SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


The SMU DataArts Merger: FAQs

Answers to frequent questions about the upcoming merger.

General Questions

Why are DataArts and NCAR merging?

The National Center for Arts Research and DataArts are longtime collaborators and highly respected in the arts field.  Their missions and scope are complementary.  Joining forces will expand both organizations’ capacity to provide high-quality services to arts and culture organizations and research for the field. Each organization has different, but related, areas of expertise with little overlap, so in many ways we complete each other.  Most importantly, we believe that united we can do more for and with the field than we can separately.

What will this change for my organization? What's the benefit to me?

It will not change the services you currently use. We are excited about the possibilities for the future. For an example of some of the collaborative projects DataArts has already launched with NCAR, you can check out the NCAR KIPI (Key Intangible Performance Indicator) Dashboard:

How can we get more information?

News about the merger will be posted at We’ll be hosting a series of live Q&A webinars (link to the webinar schedule).

Who will lead the new organization?

Zannie Voss, Ph.D. will be the director of the combined entity. She is director of NCAR as well as professor of arts management and arts entrepreneurship at the Meadows School of the Arts and the Cox School of Business. She has been a longtime member of DataArts’ board of directors and is very well-respected in the field. You can read more about NCAR’s staff here:   Arin Sullivan, DataArts’ vice president and director of programs and products, will become SMU DataArts’ deputy director.

What does NCAR do?

NCAR is a research center that is part of the Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business at SMU in Dallas, Texas. NCAR has highly skilled researchers who combine arts data with other data sets like census information to ask and answer important questions about the country’s arts sector and produce toolkits for arts and culture organizations, reports and white papers. You can see more about what they do at

Are there restrictions on the work DataArts will be able to do or how they do it because they are now associated with Southern Methodist University?

Rather than restrict our work, the merger will allow us to do more.  SMU is bringing to bear faculty and staff capabilities from throughout the university to the benefit of our work, including in the areas of information technology, data management, marketing, fundraising and human resources.

Is the new entity going to keep investing in educational materials? What will happen to the current courses and resources?

As an institution of higher education with undergraduate and graduate degrees in arts management, SMU is very interested in continuing to invest in educational materials.  Current courses and resources will continue to be made available.

Arts and Cultural Organizations

Is my data going to be safe? Is there a chance that it will be used differently or exposed to my funders in a different way?

The data provided by our arts and culture organizations is our most precious asset, and as such the integrity and privacy of that data will remain our first priority. At DataArts, we’ve always shared aggregated data with NCAR and other academic researchers who are bound by the same high standards as we are. The data will continue to be protected and used responsibly for the benefit of arts and culture organizations and the grantmakers they apply to, and, in the aggregate, to help understand and advocate for the arts sector.  It will be treated with the same high level of confidentiality.  It will not be used differently or exposed to funders in a different way.

Is the platform going to get faster and easier to use, and when?

One of our first priorities as a new combined organization is to identify key ways to make the data entry experience easier and faster for participating organizations, and to implement as many of those changes as possible within our first year.

How will we know when changes are being made that might affect us?

We’re committed to ongoing and robust communication with our participating arts and culture organizations and grantmakers throughout the merger process and beyond.

Given NCAR’s research focus, will the new entity collect more data? Will the Cultural Data Profile get longer?

NCAR already combines existing data sources with the core CDP data in order to create an unparalleled resource for insight to the field.  By working with existing data sets and in partnership with a network of primary data collectors, we avoid having to turn to organizations to provide more data.


Two of our first-year goals as a combined entity are to improve the data and improve the user experience.  By shortening the Data Profile –  not making it longer – we can reduce the time required to complete it and eliminate questions that are rarely if ever answered.  

Will the Support Center still function in the same way in the combined entity? Same hours?

Yes, the current Support Center staff will continue to be available via phone and email, from 9am to 8pm ET, Monday-Friday.

Participating Grantmakers (who use CDP)

Will I still have the same access I have now?

Yes, you will have the same access. We are excited about the possibilities for the future when we may be able to provide new and enhanced services to grantmakers. For now, things will remain exactly the same.  We pledge to maintain continuity of high-level service and functionality throughout the transition process.

We recently went through a big transition. Will this transition be similar?

When we launched the 2.0 version of our platform in 2016 we were launching an entirely new piece of technology and major changes to the survey itself.  In this case, the technology is not changing, and the only change you might notice in the immediate future is a logo change – to SMU DataArts –  on the platform and Funder Reports.  We will provide continuity of the services that both legacy organizations currently offer to grantmakers and to arts and culture organizations.

How will we know when changes are being made that might affect us?

SMU DataArts has plans in the coming year to focus on improving the accuracy of the data collected through the Cultural Data Profile and the user experience of data entry.  If these improvements require any changes to the data you receive, or the layout of your Funder Report, we will be in touch in advance to walk you through any potential changes. We will be in touch with all of our partners throughout the year to invite feedback and encourage your participation in the process.

Will we have more access to more data?

One exciting aspect of this merger is NCAR’s expertise and track record in combining datasets from across the sector to create more relevant research insights for the field. While we don’t yet have specific changes to your data access to share, we intend to explore ways that this combined dataset and expertise can benefit our participating grantmakers.

Researchers and National Service Organizations

Will data licensing change?

We don’t expect the process to change much, at least not in the first year. The license itself will change, as will all of our contracts and agreements, in order to reflect SMU and the new organization.

What will this mean for my annual survey that is administered through DataArts?

We will honor all current partnerships and do not anticipate a change to the functionality currently provided to the service organizations that we work with.