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Donations to US Arts Declining

21 January 2010 at 4:09 pm
Staff Reporter
A new study finds slipping support for the arts in the US

Staff Reporter | 21 January 2010 at 4:09 pm


Donations to US Arts Declining
21 January 2010 at 4:09 pm

There’s been a decline in charitable giving to the arts in the US according to the Americans for the Arts organisation which has released the first study designed to measure the health and vitality of the arts industries.

The study’s National Arts Index shows a fall of 4 percent in 2008, reflecting losses in charitable giving and declining attendance at larger cultural institutions, even as the number of arts organisations grew.

However the researchers say the 2008 downturn in the Index was not wholly unexpected. With 100,000 Not for Profit arts organisations and 600,000 more arts-related businesses, 2.24 million artists in the workforce, and billions of dollars in consumer spending, the arts industries largely track the nation’s business cycle.

This report covers an 11-year period, from 1998 to 2008. Similar to reports such as the US Conference Board’s tracking of consumer confidence, the Index views the arts as a dynamic system and provides reliable longitudinal information. Based on past patterns, the researchers estimate an arts rebound to begin in 2011.

The study found that demand for the arts lags capacity. From 1998 and 2008, there was annual growth in capacity of the arts industries— a steady increase in the number of artists, arts businesses and Not for Profit arts organisations, and arts-related employment. NFP arts organisations alone grew in number from 73,000 to 104,000 during this span of time.

That one out of three failed to achieve a balanced budget even during the strongest economic years of this decade suggests that sustaining this capacity is a growing challenge.

The study investigated how the public participates in and consumes the arts is expanding. The arts participation measure is on the increase. Personal arts creation by the public growing steadily (making art, playing music).

Attendance at mainstream NFP arts organisations, however, is in decline. Technology has also had an impact: 50 percent of music and CD stores have disappeared in the past 5 years, while the number of online downloads grown four-fold in just the past three years.

The study found that the subsidy model is struggling. Arts and culture continues to lose their market share of philanthropy to other charitable areas—a decline that began well before the current economic downturn.

It found that the competitiveness of the arts is slipping. Overall, the arts are not “stacking up” well against other uses of audience members’ time, donor and funder commitment, or spending when compared to non-arts sectors.

The study can be downloaded at

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