Cultural Policy Research in Progress

Capsule Reports

Published in: GIA Reader, Vol 12, No 1 (Winter 2001)

Kasia Pindak, Anna Alves, Marian A. Godfrey, Michael Moore, Gary Burger, Ben Cameron, Jennifer Williams, Bob Lynch, and Kelly Barsdate

Cultural Policy Research was the topic of two breakfast roundtables at GIA's 2000 conference in Minneapolis. A combination of scheduled presenters and other participants gave brief summaries of current research underway. The cumulative impact of hearing about so many projects at the same time inspired Reader editors to want to share the reports with our readers. This overview does not pretend to be exhaustive, but rather is a snapshot based on roundtable participation and the ability of the following report contributors to respond quickly to our invitation. We extend many thanks to them.

Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation is currently supporting research that may inform cultural policy in two areas. The first is the role of culture in building community. Here the foundation is supporting the development of cultural indicators through three primary grantees: the Urban Institute, the Fordham Institute for Innovation in Social Policy, and the Social Science Research Council. Secondly, through grants to the Rand Corporation and the Urban Institute, we are supporting basic research on the role of the media arts and sources of support for independent media artists.

The Urban Institute's Arts and Cultural Indicators in Community Building Project (ACIP) explores the contribution of art and culture to building community and improving the quality of life, particularly in low income neighborhoods. The Fordham Institute's project seeks to develop, collect, analyze, and regularly report a set of indicators concerning the role and meaning of the arts and humanities. Fordham's findings will be presented in the context of the National Social Survey, which reports on the social health of the nation.

The Social Science Research Council, with Rockefeller Foundation support, has created a Program on the Arts comprised of scholars from established academic institutions in the fields of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and the arts. The aim of this program is to study and better understand the institutional, disciplinary, and professional developments needed to establish the social science of the arts as a field.

Finally, the RAND study seeks to map trends in funding, demographics, and technology that affect the arts sector. The foundation provided funding to add an independent media arts investigation to the arts research agenda. Similarly, as part of the Urban Institute's study of support systems for artists, the foundation has supported research into the media arts field.

For more information about any of these programs, please contact Joan Shigekawa's office at the Rockefeller Foundation through her assistant Kasia Pindak at kpindak@rockfound.org or 212-852-8305.

Ford Foundation — Media, Arts and Culture Unit
The Ford Foundation defines cultural policy broadly, including policy formulated by public governmental regulatory/legislative/funding bodies at all levels of societies and by foundations and corporate philanthropies, as well as policy inherent in the standards and practices developed and adhered to by nonprofit/non-governmental institutions, businesses, and professional communities associated with the media, arts, and culture fields.

In the U.S., the Foundation pursues its cultural policy work as an integral part of its program priorities in the media, arts, and culture — enhancing international collaborations in the performing arts, strengthening arts and cultural institutions, expanding the role of the arts in civic dialogue, building international cultural infrastructure in key regions of the world, broadening support for public interest media production and broadcast, and increasing accountability in the news media. Last year the Foundation helped launch a major research project on support structures for individual artists. This two-year project, being managed by The Urban Institute, has become a significant national partnership now involving more than thirty private and public funders. In each of these program areas, the Foundation supports research and analysis and links individuals and communities with one another and to the publics and governing institutions that surround them for an exchange of information, ideas, and strategies to advance positive social change.

In addition to addressing specific policy issues related to these priorities, the Foundation works to build an ongoing capacity for policy research and analysis in these fields overall. This includes support to: the Center for Arts and Culture to develop a confederation of research sites for cultural policy research in the United States; the American Library Association to develop research capacity around intellectual property policy in the new media environment; the Digital Media Forum, a consortium of constituency organizations and scholars working to develop a policy research agenda on media and technology issues; and the Aspen Institute for a forum linking journalists and donors worldwide around issues of freedom of expression in the news media.

Internationally, the Foundation's cultural policy work varies widely, reflecting distinctive regional issues addressed by its local offices in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Russia. Current grantees include the International African Institute for a meeting on cultural policies and development in Africa; China's Central University of Nationalities for policy research about the intersection of minority cultures and economic development; the Sanskriti Foundation to map arts and culture funding in India and inform public and private cultural policies; the Applied Broadcasting Centre for Development and Education to strengthen the public media infrastructure in South Africa; and the ANCO Union of Media and Culture, a regional network of newspapers and magazines focused on cultural issues across Russia.

