October 26, 2014
This report discusses the potential use of data in arts organizations for strategic purposes. Data currently available on the cultural sector can lead to useful insights about the increasing proliferation of small arts organizations; the almost monolithic focus of private foundations on supporting a highly select group of large, well-established arts organizations; and the fact that established arts organizations are poorly positioned to satisfy emerging consumer preferences for cultural experiences. Such insights should provoke frank discussion and galvanize field leaders to advocate appropriate actions, both in response to existing disconnects and proactively, in anticipation of coming change. The data that are now available to the field are not perfect. In fact, that's part of the story that needs to be told about the cultural sector. Systematic data collection on artists, cultural organizations, and audiences receives only a token amount of government funding. Instead, it is left largely up to private organizations to document trends in both the nonprofit and for-profit cultural arenas. This leads to multiple non-overlapping data collection strategies, making it difficult to construct a coherent picture of the field. There are gaping holes in the puzzle, and the tales we tell with existing data must be told with caution.