Blog Posts for July 2012 Blog Salon

Investment in the Arts is the Foundation for Building Vibrant Communities

Posted by Jessica Johnson, Jul 09, 2012 0 comments

Jessica Johnson

In Iowa’s Creative Corridor, we are fortunate to enjoy an excellent quality of life. That is largely due to the abundance of arts and culture in our community.

Nestled in America’s Heartland, Iowa’s Creative Corridor is the region along I-380 in east central Iowa including Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and more than two dozen other municipalities. The Corridor is home to hundreds of arts organizations, multiple higher education facilities, nearly 30 Fortune 500 companies, and more than a dozen international organizations.

Iowa’s Creative Corridor brings innovation to the world through a unique fusion of art, science, and technology. Examples range from artistic endeavors like the world-famous Iowa Writers' Workshop, which has resulted in 28 Pulitzer Prizes, to Rockwell Collins, a company that supplies the nation with aviation and information technology systems for defense and commercial avionics markets.

We live in a global economy where creativity is a key driver. The ability to attract and retain skilled employees is a central issue for businesses today. An increasing number of people choose where they want to live first and find a job in that area. Quality of life has never been so important to attracting talent, and the arts are significant to creating a quality of life that people seek out. In addition, the arts support inclusion in our communities by bringing people of diverse backgrounds together for shared experiences and by celebrating what makes us each unique and different.

Representing more than 150 arts organizations, the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance (ICCA) nurtures a sustainable cultural community in Iowa’s Creative Corridor through advocacy, promotion, professional development, and raising awareness of arts and culture opportunities. In a region with a spirit of creative innovation, ICCA works to foster collaboration within the arts community, as well as between arts organizations and the business community.

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Dallas: Field Testing the Economic Impact of the Arts

Posted by María Muñoz-Blanco, Jul 09, 2012 0 comments

María Muñoz-Blanco

Preparing for a briefing to our (Dallas) City Council’s Art, Culture, & Libraries Committee on the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study, I thought about doing a bit of random testing on the research findings.

I just wanted a few talking points, really, to localize the fantastic data collected, analyzed, and interpreted by the dynamic duo of Randy Cohen and Ben Davidson. I didn’t quite finish my “scientific” research in time for the briefing, but but then Theresa Cameron emailed with an invite for this Blog Salon…and so here it is.

Totally random, not quite scientific, some would say rather biased research. But it does add up.

My first test: event-related spending. To check on the non-local audience spending, I volunteered myself as the test subject and trekked to the lovely city of Fort Worth (38 miles from home, across municipal and county boundaries) to spend the day visiting the Fort Worth Cultural District.

I started at the Amon Carter Museum to view the fantastic exhibition American Vanguards: Graham, Davis, Gorky, de Kooning & Their Circle; followed by a personal pilgrimage to see one of my favorite artworks in North Texas; then a quick peek at the construction of the Kimbell’s expansion; then checked out the work of local artists at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. I still had the Cowgirl Hall of Fame Museum on my to do list, but at 104 degrees, it was time to stop walking around.

So…like a good Texan, when the heat gets to you…a bit of retail therapy always helps. On my way in, I spied the Montgomery Street Antique Mall, so it was only fair to stop by on my way back to Dallas.

The tally for my day-trip as a cultural tourist in Fort Worth: $209.32.

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An Avalanche of Economic Impact Data

Posted by Mr. J. Benjamin Davidson, Jul 09, 2012 0 comments

Ben Davidson

Way back in May of 2009, Americans for the Arts began recruiting local, regional, and statewide partners for the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV national economic impact study. After three years of day-to-day project managing, data collecting, number crunching, and report writing, the study is finally complete and the findings have been released. Trust me, NO ONE is more excited about that than I am!

A research project of this scope and magnitude delivers a myriad of emotional highs and lows. Mistakes are made; then mistakes are fixed. Deadlines are missed; then “extended” deadlines are set. We all know the drill.

I am 100 percent certain that at least once, each of the 182 study partners wished I would just go away and leave them alone. I’m incredibly thankful that each of the partners stuck with the process. Their hard work made this study the largest and most comprehensive of its kind ever conducted. Many people have asked me about the specific challenges and successes of the project, and I’m happy to share my perspectives on a few of each.

CHALLENGES

1. Providing project oversight for 182 separate partners is a difficult task. It’s a frustrating feeling when you send an e-mail to 182 people, and your inbox immediately starts filling with requests for clarification. I knew immediately when my directions weren’t clear enough.

2. Utilizing multiple sources of data can be confusing. In the states where the Cultural Data Project (CDP) has been implemented, we used CDP data in addition to our AEP IV organizational survey (so that arts organizations submitting a CDP profile didn’t need to complete our survey as well). This tactic definitely reduced the burden on the organizations from which we needed to collect data. Unfortunately, it definitely increased the burden on my team and on our study partners located in those CDP states.

3. The fact that the study partners collected more than 150,000 audience-intercept surveys was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because it is unquestionably the largest sample of audience spending data that has ever been collected. It was a curse because that equates to 32 legal-sized boxes full of surveys that required sorting, coding, and data entry. As my team processed the mountain of surveys, we stacked the boxes in my office. This worked fine until one Monday morning when I arrived at the office and discovered that a stack nine boxes high had collapsed across my desk—spilling neatly bundled surveys out into the hall, crushing my work phone, and staining my office door with blue ink from the boxes. Colleagues said I was lucky that I wasn’t at my desk when it happened, but I thought it might have been a fitting way to meet my demise... 

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