The Pew Charitable Trusts
As part of a larger effort to strengthen policy and financial support for nonprofit culture in the United States, The Pew Charitable Trusts have initiated six research projects to collect, analyze, and disseminate policy-relevant information about the arts and culture since 1998. In addition, the Trusts have supported research efforts at the Princeton Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies and the Center for Arts and Culture in Washington, D.C. Objective and reliable information can improve the decisions made by both policy makers and cultural practitioners; increase the quality and relevance of reporting and analysis by cultural journalists; and arm advocates with more compelling and persuasive stories about the real contributions of the arts and culture to American society.

• The National and Local Profiles of Cultural Support, a partnership between Americans for the Arts and the Ohio State University's Arts Policy and Administration Program, surveys the landscape of arts and cultural activity as well as patterns of cultural funding nationally and, in greater depth, in ten communities around the country. The ten community studies will include detailed data on all forms of local government support for culture, allowing for the beginnings of a comparative analysis of how different cities sustain their cultural resources. The Profiles project will be completed in mid-2001, with results published shortly thereafter.

• The RAND Corporation is nearing completion of its Integrated Assessment of the Arts that has compiled and analyzed existing data and information on the performing, visual, and literary arts. With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, RAND is also collecting and analyzing information on the media arts. RAND has created a bibliographic compendium identifying and describing nearly 2,000 separate items including more than 150 data sets as well as research studies, books, journal articles, and other policy-relevant materials. Additionally, RAND is conducting an in-depth policy analysis of the information related to the performing arts, identifying gaps in the data and describing trends across a matrix of for-profit, nonprofit, and “voluntary” sectors and artists, institutions, audiences, and funding sources. The RAND compendium and analytic report on the performing arts will be issued in late spring 2001.

• A consortium of five national performing arts service organizations is developing comparable data about their institutional members and their members' audiences. The project is described below in the report from the Theatre Communication Group. The Trusts anticipate continued funding for the implementation of revised annual surveys as well as for a ten-city cross-disciplinary survey of audiences, subscribers, and community households.

• The Maine Humanities Council is conducting an evaluation of its innovative Maine Communities in the New Century Program, an unprecedented partnership with six other state cultural agencies (including the arts council, state library, and state archives among others) that was able to attract a special legislative appropriation for grants to cultural organizations for preservation and economic development projects in rural communities throughout the state. The evaluation will determine how success in the program can be measured and what information is most important to state policy-makers as they consider renewing the appropriation.

• The Princeton University Library's Social Science Research Center, in association with the Princeton Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, is establishing a fully searchable digital archive of policy-relevant information on arts and culture. Once the archive and Web access to it are created, the library will initiate significant outreach efforts to encourage policy makers, policy researchers, grantmakers, and the nation's estimated 2,000 arts reporters to use the archive.

• In addition, the Trusts provided significant early support for the Urban Institute's research on support systems for individual artists, spearheaded by the Ford Foundation.

Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund
The Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund uses its research and communication efforts to create practical information that arts professionals and funders can use to enhance the quality, access, and health of the arts. The goal for our research work is to contribute new, useful, and compelling knowledge that can be applied to organizations beyond the reach of our direct investment.

Leading arts groups have taught us that the practices of arts organizations determine the character and quality of people's participation in the arts they sponsor. Reflecting on our own experience we also know that practices of funders play an enormous role (for good and sometimes ill) in helping organizations fulfill their artistic and public missions. Our current research efforts focus on improving our understanding of the practices of organizations and funders so that both can work more effectively.

