Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Creative Vitality Suite Tool Explained

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

The CreativeVitality Suite
Because I get questions about the Creative Vitality Suite tool -- what it is, how it's used and what purpose it serves, I asked WESTAF to provide the following content as the technology provider of the Creative Vitality ™Suite.  The Suite is a research-based economic development tool that provides high-quality, national creative economy data and reporting.

Creative Economy Data - A (brief) User’s Guide
If you are reading this blog you are probably an arts administrator, perhaps a researcher, or maybe you are an advocate or proponent of the Arts. Regardless of your position, there is a good chance you are interested in understanding the economic impact the Arts have in your community. You may seek answers to questions such as the following: How much do the arts contribute to the local economy? How do art and creative economy jobs in your area compare with those in other areas? How do you best report data-based findings about the creative economy?

Having a good understanding of your local creative economy can be a major benefit to your organization--and your community. When you need to influence funders, legislators, and prove your relevance in the community, data is most useful. Data can also help administrators make smart and informed decisions about ways to develop audiences, structure marketing campaigns, design fundraising strategies, develop programming approaches and position an organization's brand. Having high-quality data in hand is key to understanding your options, making effective decisions and effectively communicating your case.

Economic development teams work to create economic activity that will result in new businesses and jobs. As we well know, too often a community and its leadership do not understand the degree the impact the arts and creative economy have on a local or state economy. Defining the size and scope of that impact with credible data is one way to raise awareness that the arts and the creative economy create jobs and bring new revenues into the community.

Be the smart one in the room
There’s still confusion in our field in the areas of statistics and data. If you are puzzled by the avalanche of data, you are not alone. If you have experience with data and statistics, you are likely in the minority. Organizations that use data to make their case tend get much more traction because they can rise above the rest of the crowd that often fails to support their claims with high-quality data. The CVSuite is easy to use and continued familiarity will make you comfortable with, and more knowledgable about, all kinds of data.

How to determine the size and scope of my impact? There’s a tool for that...
The CVSuite cloud-based software is currently used by many state and local arts agencies and arts organizations around the country to analyze both for profit and nonprofit creative labor market data at the state, MSA, county, and zip code level. The user of the CVSuite tool can easily access the number of jobs and industries in the creative sector in a select geographic area to include wages and salaries, and sales and earnings revenues. Downloadable spreadsheets are available for deeper analysis to include Location Quotient, non-profit contributions, and year over year comparisons.

The tool also contains multi-year data and the geographic areas for analysis are national, so geographic comparisons, and year-over-year analyses and benchmarking are easily accomplished. Demographic and ethnicities per occupation will be available in the Fall of 2016.

In addition, snapshot reports can be quickly downloaded and easily communicated.

So whether you need data to prove your contributions to the overall economy, or for advocacy, or to be the smartest person in the room, CVSuite can help.  

In the CVSuite tool, you can easily download reports when you need them

The Creative Vitality Suite tool will help you:
  • To put forth a more credible, impactful creative economy story to your constituents, elected officials, the media and the public. Adding the quantitative to the qualitative makes for a stronger story.
  • To pinpoint and highlight your successes.
  • To change strategy / trajectory -- to see what occupations are contributing the most to your economy, and to look at changes year over year. 
  • To show how impactful the creative sector is in your area -- how it attracts new businesses to help spur more economic growth.
  • To compare your area’s impact to that of other areas, to benchmark, and to plan for the future.
  • To create legitimacy using national data.
  • To guide marketing messaging.
  • To determine voids and needs in your marketing, fundraising, and media strategies.
  • To develop relevant content for your web site, social media and collateral platforms.
1.  If you need new, current, credible data to tell a compelling story or make a strong presentation argument
2.  If you want to be able to work with economic development experts on their level and speak their language
3.  If you want solid data at a reasonable price
4.  If you want to be able to compare the creative economy in the geographic areas of your choosing, and identify what other cities are doing to boost their creative economies
5.  If you want an online data tool available to use when you want to use it,

The CVSuite™ Could Be Your Data Solution

If you would like more information on data and how to use it, or for a demo of WESTAF’s Creative Vitality Suite, contact Susan Gillespie: email:

WESTAF will have a booth at the AFTA Conference in Boston June 16-18 where you can learn more about the best uses of data and see a demo of the Creative Vitality ™ Suite.

For more information on other data sources, click here for Which Data, the second webinar in the Art of Data series presented by WESTAF.

