SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


Image courtesy of Highland Arts Council, Highland, IL. Photo by Brady Kesner. Image courtesy of Highland Arts Council, Highland, IL. Photo by Brady Kesner.

Local Arts Agency Funding and Arts Vibrancy

Study Finds Local Arts Agencies are Catalysts for Art Vibrancy

Support for Local Arts Agencies (LAAs) gets called into question on an all-too-frequent basis. Just recently, the Charlotte, NC city council voted to make the Arts and Sciences Council (ASC) of Charlotte ineligible to receive operating dollars to support the personnel, technology and other resources necessary to do its work for the broader cultural sector. Last year in Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney proposed a $1 million cut to funding for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, though funding levels were restored in the final budget after significant advocacy from local arts communities and their supporters. Do funding cuts have consequences for a community's arts vibrancy?


Those who work for local arts agencies witness the community impact of their work. Organizations and artists who are direct beneficiaries of local arts agency support leverage the funding to fuel their creative activity. Yet politicians and citizens who live in arts-vibrant communities may not connect the dots between their local arts agency and the direct value it adds. We decided to turn to data to empirically explore the question: Do local arts agencies contribute to their communities’ arts vibrancy?  


As part of a project with Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, we undertook an effort to examine the effects of LAA funding on overall Arts Vibrancy and the individual, underlying components of Arts Vibrancy. Our colleagues at Americans for the Arts generously shared with us LAA data they collected through a survey so that we could explore the topic. 


Our research pointed to multiple ways that LAAs are catalysts for art vibrancy in their communities. The more grant dollars they have to invest in artists and arts organizations, and the more programs and services they provide, the more their communities pulse with arts-driven creative and economic life, vigor, and activity.

Download the Report (PDF)

Research conducted by SMU DataArts: Dr. Zannie Voss and Dr. Glenn Voss

Key Findings

Local Arts Agency (LAA) funding has a positive relationship with overall Arts Vibrancy in a community 

  • We examined the relationship between the indicators within our Arts Vibrancy Index, LAA grants and other LAA expenses. The Arts Vibrancy index is a composite index of measures of arts providers, arts dollars, and public support for the arts, calculated on a per capita basis. 
  • Both Total LAA grants and Other LAA expenses (which generally go to the presentation of cultural programs or services, or to personnel) have significant, positive influence on each measure of Arts Vibrancy we examined. 


Local Arts Agencies have impact on essential support for the arts workforce 

  • Of all the Arts Provider aspects of vibrancy we examined, LAA grants and expenses had the strongest effect on the number of arts and cultural employees per capita, who work either as salaried employees or independent contractors.
  • LAA grants and expenses also had a positive effect on the number of Independent Artists per capita in a community. 


Local Arts Agency support stimulates more artistic activity 

  • LAA grants and LAA other expenses had a positive effect on the number of arts, culture & entertainment firms per capita.
  • LAA grants had a positive effect on the number of nonprofit arts organizations per capita. 


Public funding sources play a key role in the overall arts ecology 

  • In addition to looking at LAA grants in isolation we examined the effects of all public support combined on arts vibrancy, and found that public funding appears to be essential to geographically-dispersed, arts-vibrant cultural resources.


The arts thrive in relationship with other leisure activities within a community 

  • Other leisure activities are positively related to each dimension of arts vibrancy we examined. It appears that arts-vibrant communities are nourished by citizens who also support other leisure offerings, including zoos, cinemas, sporting events, bars, restaurants, and hotels.


Download the Report (PDF)

Zannie Voss, Ph.D.

Director, SMU DataArts

“These findings provide evidence that if you want to increase your community’s level of arts vibrancy, support increased funding for your local arts agency. The investment will pay off.”

What Others Say About the Impact of Local Arts Agencies

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