Research results to be released in 2001 include:

Studies of participation-building activities by arts and cultural organizations
A Strategic Approach to Building Participation in the Arts (RAND). Includes: analysis and hypotheses for why individuals decide to participate in the arts, with implications for participation-building efforts; a step-by-step approach to building participation; differences in the strategies of arts organizations that emphasize the canons, the community, or creativity/training
A Guide to the Literature on Arts Participation (RAND). Includes: analyses of contextual studies, empirical studies, theoretical studies, practitioner literature
Increasing Cultural Participation: An Audience Development Planning Handbook for Presenters, Producers and their Collaborators (Association of Performing Arts Presenters)

Studies of community participation-building efforts
Rachmaninoff to Reggae: How and Why People Participate in Arts and Culture (Urban Institute). Includes: a survey of individuals' participation in a wide range of arts and cultural activities; a survey of individuals' attendance at varied venues for cultural participation
Community Cultural Planning: Public Legitimacy and Rationale (Urban Institute)

Topics for additional studies planned for release in 2002-2003
• Partnerships between large cultural institutions and smaller organizations in the community
• The roles of non-arts organizations in cultural provision in communities
• System change and the structure of opportunity for arts and cultural participation within the community
• Immigrant and ethnic participation in the arts and culture
• Literature review of studies about the benefits of arts participation for communities and individuals

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Community Indicators project is a research-based initiative that is part of Knight Foundation's ongoing effort to learn more about the twenty-six communities it serves to learn more about the twenty-six communities it serves through its grantmaking. To document changes in the quality of life in its communities, the Foundation has established a list of key indicators to be tracked over time. The project focuses on aspects of community life related to the seven grantmaking areas that are the priority of the Foundation's Community Initiatives Program — Arts and Culture, Children and Social Welfare, Citizenship, Community Development, Education, Homelessness, and Literacy.

We are using two methods. First, surveys were conducted to document attitudes and behaviors related to the seven priority areas in the Community Initiatives Program. The fifteen-minute telephone surveys reach 500-800 households per community, and in most cases cover the home county in which the city is located. A common core questionnaire is used for all sites, with four custom questions added for each community. To provide a national benchmark, 1,200 adults were interviewed (using the core questions). Princeton Survey Research Associates of Princeton, New Jersey, is directing this portion of the project.

Second, administrative profiles were developed for each Knight community. Drawing on local, state, and national data sources, these profiles describe areas of community life related to the seven areas of grant making in the Community Initiatives Program. The profiles track real-world trends and thus serve as a complement to the impressionistic information drawn from public opinion measures. Examples of community profile data include outcome measures such as high school graduation rates, and context measures such as the number of police officers per 1,000 population. American Institutes for Research of Washington, D.C, is directing this portion of the project.

To create indicators for six of the Foundation's seven local priority areas, we have collected and packaged existing administrative data. In the area of arts and culture, however, there are no centralized local, state, or national sources that produce the kind of reliable data that foundations need. To deal with this, we are pursuing three research strategies. The community surveys have measured local attitudes about arts, volunteerism in the arts, charitable giving in the arts, and arts attendance. We are also working with the Urban Institute of Washington, D.C., to document the type, variety, and size of arts and culture nonprofit organizations in our twenty-six communities. Finally, RMC Research of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Americans for the Arts of Washington D.C. are helping us develop a long-term strategy of partnerships with local arts agencies to better document community cultural health and identify local needs and opportunities.

Theatre Communications Group
At Theatre Communications Group (TCG), we have been working with American Symphony Orchestra League, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Dance/USA, and OPERA America to examine our ongoing research efforts. With the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts, we have worked with the Urban Institute, comparing our respective fiscal and organizational surveys. We are now working to arrive at a more standard approach, in hopes that we will be able to gather data that speaks across discipline lines and makes a compelling case for the performing arts as a field — a case that our disparate research methods currently make impossible to quantify. Given the timing of our annual fiscal surveys, such a standard approach could begin with the analysis of FY 2001 at the earliest. The harmonious tenor of this work is also leading us to investigate other ongoing research efforts we might undertake together.

On a second front, TCG has also begun to examine the for-profit/not-for-profit intersection more intensely. In June 2000, TCG and the League of American Theatres and Producers (our for-profit counterpart) convened the first joint commercial/not-for-profit national theater conference since 1974. The three-day gathering looked at four basic topics: intra-industry relations, the impact of the sectors on artists and new work, advocacy, and marketing. Four working committees have grown out of the conference, each focused on one of the agenda topics; they are expected to present concrete recommendations in calendar 2001 for future actions.

Centre for Creative Communities
Based in London, the Centre for Creative Communities is engaged in a number of European-wide research projects aimed at mapping the new and expanding roles that creativity and learning have in the development of civil society, sustainable communities, and new pedagogies.

