With an election coming up to replace Chicago's retiring arts Pharaoh, mayor Richard Daley, it’s a time of transition for the arts community in our hometown. Maybe that’s one reason for the unusual confluence of research and data-sharing projects getting underway.
Our firm alone is working on three city-wide and state-wide studies in the arts: one for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs to understand the needs of artists; one for the Chicago Community Trust and four leading arts organizations looking at arts education in the public schools; and another for Arts Alliance Illinois, the advocacy and service organization, to learn what arts organizations around the state need most.
There are also new data analysis and tracking efforts like the Illinois Cultural Data Project (sister to CDPs around the US, based on a model the Pew Foundation developed in Philadelphia), a Creative Vitality Index (part of regional planning effort for the Chicago area, in which the arts are just a part), and a local version of the National Arts Index launched two years ago by Americans for the Arts.
One thing all these initiatives share is a spirit of community: they’re ensemble efforts, not star turns. Another is a hunger for objective data on which to ground decisions — data that help us get past our assumptions and take realistic, responsive actions. Both are welcome trends, and we’re happy to be a part of it here in Chicago (and around the country).
If you’re not in Chicago, and even if you’re not in the arts per se, the findings from all this collaborative research may still be relevant to your cultural or educational institution. Stay tuned as the reports are published this Spring. And meanwhile, tell us what kind of research is going on in your community this year.
— Team Slover Linett
Photo: Corey Wagehoft, Flickr (thanks!)