Two New Research Studies Highlight Challenges and Opportunities in the Arts SectorTwo New Research Studies Highlight Challenges and Opportunities in the Arts Sector

Two very different research studies were released recently, providing different perspectives on the health of the arts economy and its future vitality. Americans for the Arts announced the findings of its National Arts Index on the health of the arts sector and Heritage Travel Inc. announced its findings on the continuing strength of arts and heritage as drivers of travel spending.

Not surprisingly, the National Arts Index found that arts businesses fell into their biggest slump in more than a decade in 2008 with overall 4.2 percent decline for the arts sector from 2007 to 2008, The National Arts Index is the result of four years of research, examining 76 indicators, including music royalties, Broadway ticket sales, museum visits, philanthropy and the number of college art majors.

The co-author of the study Randy Cohen, Vice President of Local Arts Advancement at Americans for the Arts says, “The problem is not that there's too much arts in this country, but we do need to focus on the new business models.”

Two New Research Studies Highlight Challenges and Opportunities in the Arts SectorDespite dire economic conditions, interest in arts experiences remains strong and cultural institutions like Maine's art museums are leveraging opportunities with tourism and other partners to reach new audiences and customers.
One such business model that has had a very significant effect on how arts and heritage organizations develop new markets and audiences has been the growth of cultural heritage tourism over the last fifteen years. The landmark White House Conference on Travel and Tourism in 1995 initiated a broad range of policy and partnerships at the state, local and federal level. The success of these efforts coalesced into economic development strategies that leverage cultural and heritage resources, often under the rubric of the creative economy. The importance of arts and heritage's contributions to the economy was demonstrated by President's Committee and the U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Summit on Cultural and Heritage Tourism, which resulted in a national strategy on culture and heritage's role in tourism and travel.

A new study sponsored by Heritage Travel Inc and conducted by Mandala Research confirms that despite the weak economy and a decline in spending, interest in cultural and heritage experiences has not diminished. The research study reveals that 78 percent of all U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural and/or heritage activities while traveling, translating to 118.3 million adults each year. These travelers spend more money on cultural/heritage trips ($994 on average) than is spent on the average U.S. trip ($611). The cultural traveler demographic is similar in size to previous surveys, which also reported that cultural and heritage travelers spend more, go on more trips and stay longer.

One finding in the new survey that highlights opportunities for cultural and heritage organizations is the crossover characteristic of heritage and cultural activities with recreation, culinary, and other leisure activities. The study found that cultural and heritage travelers are more likely to participate in culinary activities, such as sampling artisan food and wines, attending food and wine festivals, visiting farmers' markets, shopping for gourmet foods and enjoying unique dining experiences, as well as fine dining.

Combining culinary experiences, live performances and film, Maine's Lumina Arts Festival used the President's Committee AFI Project: 20/20 to create a multi-day local festival last Spring in rural Waterville. It was a model of the kind cooperative marketing opportunity that this new research highlighted, bringing together complementary experiences and partners, including the Maine International Film Festival, the Maine Office of Tourism, the Maine Film Commission and Colby College Museum of Art. Maine has also developed other such efforts to expand audiences and markets for their artists and cultural institutions. Among them the Maine Fiber Arts Tour Map: Studios and Farms, which takes advantage of the cultural traveler's intersecting interest in natural and cultural experiences, linking more than 130 Maine-based artist studios, farms, galleries and fiber arts suppliers. In January, the Maine Art Museum Trail launched a new website and brochure that showcases the state's seven leading art museums. Begun in 1999, this marketing effort more than doubled the attendance of these museums in some cases, while promoting their collections in the context of each community's unique natural, cultural and historic resources.