Arts slammed by tough economy

The recession hit the arts hard, with a national gauge of the arts falling in 2009 to its lowest point, and posting its biggest decline, in 12 years.

The National Arts Index, consisting of 81 national-level indicators, fell 3.6 points in 2009 to a score of 97.7.

The drop of 6.2 points in the Index during the recession from 2007 to 2009 nearly doubled the gain of 3.9 points from 2003 to 2007.

While 3,000 new nonprofit arts groups were created from 2007 to 2009, for example, just over four in 10 of the 109,000 arts groups in the U.S. ended 2008 with a deficit, says the Index, an annual measure of the health and vitality of the arts in the U.S.

Over the last 10 years, the share of all philanthropy going to the arts has fallen to 4 percent from 4.9 percent, says the Index, which is produced by Americans for the Arts.

And between 2003 and 2009, the Index says, the share of the population attending art museums fell 19 percent and the share attending performing-arts events fell 22 percent.

“The growth of cultural opportunities and increased access to the arts is a positive direction for our country and its artists,” Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, says in a statement.

“However, the changes in philanthropy and the country’s slow emergence from the Great Recession put these gains at risk,” he says. “Now more than ever, the arts need to make the case that they are not only inherently valuable but are also part of the solution to the economic problems our nation’s communities are facing.”

Covering 1998 to 2009 and reflecting research from the federal government and private groups, the Index is set to a base score of 100 in 2003, with every point difference representing 1 percent change.

Among all the indicators that compose the report, half grew in 2007, one-third grew in 2008 and only one-fourth grew in 2010.

In addition to 109,000 nonprofit arts groups, the arts sector in the U.S. includes 550,000 arts businesses, 2.2 million artists in the workforce, and billions of dollars in consumer spending, the Index says.

Public spending on the arts has stayed in the range of $150 billion to $160 billion, but since 2002 it has slipped steadily in its share of all spending, to 1.57 percent from 1.88 percent.

In 2008, 41 percent of nonprofit arts organizations ended the year with a deficit, up from 36 percent in 2007, with organizations with bigger budgets more likely in both years to run a deficit.

In the past 10 years, the number of nonprofit arts groups grew 45 percent to 109,000, compared to all nonprofits, which grew 32 percent to 1.58 million.

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