Diversity in Local Arts Agencies: Findings from the 2015 LAA Census

Posted by Graciela Kahn, May 27, 2016 0 comments

In 2015, Americans for the Arts partnered with the National Endowment for the Arts to conduct the Local Arts Agency Census, the most comprehensive survey of the local arts agency (LAA) field to date. More than 1,000 LAAs responded to the survey on topics ranging from budgets and financial outlook to specifics about their programs and services.

In order to more clearly see the work ahead of our field in terms of diversity we included questions about board and staff demographics, diversity initiatives in LAA programs, and about formal diversity policies. The answers we received paint a complex picture, but in general, the demographic composition of LAAs show that as a field, we can do better in representing all our constituents.

LAA Board and Staff Demographics

When LAA leaders were asked if their agencies have an appropriate level of diversity in their staff, board, and volunteers, only about one-third agreed that they did (35 percent). These opinions are underscored by the statistics describing board and staff at the average LAA as predominantly white, female, and over the age of 44.

Table 1 Demographic composition of the average LAA

 

Non-Hispanic White

Female

Over 44

Board

85%

59%

77%

Staff (paid and volunteer)

83%

74%

57%

Another way to understand diversity in the field is by the percentage of boards and staff where all members are non-Hispanic white, and those that are majority-minority. Data from the LAA Census show that 34 percent of LAA boards and 51 percent of LAA staffs are entirely white. However, there is a clear trend in board and staff diversity when comparing against the population of their service areas and size of staff, respectively:

  • 49 percent LAAs serving a population area of 100,000 or less have all-white boards. In LAAs serving areas of 1 million or more that figure is just 4 percent.
  • 77 percent of staff and volunteers from LAAs with only two year-round staff are all white. For LAAs with 3 or more staff, that figure drops to 36 percent. (34 percent of LAAs with staff have a workforce of less than 3 people)
  • 9 percent of LAAs staffs and volunteers, and 5 percent of boards are majority-minority.

Table 2: Demographic composition of LAA Boards and Staff

 

All LAAs

Service Area Population

Boards

 

Less than 100,000

100,000 to 999,999

1,000,000+

100% Non-Hispanic White

34%

49%

28%

4%

50% or more Non-Hispanic White

95%

95%

96%

89%

Less than 50% Non-Hispanic White

5%

5%

4%

11%

 

All LAAs

Size of LAA Workforce

Year Round Staff (paid and volunteer)

 

1 staff

2 staff

3 or more staff

100% Non-Hispanic White

51%

86%

77%

36%

50% or more Non-Hispanic White

91%

86%

99%

90%

Less than 50% Non-Hispanic White

9%

14%

1%

10%

LAA Board and Staffing Policies

Of the 85 percent of LAAs that have at least one year-round staff member, either paid or volunteer, 39 percent have a written staff diversity policy. Most commonly this policy refers to the hiring of the Executive Director (30 percent), support and senior staff (26 and 23 percent, respectively), and in some cases for volunteers (14 percent). LAAs also reported “other” diversity-related policies (8 percent) such as non-discrimination policies or adhering to city government hiring procedures.

Ninety-five percent of LAAs have a board of directors, commission, or another type of oversight group, of those, seven in ten consider diversity when recruiting members. Specifically, 29 percent of LAAs have a written policy, 46 percent consider diversity in their board operations, but have no written policy, and 25 percent do not take diversity into consideration when recruiting.

Not surprisingly, local arts agencies that have diversity policies were more likely to be racially diverse: board and staff at LAAs with written policies are less likely to be all white (27 percent for boards, 39 percent for staff), compared to those with no written policies (45 percent for boards, 58 percent for staff).

Table 3 Diversity policies for staff and board and demographic composition of LAAs

Board

All LAAs

No Policy

Has written policy

100% Non-Hispanic White

34%

45%

27%

50% or more Non-Hispanic White

95%

96%

93%

Less than 50% Non-Hispanic White

5%

4%

7%

Staff (paid and volunteer)

All LAAs

No Policy

Has written Policy

100% Non-Hispanic White

51%

58%

39%

50% or more Non-Hispanic White

91%

93%

85%

Less than 50% Non-Hispanic White

9%

7%

15%

Looking to the future

Lack of diversity is a topic about which LAA leadership is aware, and they identify diversity and inclusion as key for remaining relevant and sustainable in their rapidly changing communities. Board and staff demographics are only one of the ways in which the LAA Census approaches this issue: upcoming reports will describe how LAAs are addressing diversity, equity and inclusion of the communities they serve through their programs and grants. Future iterations of the LAA Census will help gauge the progress made possible by the cultural equity conversations, resource sharing, policies, and programs that will undoubtedly happen between now and then. Find out more about the Local Arts Agency Census at www.AmericansForTheArts.org/LAACensus.

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