RAND Study Says Greater Collaboration and Centralization of Functions Needed to Support Arts

For Release

March 9, 2007

The arts sector in Philadelphia and other big cities would benefit greatly from a strong local agency to coordinate cultural activities and help make arts an integral part of each community, according to a RAND Corporation report issued today.

The report recommended that civic leaders make cultural institutions a vital component of community economic development and neighborhood revitalization strategies.

In a study with broad national implications, RAND researchers studied systems of support for the arts in 11 metropolitan areas to identify strategies for sustaining Philadelphia's arts sector.

The report found that while the national nonprofit arts sector flourished in the last decade, the challenges of rising costs, shifting funding patterns, and a public increasingly skeptical of government growth or increased taxes necessitate new strategic approaches.

The metropolitan areas examined in the study were: Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Pittsburgh.

Researchers for RAND — a nonprofit research organization — created a unique systematic analysis to examine ways the 11 metropolitan areas support their nonprofit cultural institutions.

“Arts organizations across the country are competing more intensely for funding,” said study co-author Kevin McCarthy. “Furthermore, civic leaders are trying to provide stability to their arts programs while also dealing with other major urban problems, political turnover and declining budgets.”

To address these challenges, RAND researchers suggested that Philadelphia develop a centralized agency, either public or private, that would serve as the primary point of contact for artistic organizations and be integrated with other city government offices.

Alternatively, the city could have multiple public or private agencies with a clear division of labor serving the same function. Such agencies are found in cities with the strongest support for the arts, the report said, and provide a wide range of services to arts organizations including, but by no means limited to, funding.

“This report underscores that we all need to do our part to ensure the long-term viability of the sector, and establishing a strong central office of cultural affairs is a key step in any successful plan,” said Peggy Amsterdam, president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, which joined the William Penn Foundation in sponsoring the RAND study.

Additionally, the study recommended greater collaboration within Philadelphia's arts sector on many areas, including programming, marketing, fundraising, employee benefits and some other operations. Collaboration could both strengthen the sector and save money, researchers found.

McCarthy and co-author Liz Ondaatje concluded that while arts organizations have typically undertaken fundraising on an individual basis, they could be better served by addressing the whole sector. The traditional approach of fundraising for individual organizations raises the transaction costs for both the organizations and the funders, the report found, and can put smaller establishments at a disadvantage.

“Traditionally, arts organizations have operated in a competitive zero-sum environment, in which one group's gain was another's loss,” Ondaatje said. “The cultural sector as a whole would benefit from a more collaborative approach.”

Within the regions examined, the study found two effective approaches. One was a single, centralized agency — public in Chicago and private in Charlotte. The other was a division of labor among multiple public or private agencies, such as in Denver and Pittsburgh. Where neither approach was followed, the arts sector suffered, as was the case in Detroit.

McCarthy and Ondaatje stressed that a city must develop a clear vision of where its art sector is heading and build a consensus among government, business and local citizens about making the arts central to an area's vitality.

“It is crucial that cities like Philadelphia realize how much the arts can contribute to other city goals, such as economic competitiveness, tourism, and quality of life,” Ondaatje said. “Philadelphia's current renaissance provides an opportune moment for developing and implementing new strategic approaches to sustaining the arts.”

The study noted that Philadelphia's upcoming mayoral primaries represent an opportunity for both the arts community and the city to develop a plan for sustaining the arts sector. Philadelphia's mayor closed the city's Office of Arts and Culture in 2004, redistributing its various functions and cultural support programs to other city agencies.

“The arts are critical to a healthy, vibrant city, and Philadelphia's next mayor will need to grapple with how best to strengthen this important element of the city's cultural and economic life,” said David Haas, board chairman for the William Penn Foundation. “RAND has provided the city's leaders with a plan to make sound policy decisions about how the city supports its cultural sector.”

The report, “Arts and Culture in the Metropolis,” was produced by RAND Education, which conducts research and analysis on a variety of topics, including school reform, educational assessment and accountability, and trends among teachers and teacher training. It is available at www.rand.org.

About RAND

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