January 3, 2014

SMU’s National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) has released its inaugural report assessing the health of the nonprofit arts industry. The NCAR report is the first of its kind for the arts, creating a data-driven assessment of organizations’ performances and evaluating the industry from multiple perspectives, including sector/art form, geography, and size of the organization.

ViolinsNCAR is led by faculty at Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business in collaboration with the Cultural Data Project (CDP) of Philadelphia and other national partners.

NCAR Director Zannie Voss, chair and professor of arts management and arts entrepreneurship in the Meadows and Cox schools, says the report tried to answer the question, ‘All else being equal, what makes one arts organization more successful than another?’ “Perhaps more than any other industry, arts organizations are driven by managerial and artistic expertise,” Voss adds. “Being able to estimate the value of this expertise in an organization’s performance is the single most valuable result of our first study.”

NCAR researchers were able to identify some factors that drive performance, finding, for example, that organizational age and size (total expenses) boost performance in every case; more local, national or world premieres all lead to higher attendance and higher levels of total engagement; and organizations that target children (pre-K-12) tend to have a larger footprint, offering more programs on larger budgets and attracting more attendance and more total engagement.

In 2014, NCAR will launch an interactive dashboard, created with IBM, which will provide online resources to arts organizations nationwide.