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The Validating Arts & Livability Indicators (VALI) Study

Results and Recommendations

January 28, 201528 January 2015

Business support for the arts / Economic and social benefits

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Based on site visits of grant recipients from the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Our Town” initiative, a one-day session with other grant recipients, and a focus group with creative placemaking experts, this report examines the usefulness of 23 potential indicators of the contribution of the arts and culture to quality of place and community livability. The report defines creative placemaking as processes where “partners from public, private, non-profit and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city or region around arts and cultural activities”.

The 23 indicators are grouped within four dimensions of community livability:

  • Seven indicators are related to residents’ attachment to communities: capacity for homeownership; median length of residence; proportion of housing units that are owner-occupied; proportion of housing units that are occupied; election turnout rate; household outflow; and civic engagement establishments per capita.
  • Six indicators are related to quality of life: median commute time; retail and service establishments per capita; violent crime rate; property crime rate; percent of residential addresses not collecting mail; and net migration.
  • Five indicators are related to local economic conditions: median home purchase loan amounts; median household income; active business addresses; unemployment rate; and income diversity.
  • Five indicators are related to arts and culture activity: median earnings of residents employed in arts and entertainment-related establishments; proportion of employed residents working in arts and entertainment-related establishments; relative payroll of arts and entertainment-related establishments; arts, culture, and humanities not-for-profit organizations per capita; and arts and entertainment-related establishments per capita.

In the consultations, most indicators were considered relevant as general measures of livability (with the exception of homeownership, election rates, home purchase loan amounts, and income diversity). The discussions found that creative placemaking is difficult to measure, as respondents had mixed views about the relevance of many indicators. In addition, discussion participants indicated that data at larger geographies should not be taken as indicative of the situation of finer geographic areas.

Based on the input that they received, the authors recommend that:

  • The indicators be modified based on the feedback in the report.
  • The indicators be offered as a flexible “menu from which grantees may select a small number of those most relevant to their creative placemaking activities and expected contributions”.
  • A “monitoring and evaluation peer-learning network” be established for National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town grant recipients.
  • Experienced recipients help mentor those with less experience using data or indicators.
  • Additional tools and guidance be developed “to enhance the capacity of grantees to undertake monitoring and evaluation”.
  • The National Endowment for the Arts create a user guide and other tools to provide guidance and context regarding the use and interpretation of the indicators.

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