SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


SMU DataArts, a Leading Research Center for the Arts, Names Jen Benoit-Bryan as Incoming Director; Zannie Voss to Retire

  • Posted May 07, 2024

Dallas, TX / May 7, 2024 – SMU DataArts announced today that Jen Benoit-Bryan, Ph.D., will assume the role of Director on September 1, 2024. Current Director Zannie Voss, Ph.D. is retiring on August 31, 2024.

Voss has made the decision to retire after leading the organization for 12 years, since co-founding it as the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) with Glenn Voss in 2012. She led NCAR through a successful merger with DataArts in 2018, cementing the newly-formed organization as an enduring and valued source of research and insights for the cultural sector. Her understanding that arts and cultural institutions cannot be understood outside the context of their audiences and communities has deeply informed the organization’s work and led to the creation, under her leadership, of a data model of the arts and culture ecosystem. Recent investments in data integration technology will ensure that this model, which unites data about arts organizations, audiences, and communities, will continue to grow and support cutting edge research for the arts field.


Zannie Voss, Ph.D. Photo by Kim Leeson Photography. Zannie Voss, Ph.D. Photo by Kim Leeson Photography.

"Zannie's impact at SMU and across the arts sector has been truly transformative," said Samuel S. Holland, Algur H. Meadows Dean of the SMU Meadows School of the Arts. "SMU DataArts' immense contributions to the arts sector have been advanced by her visionary leadership, and she has left an indelible mark on the arts leaders, fellow faculty members, and students who have had the privilege of learning from and with her throughout her career. We wish her the best, and are excited to continue this legacy under the leadership of Dr. Jen Benoit-Bryan. Jen's experience, research talent, and the deep respect of peers around the country signal great things to come for SMU DataArts."

Voss and SMU DataArts’ team of researchers have produced landmark research on the arts and culture sector during her tenure, resulting in 15 academic publications and over 60 reports for the field. She has been a leading voice on the effectiveness and sustainability of non-profit arts organizations and a consistent champion of the unique strengths of BIPOC organizations. The Arts Vibrancy Index and Rankings, in its eighth annual release under Voss’ leadership, has provided communities around the country with a deeper understanding of their cultural communities’ strengths and provided opportunities for local advocacy and pride. The organization has produced significant research around audience demographics and inclusion, the effects of community characteristics on arts attendance, and evolving audience behavior during pandemic shutdowns and re-openings, work which continues to inform the development of cutting-edge tools to help arts leaders understand and grow their audiences. Voss’ collaborative approach to research design and knowledge dissemination has cemented strong relationships across the field with funders, arts leaders, service organizations and fellow researchers that will continue to nurture the organization’s work going forward.

Kate D. Levin, Principal at Bloomberg Associates who also leads the Arts program at Bloomberg Philanthropies said, “Everyone interested and engaged in arts and culture can benefit from the insights that come from credible data.  SMU DataArts is the leading resource for nuanced information and has been a key partner to us in understanding the broad role of creativity in our communities and critical questions facing the sector.  I congratulate Zannie for her extraordinary vision and leadership and look forward to the exciting impact Jen Benoit-Bryan will have as she takes the organization into its next chapter.”

Zenetta Drew, Executive Director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre and a member of the SMU DataArts Advisory Board said, "Zannie’s tenure at SMU DataArts has been characterized by her steadfast commitment to arts leaders, fostering collaboration and challenging assumptions through her groundbreaking research. Her dedication to expanding definitions of excellence and providing vital resources has left an enduring legacy of empowerment within the cultural community. I am looking forward to Jen Benoit-Bryan's leadership as she carries forward that legacy through the invaluable resources and insights SMU DataArts provides to arts leaders."

Benoit-Bryan, who has served as Research Director at SMU DataArts since June 2023, will assume the role of Director on September 1. She has significantly advanced the organization’s contributions to field knowledge through her leadership on key research projects including an exploration of the role of workforce inclusion undertaken in partnership with the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a project connecting arts vibrancy to community outcomes across the state of Washington undertaken with ArtsFund, and a new exploration of arts vibrancy at the state level.

Previous to her tenure at SMU DataArts, she served as President of Slover Linett Audience Research where she led that team by prioritizing research strategies that pull in new voices that are collaborative, that co-create with communities, and that spark and support lasting change in the arts and culture sector. During her time at Slover Linett, Benoit-Bryan worked on wide-ranging multi-year projects including the Museums Moving Forward Initiative, the National Academy of Sciences, the LA Phil, the High Line, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Carnegie Hall, Washington National Opera, Ballet Austin, Dallas Zoo, and the Central Park Conservatory, among many others. As a trusted research partner for many in the field and an expert in statistical social research, she will be well suited to build upon SMU DataArts’ track record of providing key insights needed to build strong, vibrant and equitable arts communities.

San San Wong, Director of Arts & Creativity at the Barr Foundation, said, “Jen is a longstanding and valued thought partner who, in addition to technical research prowess, brings values of equity, humanism, curiosity and co-design in her approach to provide creative and actionable insights about community needs. I look forward to continuing to learn from and with Jen and I am excited about all that SMU DataArts will accomplish for the field under her leadership.”



SMU DataArts, the National Center for Arts Research, is a project of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University. The mission of SMU DataArts is to provide and engage both organizations and individuals with the evidence-based insights needed to collectively build strong, vibrant, and equitable arts communities. Its research efforts range from academic papers published in leading journals, applied research undertaken with community partners, and actionable insights shared directly with arts practitioners. Its programs provide business intelligence tools and resources to help arts leaders leverage data to answer critical management questions and connect research analyses to their own work. Recent publications include research reports on the scope of COVID-19 federal relief funding for the arts emergence from the COVID-19 crisis; the alchemy that drives high performing arts organizations of color; audience diversity, equity and inclusion in large performing arts organizations; impact of investments made in diverse creative communities; and more.



Media Contacts:

Maria May
Resnicow and Associates

Meg Fennelly
Resnicow and Associates

Emma England
SMU Meadows School of the Arts