SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


Our Research


We provide comprehensive but digestible studies into your organization's health and spotlight resources for moving forward. We use data and evidence to shine a light on both excellence and inequities within the arts and culture sector. 

We share our published papers, reports and all new research below.

State of the Arts 2023: Arts Vibrancy Insights into All 50 States

In it's inaugural release, we present arts-vibrancy rankings for all 50 states and reveal nuanced connections between arts vibrancy and rural/urban populations, poverty rates, and the presence of high-ranking cities.

Published March 2024

Study Illuminates the Breadth of Federal COVID-19 Relief Funding for Arts and Culture

Using publicly available data to assess the distribution of aid from four programs — the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program — SMU DataArts finds an unprecedented $53 billion in Federal COVID-19 relief funding went to arts and culture across the US.

Published January 2024

Image courtesy of Creative Arts Center of Dallas, Dallas, TX. Image courtesy of Creative Arts Center of Dallas, Dallas, TX.

SMU DataArts Releases 8th Annual List of Most Arts-Vibrant Communities in the U.S.

Broken down into three lists based on population size, this year's top 40 rankings reveal that along with the debut of Milwaukee-Waukesha, WISan Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA has reclaimed the top spot on the list of the most arts-vibrant large communities for the first time since 2018.

Published October 2023

Image courtesy of Newark Arts, Newark is for Artists Mural. Image courtesy of Newark Arts, Newark is for Artists Mural.

Post-Pandemic Challenges and Bright Spots for Chicago Arts and Culture

SMU DataArts has partnered with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) to produce this first look at the health of many of the city’s arts and cultural organizations before, during, and emerging from the pandemic. The report examines financial and operating trends among its applicant organizations from 2019 through 2022, and analyzes variations for organizations with different characteristics such as budget size, discipline, and mission focus. A look in the rearview mirror provides context for the underlying challenges that a lot of organizations are facing today.

Published October 2023

Image courtesy of Chinese Fine Arts Society, Chicago, IL. Image courtesy of Chinese Fine Arts Society, Chicago, IL.

Study Finds Local Arts Agencies are Catalysts for Arts Vibrancy

Research findings from SMU DataArts indicate that Local Arts Agencies (LAA) positively and irrefutably contribute to their communities’ level of arts vibrancy. Our research points to multiple ways that LAAs are catalysts for art vibrancy in their communities. The more grant dollars they have to invest in artists and arts organizations, and the more programs and services they provide, the more their communities pulse with arts-driven creative and economic life, vigor, and activity.

Published May 2023

Image courtesy of Highland Arts Council, Highland, IL. Photo by Brady Kesner. Image courtesy of Highland Arts Council, Highland, IL. Photo by Brady Kesner.

SMU DataArts Releases List of 40 Most Arts-Vibrant Cities in the U.S.

SMU DataArts’ Arts Vibrancy Index examines the level of supply, demand, and government support of the arts in more than 900 communities across the country. Accompanied by an interactive Arts Vibrancy Map that reveals the arts-vibrancy score of every county in the U.S., the Index lists the 20 most arts-vibrant large cities, the 10 most arts-vibrant medium cities, and the 10 most arts-vibrant small cities. In this year’s Index, the first since 2020, four communities debut on the lists and an additional five return after an absence of at least three years.

Published December 2022

Impact Evaluation of Ford Foundation's Investments in Diverse Creative Communities

This evaluation set out to understand the Ford Foundation's Creativity and Free Expression (CFE) Arts and Culture program's progress toward driving long-lasting social change. Two primary questions guided this research:

First, what lessons can we learn about how change happens for arts organizations and networks that center People of Color and disabled artists, cultural producers, and executive leaders, especially those who have been further marginalized by sexism, heterosexism and xenophobia?

Second, what is the influence of a $230 million investment in their stability, their ability to expand their base of support, and their lasting impact on the artists whose voices and cultural contributions they lift up?

Published December 2022

Ananya Dance Theatre, Minneapolis, MN. Photo by V. Paul Virtucio. Ananya Dance Theatre, Minneapolis, MN. Photo by V. Paul Virtucio.

People are Opting to Stay Home and the Effect on Arts Ticket Sales is Clear

When will arts attendance return? How can data help guide strategic planning as we enter the third year of the pandemic? New analysis from SMU DataArts suggests COVID-related behavioral patterns may play a role in in-person attendance and map out two plausible scenarios that predict performing arts ticket sales through the end of June 2022.

Published February 2022

Giordano Dance Chicago, Chicago, IL. Photo by Gorman Cook Photography. Giordano Dance Chicago, Chicago, IL. Photo by Gorman Cook Photography.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Employment: Arts & Culture Sector

Throughout the pandemic, SMU DataArts has studied the arts and culture sector focusing on modeling early impacts, assessing impacts recognized in New York City, studying the distributions of federal funds for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and exploring the scope of the federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program. Using data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), we’re probing another area of importance: unemployment characteristics within the sector.

Published December 2021

The Intersection of Funding, Marketing, and Audience Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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 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. 

Published April 2021

Buffering Against Uncertainty: Working Capital and the Resiliency of BIPOC-serving Organizations

When faced with uncertainty or the prospect of loss, organizations with adequate savings can plan the best path forward, knowing that a deficit won’t put them out of business.

Published April 2021

Northlight Theatre, Skokie, IL. Photo by Michael Brosilow. Northlight Theatre, Skokie, IL. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

The Alchemy of High-Performing Arts Organizations: A Spotlight on Organizations of Color

This report, published in partnership with The Wallace Foundation, is based on research conducted during August and September of 2020 investigating the elements of successful strategies employed by high-performing arts organizations that primarily serve communities of color.

Published April 2021

In it for the Long Haul

Aimed at helping arts and cultural organizations consider key questions and variables as they plan for reopening and a post-COVID-19 future, this report estimates the pandemic’s effect on the nonprofit arts sector and identifies three critical propositions and four prompting questions for consideration.

Published May 2020

Theatres at the Crossroads: Overcoming Downtrends & Protecting Your Organization Through Future Downturns

A new report from SMU DataArts and Theatre Communications Group provides insights, analysis, and recommendations to help theatre advocates and leaders support these cultural organizations during vulnerable times.

Published September 2019

Latest Financial and Operating Reports

Get in-depth insights on topics that affect arts organizations across various sectors and budget sizes, across the country. These reports feature data visualizations and observations from the field with the goal of providing insights on trends so that arts leaders are equipped with the latest trends for strategy development.

Bottom Line

Based on data collected from over 2,500 different cultural organizations between 2016 and 2019, we examine the financial health of cultural organizations by size, sector and location to help inform funders and board members about where support may be needed now and debunk preconceived notions about certain sectors.

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Working Capital

How prepared were organizations to weather the downturn brought about by the pandemic, and how can pre-pandemic data help organizations and funders rebuild for the future? The Working Capital Report provides insights into the arts and cultural organization’s average number of months of working capital which shows how long an organization can survive at its current expense size in the absence of revenue.

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Earned Revenue

Based on data from 3,886 organizations across 11 different arts and cultural sectors, we studied the relationship between total earned operating revenue, earned relational revenue, and expenses to help identify what drives effective performance for the average arts and cultural organization.

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A unique examination of the fundraising efforts of over 2,400 organizations across 11 different arts and cultural sectors throughout the nation to provide valuable insights and useful tools to help arts and cultural leaders tell their story, overcome challenges, and increase impact.

Read the Report

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