 They are characterized by the centralized presence of companies, universities, creative workers, and sources of capital in close and frequent contact. The Bay Area Arts Districts in San Francisco provides an example of the role arts and culture can play in innovation hubs.
The Potential of Arts & Culture in Rhode Island
FIG. 5 ARTS & CULTURE CASE STUDIES
DISCUSSION & IMPLICATIONS
The arts are a major economic force in the United States, attracting businesses, creating jobs, fueling community development, and promoting tourism. Rhode Island faces an important set of decisions about whether and how to invest in, nurture, and cultivate the arts and culture economy, building on existing infrastructure and resources to expand the opportunities available in the state.
A Rhode Island Arts & Culture Index could provide valuable information to guide these decisions, and to evaluate initiatives such as the recently enacted art sales tax exemption. Fortunately, our research indicates that relevant data and approaches for aggregating it already exist. The next step would be to convene the relevant local stakeholders to agree on a set of metrics to include in a Rhode Island-specific index, and then develop a plan for collecting, aggregating, and analyzing the data on an ongoing basis.
There has already been some movement in this direction as local stakeholders have begun to use existing indices. The Providence Department of Arts, Culture, and Tourism is using the Cultural Vitality Index and the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts is implementing a Cultural Data Project for the state. Moving forward with the creation and implementation of a Rhode Island-specific Arts & Culture Index, though challenging, would enable leaders to analyze trends within the state and make comparisons to other jurisdictions, allowing them to measure the success of current and future arts and culture initiatives.
- New England Foundation for the Arts. (2011). New England’s Creative Economy: Nonprofit Sector Impact.Boston, MA: New England Foundation for the Arts.
- U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, and National Endowment for the Arts. (2013). “U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and National Endowment for the Arts Release Preliminary Report on Impact of Arts and Culture on U.S. Economy” [Press release]. Retrieved from: http://arts.gov/news/2013/us-bureau-economic-analysis-and-national-endowment-arts-release-preliminary-report-impact#sthash.WTajg9eK.dpuf.
- Sparks, E., Waits, M.J., and Fulton, B. (2012). New Engines of Growth: Five Roles for Arts, Culture, and Design. Washington, DC: National Governors’ Association.
What resources and standards are available to measure the scope of the arts and culture sector and its economic impact?
What strategies have other states and communities successfully implemented to support and promote the arts and cultural economy?
Type of Research
- Responds to questions of Policy Leaders with research projects that closely align with state priorities
- Provides implications for challenging state issues