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National Arts Index 2012

An Annual Measure of the Vitality of Arts and Culture in the United States: 1998-2010

August 14, 201314 August 2013

Arts indicators / Well-being / Social benefits

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The National Arts Index attempts to measure “the health and vitality of the arts in the U.S.” The report, released in 2012 and based largely on 2010 data, incorporates 83 equally-weighted national indicators across four key dimensions: financial flows; capacity; arts participation; and competitiveness. The report covers data from 1998 to 2010, with the base year being 2003 (when the index was set to 100).

In 2010, the National Arts Index value was 96.7, the second-lowest level since 1998. The highest index values occurred in 2007 (103.4) and 1999 (103.3).

While the overall index tends to follow the business cycle, there has been steady growth in the number of not-for-profit arts organizations (from 76,000 in 2000 to 113,000 in 2010, a 49% increase). In particular, the number of culturally-diverse arts organizations has increased very strongly since 2003.

The report highlights the financial challenges facing arts organizations: 43% had an operating deficit in 2010 (up from 36% in 2007). “Larger-budget organizations were more likely to run a deficit [but] there was no predictable pattern based on specific arts discipline”. Another financial challenge is the fact that cultural organizations’ share of overall philanthropy decreased from 4.9% in 2001 to 4.5% in 2010.

In addition to the 113,000 not-for-profit arts organizations, for-profit arts businesses number nearly 800,000, and there are about 2.2 million artists in the U.S. labour force.

The report highlights the changing nature of public participation in the arts: “consumers are seeking a more personal engagement in their arts experiences, embracing the delivery of arts and music through technology, and seeking more diverse cultural experiences”. Arts attendance by U.S. adults increased in 2010, the first such increase since 2003. Consumer spending on the arts has remained fairly steady at $150 billion, but the arts’ share of individuals’ discretionary spending has decreased from 1.88% in 2002 to 1.45% in 2010. According to the report, federal government funding for the arts decreased from 0.42% to 0.30% of federal domestic discretionary spending between 2002 and 2010.

Other key findings of the report include: 

  • “America’s arts industries have a growing international audience”, with an increase in exports and a substantial trade surplus.
  • “Arts organizations foster creativity and entrepreneurship through new work”, with a 14% increase in the number of new works premiered between 2005 and 2010.

Americans for the Arts hopes that the index will “stimulate public dialogue about the value of the arts as well as improve policy and decision-making”. A local arts index is also available for every county in the U.S.A.

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