I’m Zannie Voss. I’m the Director of National Center for Arts Research, and we’ve released one of the most comprehensive evidence-based reports on the health of arts in the U.S. Recently, we released our 3rd edition, which tracks trends in the arts over the years. Here’s our NCAR site, where I am the Director. I’m also the Chair and Professor of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship at Meadows School of the Arts at SMU in Dallas, Texas. Ask me anything!

Proof! We've posted about this AMA on Twitter here

You can also see I’m on staff here: http://mcs.smu.edu/artsresearch2014/about/staff and here: http://www.smu.edu/Meadows/AreasOfStudy/ArtsManagement/Faculty/VossZannie

UPDATE: Concluding the session. Thanks to everyone for the terrific questions! We’d love to do this again! 4:59 PM

Comments: 42 • Responses: 14  • Date: 

Rometotoledo3 karma

What kind of evidence is there to support the argument that the arts help support healthy economic development?

zavoss2 karma

We don't get into this kind of research but Americans for the Arts does. You may want to check out their Arts & Economic Prosperity studies.

lerlander3 karma

What do you think of the trend of STEM education and employment being heavily encouraged while arts and the humanities are disregarded and less respected? (at least from my point if view)

How do we as individuals(particularly those who might not consider ourselves creative or artistic) use the fruits of your research?

Thanks for your time.

zavoss0 karma

Your first question would be a good one to discuss over cocktails.

For the second question, anyone who cares about the arts -- whether or not you're an artist -- can use the fruits of our research. Arts organizations are community assets that provide services and benefits to local communities. If they aren't financially or operationally healthy they won't stay in business long, and the community will be without their contributions. Our findings can help anyone understand the field a bit better.

empoweredmama2 karma

what are the sectors that engage the most people in their communities?

zavoss0 karma

Museums -- top of the list is art museums, followed by 'other' museums (e.g., history, natural science, etc.). You can see all sectors here for both in-person and virtual enagement: http://mcs.smu.edu/artsresearch2014/reports/community-engagement/what-reach-our-community-engagement-first-looking-person-and-virtual#/averages/arts-sector

museumdirectors1 karma

If you could tell museum directors and arts leaders two things you have learned in your most recent research what would they be?

zavoss1 karma

First would be to stop and look over time at whether you've seen a commensurate increase in attendance when you add program offerings. For art museums over the past 4 years, offerings went up nearly 21% while touch points went down 13%. This pattern was true for most sectors. If the goal is to offer the program regardless of how many people come, that's totally valid. If that isn't the goal, check out your own organization's trends.
Second would be to figure out whether digital programming is right for your organization, and what mission-related form it might take. It is an area that people are really responding to.

suaveitguy1 karma

What's your opinion of professional philanthropy and its huge growth the last few years?

zavoss0 karma

What do you mean when you refer to 'professional philanthropy'?

ameliaTRG1 karma

What’s the one (or two) data point(s) that you haven’t been able to analyze that you really wish that you could figure out on behalf of the arts/cultural field?

zavoss-1 karma

Wish we had more/better data collected by organizations on their patrons. You know better than me how much organizations struggle with this, particularly those that are smaller or understaffed. Not many organizations seem to track the whole relationship -- e.g., the person is a ticket buyer to x but also a donor to y, and here's their history with us.

It ties into a more global item on my wish list, which is organizations being attentive to keeping good data about their own operations on a consistent basis. Our hope is that the more knowledge we can provide back to the field from its own data, the more attentive people will be about collecting and tracking it for themselves. Wishing it were viewed more globally as a carrot, not a stick.

wafhm1 karma

What are some characteristics of top performing arts organizations? For example, are there patterns in their funding mix or operational characteristics that other organizations could strive for?

zavoss0 karma

Great question. We're actually creating a dashboard so that any organization can go online and get its health scores on over 20 metrics relative to the field, given their sector, community characteristics, size, age, etc. It's in beta testing now. As part of this, we will have insights into which organizations are high performers on every measure. One of our future projects is to turn to these organizations and share with the field how they do it through video case studies. In the meantime, we do report on characteristics of a variety of types of performing arts organizations (many types of performance varies considerably across sectors, others not so much).

ameliaTRG1 karma

Hi Zannie,

It's Amelia with TRG Arts. I know that in the reports that NCAR has released, you pull data from a variety of different sources.

My question is: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced compiling data from all the different sources that you pull from? (And perhaps list some of the sources for those who aren’t familiar with your reports.)

-Amelia Northrup-Simpson

zavoss1 karma

Hi Amelia, great question. The toughest challenge is that the different surveys and data collection efforts ask questions slightly differently, so you really have to roll up your sleeves and get into exiting things like survey form instructions to see exactly what you're looking at. We always want an apples to apples comparison in mapping the data.

ameliaTRG1 karma

Ha! Yes, survey form instructions are my favorite genre for leisure reading, too. ;-)

zavoss1 karma

...and some of the surveys collect 1200 to 1800 data points each year, so lots to sort through. Sometimes it takes a refreshing beverage to keep making your way through it.

Rometotoledo1 karma

How do you measure community engagement?

zavoss0 karma

The number of people the organization touches, including visitors, staff, artists, volunteers, etc. We compare it relative to the spatially adjusted local population. Check out more here: http://mcs.smu.edu/artsresearch2014/reports/community-engagement/what-reach-our-community-engagement-first-looking-person-and-virtual#/averages/overall

fistwayfarer0 karma

What's the story with digital programming in the arts in the U.S.: How much is helping arts organizations these days?

zavoss0 karma

It's exploding! The arts ed, music, opera, PAC, orchestra, theater, and general performing arts sectors now touch more people in a digital space than they do on site. It helps organizations that want to expand their touch points, so a plus for those that consider this a priority.

ameliaTRG1 karma

I understand that digital programming expands touchpoints (and believe me, I'm a millennial and a fan of all things digital) but I do wonder if it actually helps the bottom line or "just" helps the org serve more patrons/community members. (Which, of course, is something to be celebrated as well.) To me, it becomes a mission vs. money dilemma.

zavoss-1 karma

Something else definitely worth tracking! Some organizations do finance their digital programming with contributors who otherwise wouldn't support the organization, and some earn revenue from their digital programming. A question of longer-term relationships and support but also a question of exploring new markets with new programs. It isn't a fit for all organizations and missions, just something to consider. If it's managed in a way that doesn't erode existing support or create a deficit it could be a mission and money win.

suaveitguy0 karma

How do you reconcile/rationalize funding material that can't get popular support on its own?

zavoss0 karma

It's about accessibility and the nature of the art forms. If you had to fully cover expenses with earned revenue, the average ticket price would be along the lines of what you see for professional sports or Broadway. One could make similar arguments for just about any nonprofit sector.

fistwayfarer0 karma

What organizations or sectors in the arts are seeing the biggest ROI with respect to marketing?

zavoss1 karma

We have a section of the report on the topic: http://mcs.smu.edu/artsresearch2014/reports/marketing-impact/how-much-program-revenue-do-we-earn-our-total-investment-marketing#/averages/arts-sector. In a nutshell, arts education (which has lots of tuition-based organizations) is highest, followed by art museums.