Americans for the Arts has released the 2019 Profile of Local Arts Agencies, an annual survey of a core set of local arts agency (LAA) indicators—budget trends including sources of revenues and categories of expenditure, partnerships, community development, programs and services, diversity and equity policies/initiatives—that is supplemented with rotating modules, enabling a more in-depth exploration into specific aspects of LAA work. The inaugural 2018 Profile included modules focused on equitable grantmaking and investment in the arts, and LAA staff salaries and benefits. The 2019 Profile includes modules on partnerships with non-arts organizations, and local and state option taxes used to fund the arts (report coming soon).
The findings in this year’s study are based on 633 survey responses that were collected May through August of 2019.
Local arts agencies are nonprofit organizations or agencies of local government that integrate the arts into the daily fabric of their communities and work to advance the arts locally. Each LAA is unique to the community that it serves, and each changes as fast as its community changes. All, however, seek to serve the diverse art forms and make them accessible to every member of the community. During the last half century, the local arts agency movement in the United States has flourished—with the number of LAAs growing from 400 to 4,500.
While no two LAAs are exactly alike in name, programming, or mission, results from this Profile of LAAs show they all share one or more of these seven programs and services:
- Advocacy and Policy: Virtually 100% of LAAs advocate for arts funding and arts friendly policies, as well as serve as thought leaders and policy creators on a wide range of topics and issues—from arts education to creative economy to health and the community’s quality of life.
- Facilities Development and Management: 62% of LAAs are responsible for the development and management of arts and cultural facilities and venues such as artist live/workspace, rehearsal and performance spaces, gallery space, hands-on art centers, or creative entrepreneur incubators.
- Funding and Financing: 76% of LAAs provide direct investment in the arts and culture community through grants and other financial support programs for artists and arts and cultural organizations or groups.
- Partnerships and Planning: 91% of LAAs partner with other local organizations and/or agencies to address community needs and make their communities more healthy, vibrant, and equitable.
- Programs and Events: 84% of LAAs present their own cultural programming to their community. These may include after-school arts education programs, public art, free concerts in the park, exhibitions, heritage and preservation efforts, festivals, and special events.
- Services: 92% of LAAs provide a portfolio of services to other arts organizations including professional and creative workforce development workshops or classes, incubation and fiscal sponsor services, marketing, administrative/back office services, box office, or discipline-specific workshops and trainings.
- Visibility: 66% of LAAs leverage their broader network and resources to drive public goodwill and communicate the importance and value of arts and culture in communities.
Local Arts Agencies by the Numbers
Following are highlights from the different sections of the study. The full set of reports, infographics, data tables, interactive Dashboard (coming soon), and online tools are freely available on the Profile of Local Arts Agencies website.
- 70% of LAAs are private nonprofit organizations, 30% are government agencies.
- 95% use the arts to address community development issues such as social, education, or economic challenges.
- 82% of local arts agency staff self-identify as white only, including 91% of chief staff executives.
- 83% expect the demand for their services to increase over the next two years (including 27% that expect a “significant” increase in demand).
- 76% provide arts education programs and/or services to the community.
- 76% provide financial support directly to organizations.
- 58% operate a competitive grantmaking program (55% award grants to organizations, and 39% award grants to individual artists).
- 54% manage a public art program; 33% of those manage a percent-for-art program.
- 49% work in partnerships with their local Chamber of Commerce.
- 49% have adopted a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement. 34% have a diversity policy for grantmaking/funding programs.
- 49% work in communities that have integrated the arts into a community-wide planning effort such as a city’s master plan or a foundation’s regional needs assessment.
- 34% report that their community has completed (or updated) a community cultural plan within the past five years.
Note regarding the 2019 Profile of Local Arts Agencies study findings and the COVID-19 crisis of 2020: Because the data used for this report was collected from May through August in 2019, we need to acknowledge that the landscape has changed radically due to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. As of this writing, the crisis already has resulted in the cancelation of thousands of arts and cultural events across the country and resulted in billions of dollars of damage to our arts ecosystem. It is, therefore, likely that some of the findings in this report (e.g., budget forecasts, cash reserves, and community priorities) no longer reflect what the LAA field is currently experiencing.
Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research at Americans for the Arts, will discuss the 2019 Profile of Local Arts Agencies on ArtsU Wednesday, April 22, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. ET. Register here to join the webinar live or for access to an archived recording after the event.