Arts decline a challenge

Organizations say polls show drop in philanthropy

Declines in charitable giving and attendance at cultural institutions has resulted in a predictable drop in the National Arts Index, a measurement of the health and vitality of the arts industries in the U.S., according to the org Americans for the Arts.

The news was delivered at a press conference on Wednesday kicking off the 50th anniversary year of the group. CEO Robert Lynch said the index fell in 2008 to a score of 98.4 even as the number of arts organizations grew. The index is composed of 76 national-level research indicators produced by the federal government and private research organizations.

The current score represents a 4.2% drop from 102.6 in 2007, per Americans for the Arts. The Index is anchored to a base score of 100 in 2003. Every point difference represents one percent change.

We will make up the lost ground, but it is going to take several years,” said Lynch, who predicted the turnaround would begin in 2011. He pledged to dedicate this year to strengthening the arts field with the development of new business models for arts delivery better suited to the times.

The current economic crisis “offers a unique and important opportunity to begin a national conversation about the value of the arts — to us as individuals, communities and a nation,” said Arthur C. Brooks, prexy of the American Enterprise Institute and one of the project’s advisers. He said the nonprofit arts sector is tethered to support models that have remained unchanged for a half century, and that arts orgs must find new ways to engage their audiences.

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