Have a good day.

Don't Quit

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


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

Good intentions, gone awry again.  Arrrgghhh, and I meant well too.

One of the fundamental questions seems to now be:  "Where did the time go?"  Mondays always start out with great expectations, steely resolve and high hopes.  One never anticipates the big and little life interruptions that give lie to our plans.  It's hard to know when we will get sick, or one or more of the kids will have a crisis, or when work will throw us an unanticipated curve or when we will simply sink back into a funk we thought we had escaped.  The only thing predictable is that things will inevitably and invariably happen to throw us off our game.  And yet, we almost never see it coming, and so we roll along fully believing our lists are realistic and that we will get done what we planned to get done.  We so want to believe that we are the masters of our own fate.


We all have our excuses, some legitimate some fake.  We all have have good reasons why we end up behind sometimes.  We are all familiar with the treachery of time and how it messes with us.

Today is always filled with more stuff to do than there is time for. Today is busy, always busy.  Deadlines, things on the list, things not on the list that magically and mysteriously come from nowhere to end up on the list.  Today clocks always run fast. What started out as a whole day, quickly goes and the day is over. Today there are errands, and meetings, appointments, progress to be made and things to wrap up.  Today is impossibly jammed. Today's list is overloaded with yesterday's list of things for which there simply wasn't time.  Today can be frustrating, create hopelessness and leave one unsatisfied.  Some todays may be milestones to be celebrated because everything goes right.  But that's unusual.  More often, today just comes and goes and almost nothing changes.  Good intentions aside, today has a nasty habit of just slipping away almost unnoticed.  Today is a chameleon and you never know what will happen.  Today always looks good from yesterday's perspective, but when it arrives it turns out to have been a deceiver, looking frequently nothing like it looked from afar.

But Tomorrow is different. Tomorrow there is always hope to get a lot of important stuff accomplished.  Tomorrow is always full of possibilities and promise.  Tomorrow is a perennial fresh start, an open book, a chance for redemption. Tomorrow is about the future, about what might be, about hope and possibility.

They say today is all that is important.  Live for today.  Today is the only reality.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn't here yet. Only today matters.  We are admonished to live today; to make the most of it before it is gone; we are advised to live today like there will be no tomorrow.

But that's simply not the reality.  Even if the stash of tomorrows isn't endless, one operates on the assumption that tomorrow will always get here.  Most of us live in tomorrow, not today.  Tomorrow is where are plans are, our dreams and hopes and ideas that germinate and flesh out.  Tomorrow is where the work gets done and things change.  There are no mistakes yet in tomorrow, no regrets, no recriminations.  Tomorrow promises accomplishment and achievement. Tomorrow things can be, will be, different.  Tomorrow the wrongs of the world can be righted.  Tomorrow we shall be our better selves.  Tomorrow we will finish what we started, cross things off the To Do list.  Tomorrow Sisyphus will roll the rock all the way to the top.  Tomorrow mountains will be climbed and oceans crossed. Tomorrow is always the seductress, tempting us with what might be, luring us to where we might overcome the weaknesses of today.  Today is a fraud.  It never lives up to its promise.  Tomorrow tempts us.  Tomorrow is our friend, today could care less about us.

As Scarlett O'Hara said with determination and hope in Gone With the Wind:  "Tomorrow is another day".   Tomorrow is about vision and purpose.  About what might be and dealing with what went wrong today and yesterday.  Tomorrow can be the unknown, sometimes scary, sometimes foolish in appearance, and tomorrow can be deceptive and falsely lull us into its seeming security.  But there is something enormously comforting about tomorrow and what might be.

Time has no beginning, no end.  It always exists in the moment, and that is its' limitation for us, for the moment is too ephemeral, too nebulous, too fragile -- too fraught with breakage; too hard to get a handle on, and much too difficult to appreciate while in it.  Tomorrow is of more substance, tomorrow is more real, tomorrow holds greater promise for accomplishment and renewal.  Tomorrow can be viewed dispassionately from afar, from every angle.  Perfection is never possible today, but perfection lives boldly in the imagination of tomorrow.  Tomorrow brooks no escape, but it suffers the fools of today gladly.

So if your today was less satisfying than it might have been when it was but yesterday's tomorrow, don't fret.  If today was disappointing and didn't turn out like it was suppose to, don't be too hard on yourself. If you didn't get anywhere near done what you absolutely, positively had to get done, it's ok, because that's the way it is, like it or not.  Tomorrow will be here soon enough and you can have another chance.  Tomorrow is all about chances, and changes.

