Tracking the Arts: 2014 National Index Published

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2014 National Arts IndexEarlier this fall, we profiled the development of the Local Arts Index by Americans for the Arts, by interviewing one of its creators, Roland J. Kushner. He shared how this data helps communities examine the texture of local arts and culture. For a national perspective, the 2014 National Arts Index was released in late November (based on 2012 data) and this week we’ll touch on some highlights:

Economic Engine… In the U.S., the arts drive $151 billion in consumer spending annually, which helps support 91,000 nonprofit arts organizations and 800,000 arts businesses, along with 2.1 million artists active in the workforce and 720,000 self-employed artists. According to the Index, artists have remained steady at 1.5 percent of the total civilian workforce the past 16 years.

…Still Needs Gas. In 2012, with financial prospects apparently improving, nearly half (44 percent) of arts nonprofits failed to generate positive net income. This is only a slight improvement from 45 percent in 2009; Americans for the Arts says these figures raise concerns about the long-term sustainability of arts organizations unable to break even.

Recovery Lags… For the arts, recovery didn’t start until 2012, three years after the general domestic economy began recovering. The summary score of 97.3 in 2012 was up from 96.1 the previous year; the baseline of 100.0 was established in 2003.

…and Attendance Spotty. In 2012, 32 percent of adults attended a live performing arts event, on par with 2010 but down from 40 percent in 2003. Theatre and opera attendance increased in 2012 over 2011, while symphonies attracted smaller audiences. Americans for the Arts relates these attendance declines to fewer households contributing to the arts, a figure that has dropped annually since 2007, from 9.3 percent to 8.6 percent.

Government Funding Mixed… Overall funding levels for federal arts-related agencies remained close to historic highs, at $1.86 billion. But on a percentage basis, total arts funding drop from 0.40 percent of federal domestic discretionary spending in 2002 to 0.30 percent in 2012. States art funding fell to historic lows in 2012, both in share of total expenditures and per capita, but the 60 largest U.S. cities increased their municipal arts funding. With urban populations rising, these overall increases in city arts budgets likely equate to lower per-capita funding.

…But Charitable Giving, Employment Offer Hope. Total charitable giving and overall employment numbers are strongly correlated to the health of the National Arts Index, together accounting for nearly 75 percent of the Index’s movement from 2003-2012. Recent increases in overall employment and charitable giving offer encouragement that the horizon for the arts is brightening.

In future posts, we’ll delve into other 2014 Index findings. If you want to see the entire report, click here.

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