Common Threads (1997-2002) seeks to identify and study examples of good practice in locally based, cross-sector projects that use the arts as a means to tackle social problems and to enhance educational goals. The initiative highlights novel ways to engage young people with their communities and offers new perspectives on educational processes that blur the boundaries between formal and informal learning.

The Arts and Education Network Mapping/Research Initiative (2001-2003) seeks to increase knowledge of how the arts play a variety of key roles in the changes occurring in formal education, business, and the health and social services sectors by providing examples of effective practice gathered from several European countries.

The Centre is currently engaged with the Melina Project in Greece, to document and evaluate MIMESIS (2000-2001), a theater education exchange project, funded by the European Union CONNECT program. MIMESIS, which involves youth theaters, primary schools, and theater artists in Greece, Italy, France, and Scotland, actively explores new ways to engage young children in theater and storytelling.

Americans for the Arts
Much of the research conducted by Americans for the Arts involves public resources for the arts at the national, state, and local levels. A de facto national cultural policy exists and the outcome of elections can definitely affect the direction of public and private funding policy. Well over $6 billion of support for the nonprofit arts and humanities is affected by the decisions of elected leaders.

At the federal level, this support includes the $105 million for the NEA as a starting point. Add the NEH and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and the total amount edges toward $250 million. Then add the support dollars that go to cultural institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and about a dozen others, and the federal investment figure rises to almost a billion dollars. We must also remember that federally supported arts programs exist in many other federal agencies such as the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, HUD, and the ISTEA program. These federal dollars — along with Department of Defense decisions to support military orchestras, bands, and arts facilities on military bases, and our very modest State Department expenditures on cultural staff at embassies worldwide — boost our direct federal cultural expenditures to a conservative estimate of over $2 billion.

Our federally decided tax policies modestly account for at least another $2 billion of foregone federal tax money contributed by individuals alone.

Finally, decisions made by local government elected officials add well over $1 billion to the funding pool. And state government legislators and governors will add close to $400 million through state arts agencies and close to an equal amount in special projects, various state endowments, and direct institutional support.

When the dust clears there is at least $6 billion of government-related subsidy on the table annually. The fate of this money is controlled by the people elected on November 7, 2000.
The research agenda that Americans for the Arts currently has underway includes the following projects:

• The National and Local Profiles Project: a national and local study of arts support, 1998-2001
• Arts and Economic Prosperity: new economic impact study of the nonprofit arts industry in more than eighty-five communities, 2000-2002
• Animating Democracy Initiative: studying the creation and presentation of artistic activity that enhances public dialogue on important civic issues, 1999-2004
• Community Arts and Cultural Indicators Initiative: developing arts indicators that describe the health and impact of nonprofit arts industry (indicators are data sets that describe aspects of the arts industry, 2000-2001
• Surveys of Local Arts Agencies and United Arts Funds: surveys of the nation's local arts service organizations, annual
• Arts Education Mapping: developing a methodology to measure levels of arts education activity at local and state levels, 2000-2001

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA)
NASAA maintains several ongoing data collection systems that track quantitative information about state-level arts funding and that document the scope of public arts support. NASAA also pursues special research initiatives that expand the field's collective knowledge-base about particular policy questions, innovative programs, and best practices. Examples include:

• NASAA's partnership with the Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) and the NEA has created the Unified Database of Arts Organizations, a national database that consolidates financial and descriptive information on cultural organizations. NASAA and NCCS have completed the first version of this database, which supports policy analysis and research by public and private grant-makers as well as research and inquiry by scholars and practitioners.
• NASAA's ongoing grants tracking system, a longitudinal resource maintained since 1983, collects statistics on all grants awarded by state and regional arts councils. The data collection protocols used to track grantmaking across agencies were updated in 2000. As a result, new descriptive data about folk arts, technology, and grantee race/ethnicity will be secured in the future.
• NASAA's upcoming State Arts Agency Profile survey, due to be administered in March of 2001, will target several areas of interest to cultural policy-makers, including models for policy governance, decentralized funding strategies, and the structural characteristics of collaborative initiatives involving private and governmental partners. For a preview of the survey instrument used for the Profile, or for information on any other NASAA research resources, contact Kelly Barsdate, director of policy, research and evaluation at (202) 347-6352 x107.