DALLAS (SMU) – April 29, 2021 – As performing arts organizations in the United States emerge from pandemic closures, SMU DataArts has released a new study to help these institutions address the question “When we re-open, whom will we gather?” and to take advantage of this time of reconnection to increase audience diversity. The study, The Intersection of Funding, Marketing, and Audience Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, examines pre-pandemic audience diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) along the dimensions of race and income at 24 large performing arts organizations in the United States to provide a baseline of past trends and a roadmap for the future. The new research is part of a series of recent publications by SMU DataArts that are designed to help arts and cultural organizations contend with the crisis of systemic racism.
Highlights of the report’s findings reveal that over the course of a seven-year period from 2011 to 2017:
“Our society is polarized, but research has shown that shared cultural experiences can help bring people together and combat their negative perceptions of each other,” said Zannie Voss, director of SMU DataArts. “We know that the arts and culture field is committed to DEI, but the data shows just how difficult achieving it is, and how inequitable ‘business as usual’ has been. As large performing arts organizations similar to those in this study begin to reopen after the pandemic, there is an urgent opportunity for them and the funders that support them to redouble their efforts to enhance audience
DEI, and for increased, equitable funding for arts organizations that primarily serve BIPOC or low-income communities.”
How can audience DEI be improved?
The Intersection of Funding, Marketing, and Audience Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offers a number of ideas for improving audience DEI based on the study’s findings:
The paper is the result of a two-year research project by SMU DataArts, the national center for arts research that provides data-based insights to help arts and cultural nonprofits across the country. The research focused on 24 large performing arts organizations across the country and analyzed anonymous box office data from 2 million local households that patronized these organizations over a seven-year period from 2011 through 2017. Researchers also conducted interviews with 33 performing arts professionals charged with creating and implementing DEI initiatives.
The Intersection of Funding, Marketing, and Audience Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is the latest in a series of SMU DataArts studies intended to help arts and cultural organizations combat racial and income inequities as they prepare for the post-pandemic future. The recent paper In It for the Long Haul, developed in collaboration with Jill Robinson, CEO of TRG Arts, estimated the pandemic’s effect on the nonprofit arts sector and asked questions to help organizations maintain passion for the communities they were formed to serve. Audience DEI is anchored in the notion of community orientation, which surfaced as an essential cornerstone for attaining sustainability in the two-part series of reports on The Alchemy of High-Performing Arts Organizations (here and here), co-published with The Wallace Foundation.
On Tuesday, May 11 at 2 p.m. ET, SMU DataArts will host a webinar about the study results, titled “The Community You Keep: Audience Diversity in Performing Arts Organizations and the Post-pandemic Landscape.” Zannie Voss will discuss how the findings can help arts organizations navigate challenges and build financial resilience. To learn more and to RSVP for the session:
ABOUT SMU DATAARTS
SMU DataArts, the National Center for Arts Research, is a joint project of the Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. SMU DataArts compiles and analyzes data on arts organizations and their communities nationwide and develops reports on important issues in arts management and patronage. Its findings are available free of charge to arts leaders, funders, policymakers, researchers, and the general public. The vision of SMU DataArts is to build a national culture of data-driven decision-making for those who want to see the arts and culture sector thrive. Its mission is to empower arts and cultural leaders with high-quality data and evidence-based resources and insights that help them to overcome challenges and increase impact. To work toward these goals, SMU DataArts integrates data from its Cultural Data Profile, its partner TRG Arts, and other national and government sources such as Theatre Communications Group, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Census Bureau, and IRS 990s. Publications include white papers on emergence from the COVID-19 crisis, culturally specific arts organizations, protecting arts organizations through downturns, gender equity in art museum directorships, working capital and the resiliency of BIPOC organizations, and more. SMU DataArts also publishes reports on the health of the U.S. arts and cultural sector with the annual Arts Vibrancy Index, which highlights the 40 most arts-vibrant communities around the country. For more information, visit www.smu.edu/dataarts.
For more information, please contact:
Resnicow and Associates
Resnicow and Associates
SMU Meadows School of the Arts