Arts nonprofits losing ground

Driven by dwindling donations and fewer attendees at events, nonprofit arts organizations in the U.S. are losing ground, a new index says.

That slippage is occurring as the overall number of arts nonprofits is growing, says the inaugural National Arts Index, a measure of the health and vitality of the nation’s arts sector created by Americans for the Arts.

The index fell four points in 1998 to 98.4, down from what would have been a peak score of 105.5 in 1999.

The base score of the index is 100, the number scored in 2003, with every point difference representing a 1 percent change.

“We will make up the lost ground, but it is going to take several years,” Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, says in a statement. “Based on past patterns, Americans for the Arts estimates an arts rebound to begin in 2011.”

Currently, the number of artists and arts organizations, which jumped to 104,000 in 2008 from 73,000 in 1998, outstrips demand.

While tens of millions of American attend arts events annually, the share of the U.S. population that participates is declining.

And only one in three arts groups operated with a balanced budget during the boom years of the last decade, the report says.

At the same time, technology is changing how people create and participate in the arts.

The index is comprised of 76 different measures from nine categories, including capacity and infrastructure, participation, contributed support and competitiveness.

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