I plan on getting stuff done tomorrow.

As the song goes in Annie:  "Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.  I love ya tomorrow.  Tomorrow's just a day away."  There is no better thing to wish for than an endless stream of tomorrows, even if you know that's probably a pipe dream.

Have a great today and an even better tomorrow.

Don't Quit

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Equity for the Arts Sector in its External Community Relationships

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

Note:  As I have some upcoming medical testing and down time, I keep trying to get several posts up, but have been delayed for one reason or another.  I'm making a concerted attempt this week.

What is reasonable to expect in return for our involvement and engagement with, and within, our communities?

It is now a widely accepted given that the arts must have as a priority their involvement in, and engagement with, their communities; that they must seek places at the table where their strengths and positive values can help the communities to achieve a wide range of goals and objectives - ranging from economic development, to social justice changes, to improved education and more.  And this is arguably because (among other reasons) such involvement and engagement, such participation as members of their local "place", will ultimately help the arts sector to increase support for their growth and sustainability, will perhaps help to fundraise and garner public and private financial support, will help to increase the community's valuation of the arts, will expand audiences, and will, in other ways, inure to the benefit of the arts.  Plus it's the right thing to do.

I'm not sure whether or not the hoped for benefits have yet flowed our way, and the long term data remains to be collected to see if there is evidence to support the hypothesis that we directly benefit from the effort, but, let's assume, arguendo, that the arts, positioning themselves to be good community citizens and support the lofty goals of the community by bringing to the table their unique set of skills, talents and contributions, is in our best interests.  And let's also assume for the moment that there is some tacit understanding in the community itself that the value of the arts goes substantially beyond that which it can bring to help the community address specific problems and challenges; that the arts have meaningful, irreplaceable intrinsic value to the community and its inhabitants.

There seems to be some inequity in the way the arts are treated by these same communities that we are encouraged to embrace and help.  I wonder if there is movement within the communities where we are helping further other agendas, to help us?  Is there a quid pro quo that acknowledges our issues, our challenges, our problems and is there the effort and energy by the community to put us on their "help" agendas?  Are those segments of the community we try to help trying to help us?  I ask because I hear noise that in many places it's fine for us to help other causes, but that they are slow to reciprocate.  I hear a lot about the arts stepping up to lend their resources to addressing problems and challenges facing the community, but not so much about the community stepping up to help the arts address their problems and challenges.

Is this a one way street?  Are we expected to use the gifts and skills available to us to help other causes, but those same causes need not similarly look at what our needs are and bring their skill sets to bear on helping us address our issues?  Do they even ask the question of what we need? Is that disparity not an inequity?  Is the benefit to us more one in the trickle down theory?  Are we unwittingly once again donning the role of Oliver Twist left begging for a little more?  Is it fair? To be sure, there is support in some communities for us, and even increased support, as a direct result of our engagement with them,  and we are on some of the agendas of those we seek to help. But the extent to which that is the case seems to vary widely, is often the exception not the rule, and is thus far unproven by results and data.

To be honest, there is a hierarchy in most communities that designates certain needs and causes and assigns them priorities and importance above the arts.  The arts are important, but not as important as..................    That attitude exists.....still.  It's ok in some communities for the arts to sit at tables where strategies are developed to deal with certain community issues, to bring to bear our creativity as part of the solution  (and we want that, I think), but not ok to sit at the same tables where decisions that might benefit us are made.  In many cases, the arts remain the step child, invited to help others, but with no corresponding offer of help in return.

Shouldn't engagement be a two way, mutual street?  Is it?   If we are to engage our communities, shouldn't we reasonably expect that the communities will seek to engage us?  Is that the case?  Why not?

I think we need to focus somewhat on the whole of the relationship we want with our communities and its various segments and parts - both the give and the take.  I think we need to verify whether or not the simple engagement wherein we help others, pays off in the form of increased support, finances, audiences, etc.  How does that work?  On what timeline?  And we need to determine what is reasonable for us to give to the community, as well as what is reasonable to expect from the community, and how to structure and nurture the kind of relationship to the community that is mutual.  I think it not unreasonable to ask early on in the relationship if those we are trying to help are willing to try to help us -- and not as a theoretical question either.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit