At a time when the arts and culture community’s understanding of itself is shifting away from traditional conceptions of “arts participation” (i.e. attendance) and focus on publicly-supported business models, creating an empirical index such as the National Arts Index (NAI) is a daunting task. The challenge is that many arts-related data sources are anchored in conventional conceptions of the sector. Consequently, the NAI makes huge steps forward by including both for- and non-profit indicators, by including indicators of personal participation, and by shedding light on lesser-utilized data sources (see pages 131-134 of the report).
The arts and culture sector seems to be moving toward a broader, more holistic, understanding of itself – one that spans a larger swath of the ‘cultural ecology’ – including professional arts, participatory practice and cultural literacy. The cultural ecology framework developed by John Kreidler and Philip J. Trounstine in their 2005 Creative Community Index report (page 6) is a simple and elegant depiction of the cultural system. As we in the field continue to develop this broader self-definition, participatory practice and cultural literacy will need to be characterized at the same level of detail as indicators currently included in the NAI.Read More