Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Couple of Survey Results

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on.........................."

Note:  I want to note the retirement from the California Arts Council of its longest termed employee - Lucero Arellano - who has been at the council for 34 years.  I had the great pleasure of working with her as a member of the CAC staff during my brief tenure as the head of the agency, and her passion and dedication for the arts was exemplary.  Over the years she has quietly and unassumingly impacted thousands of decisions that have helped countless arts organizations and artists - unbeknownst to most of them.  But more than that, she is a a really good person - decent, with integrity; kind and considerate; generous and giving.   Congratulations Lucero - well done, and on behalf of everyone in the arts - thank you, thank you very much.  We all wish you the very best on whatever new paths you take.  

A Pew Survey:
In a recent Pew Survey on the perception of Americans as to how certain 'groups' contribute to society's well being, the military ranked very high (78% saying they contribute "a lot" to our well being) , followed by teachers (72%) , doctors (66%), scientists (65%) and engineers (63%).  Artists (30%) trailed the Clergy (37%), but came in above journalists (28%), business executives (24%) and, of course, lawyers (18%).  Politicians were apparently not included.  All groups were down in 2013 when compared to 2009 - some slightly, some significantly.  Artists were down only one percent.

When you include the response that a given occupational group contributes "some" to society's well being, to those ranking a group as contributing "a lot" - artists come in at 72%, still behind all the other groups as 24% think artists contribute "not very much or nothing" to the well being of society.  Unfortunately, the survey doesn't break down the support or non support for the value of artists as to gender, age, education, political affiliation or otherwise.

This data can be looked at two ways:
On the positive side, 72% believe the arts contribute something to the well being of American society.  Almost three quarters subscribe to the notion that the arts are a positive influence.   That is a number on which we ought to be able to build.

On the negative side, only 30% believe the arts contribute "a lot" to the well being of America.  And that number has remained relatively constant for the past five years.  Very likely, we need to move that number to (at least) slightly over 50% if we are to reach a tipping point for public support (and thus elected official support) for the arts.  And converting that missing 20% + will not be an easy task, as 28% think we contribute "not much, or nothing". How we might improve those numbers ought to begin with some research into why the 70% don't think of the arts as contributing "a lot" to our well being, or why the 28% think we contribute "not much, or nothing".  First we need to understand the thinking of those we need to target.

Interestingly, the groups that rank high on this survey as contributing "a lot" to our well being, are all primarily those that, in one way or another, protect the safety of Americans - the military, doctors, scientists, engineers.   One might even argue that teachers and clergy are also concerned with our safety - the safety of our being prepared for the future (job preparation) and the safety of our souls.   I wonder then what appeal the arts might have in protecting the safety of our spirits, and whether or not positioning the arts thusly might be helpful or not.  Such an argument is probably a hard sell, but I believe maybe not quite as hard a sell as we might imagine.  Increasingly, people are coming to recognize and appreciate that a healthy "spirit" - positive attitudes about our lives - is an important variable in the well being of the whole of society.

What is clear is that all of our Herculean efforts to convince the American public that we do contribute "a lot" to the well being of the country haven't yet moved us to where we need to be.  And apparently not at all in the past five years.  More work on this front will be essential - and that means more research, more studies, more focused efforts, more making the case, more outreach and more strategic planning.

Local Arts Agency Salaries:
A new report on the salaries of those who work at local arts agencies around the country (the first in ten years) was released by Americans for the Arts this week.

Not surprisingly, this field is heavily populated by women, most have college degrees, most of them are over 35 and under 64, and the average length (for full time employees) they have been in their current position is seven years.   Salaries paid in this sub-sector of our field appear to be reasonable and competitive (and likely on the rise).

As noted in the introduction to the report (and some responses to its publication), the most glaring statistic is the lack of diversity within the ranks of the leadership of this segment of our field -- clearly not even close to reflecting the actual population (86% are white / caucasian).   It would be helpful if we could compare all the other segments of our field so we could see how the LAA contingent is the same or different from the music, theater, film, opera, dance, presenters, museums or any other sector of our field in terms of the change in leadership to more reasonably reflect the actual population.

The question looms "why" aren't there more people of color in the leadership positions of these agencies.  Having worked in this sector in the past myself, I believe there are likely serious and ongoing attempts to recruit people of color.  As many agencies are urban based, where minority population's geographical centers seemingly increase the pool of qualified candidates, then the question becomes is recruitment of minorities unsuccessful, and if so, why?   Why don't more people of color want to work at local arts agencies?  Is it too little money, too few advancement opportunities, no role models, or something else?  Or is the proposition even true?  It would seem reasonable to suppose that more people of color within the lower ranks of these agencies would portend (as those people rise through the ranks), that more senior staff, including Executive Directors, will ultimately be positions filled by minority members - but it is unclear whether or not those lower staffing positions are currently being filled by people of color.  Again, if not, why not?  If more entry level positions are being filled by recruiting from University arts administration programs, then a question is whether or not those programs are themselves successfully recruiting more diverse graduating classes.  This is yet another instance where we need to know why things are as they are before we go about fashioning a response to address a need.

I would think LAAs will find this survey useful in a review of their own situations, and other sub-sectors of our field will similarly find it of benefit in a comparison to their own universes.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit