The Arts in a New Millennium

Research and the Arts Sector

Valerie B. Morris and David B. Pankratz, editors
Review by Frances Phillips

2003, 253 pages. Praeger, Westport, Connecticut, London, England, ISBN: 0-275-97013-2, hardback, $62.95

The Arts in a New Millennium checks the vital signs of arts research and public arts policy in the United States as of the year 2000. Its co-editors, Valerie B. Morris and David B. Pankratz, produced a similar collection in 1990, The Future of the Arts: Public Policy and Arts Research. Responding to a demand from academic arts administration and cultural policy programs, the co-editors now have recontacted many of the authors who contributed to their earlier book, asking them to comment on what had happened over the last ten years and to predict important arenas of inquiry and contention for the arts in the years ahead.

The book is scholarly in manner. Each essay follows a formal structure of thesis introduction, exploration, conclusion, and bibliography. The formal dryness is mitigated by the excellence of its contributors and its varied content. Likely any arts grantmaker would find at least two or three chapters from The Arts in a New Millennium that would inform his or her work. The exception might be for those with a specific focus on arts education, which the collection brushes up against but does not address directly.

Co-editor David Pankratz's first chap-ter directly links the earlier collection of essays to the book at hand. Looking back, Pankratz notes that the earlier book focused on problems with data collection, the conditions of arts researchers, the training of future researchers, and the relative lack of interest by the public in the arts as a policy arena. He describes the pre-vailing "arts policy paradigm" of the 1980s and early 1990s as, "a paradigm with two key features: (1) the belief that public support for the arts is warranted and that the primary bene-ficiaries of such support are nonprofit arts organizations and individual artists; and (2) strategies by public arts agencies to both insulate them from politics and to broaden their political bases of support."

In contrast, The Arts in a New Millennium points to the growth of the cultural policy field (as scanned by Alberta Arthurs in her very helpful, "Arts Research: From the Hill to the 'Hood") to promising new research methods and arenas of inquiry (in pieces by Paul DiMaggio, Maria-Rosario Jackson, Margaret J. Wyszomirski, and Joni M. Cherbo) and to strengthening links between research and policy (assessed by Marian Godfrey in "The Role of Research in the Cultural Policy Matrix" and by Gigi Bradford and Glenn Wallach in their chapter about development of the Center for Arts and Culture in Washington, DC). Not only have research and cultural policy enjoyed a vibrant decade, the lens through which many of these writers view the arts has re-focused to include discussion of for profit and nonprofit arts organizations side-by-side (discussed most specifically in pieces by David Pankratz and Louise K. Stevens), and of the formal and informal arts as part of one system.

Along with Arthurs' and Godfrey's articles mentioned above, in my reading several pieces stood out in this strong collection. Paul DiMaggio's "The Vital Border of Cultural Policy Studies," looks at social scientists' methods for studying networks as research tools for the arts. With a growing need to understand the unincorporated aspect of the arts sector alongside formal institutions and established artists, DiMaggio points to sampling methods based on referral networks and to other forms of network analysis that can illuminate relationships among organizations and individuals. (Joan Jeffri's recently published, NEA-sponsored study of jazz musicians in five metropolitan areas is a promising example of the use of one of these methods.) "Beyond Economic Impact" by Bruce A. Seaman calls for a better understanding of the complexity of the arts organizations' and artists' roles, in neighborhoods, cities, and regions. Seaman looks beyond the multiplier effect of money spent on arts products (a common technique used in economic impact studies), for a more accurate and comprehensive view ofeconomic impact. His piece includes a fascinating case study of the effect of the Summer Olympics and related arts programming on the city of Atlanta, Georgia.

The collection's most provocative pieces may be John K. Urice's forecast about government support for the arts (which suggests that the National Endowment for the Arts as an institution may have run its course), and Andrew Taylor's "Pandora's Bottle: Cultural Content in a Digital World," which takes a clear-eyed look at new challenges to patents and copyrights. While his piece is cool and factual in manner, I also found Kevin V. Mulcahy's "Comparing Cultural Patronage: Traditions and Trends" to be stirring. Mulcahy compares the cultural systems of France, Norway, Canada, and the United States, looking at administrative structures, funding policies, cultural politics, and the state of public culture for each nation. Along the way he condemns the international reach of the United States' commercial entertainment industry.

While many of these essays are based on finished efforts, others — such as Maria-Rosario Jackson's “Arts and Cultural Participation through a Neighborhood Lens,” which introduces the “cultural indicators” tool, and Margaret J. Wyszomirski and Joni M. Cherbo's report on the associational infrastructure of the arts and culture — point to work in progress.

I suffered two minor disappointments in the course of reading this richly informative book. Apparently, the publishers and editors did not have time in the production schedule to ask John Urice to revise his essay on funding trends, which announces, “It is a virtual certainty...that the country will go into a recession. When, how long, and how deep are unknowns.” While Urice is clearly right both about the recession and about its impact on funds allocated to the arts through state agencies, his comments are dated by the time the book reached readers. My other disappointment is with the title, which suggests that we will not have to revisit these subjects until another millennium rolls around. Considering the complex changes that took place in the past decade, I hope the editors won't allow so many centuries to pass.