SMU launches new National Center for Arts Research

SMU launches a new center to assess and support the health of arts organizations.

SMU Dance Student

SMU Dance StudentDALLAS (SMU) – Southern Methodist University announced today that its Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business are leading a collaboration with the Cultural Data Project (CDP) and numerous other partners to create a National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at SMU.

The center, the first of its kind in the nation, will analyze the largest database of arts research ever assembled, investigate important issues in arts management and patronage, and make its findings available to arts leaders, funders, policymakers, researchers and the general public. The vision of NCAR is to act as a catalyst for the transformation and sustainability of the national arts and cultural community.

“In today’s competitive environment, arts and cultural organizations, from museums to orchestras, need to do more than create great works of art. Arts organizations must have a more research-driven understanding of their markets and industry trends in order to more deeply engage existing audiences and reach new ones,” said José Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts. “As an arts school and research entity, SMU’s Meadows School is uniquely positioned to not only serve as a hub for this critical data, but to apply our expertise to develop new insights that can be shared with arts organizations around the country.”

The CDP, based in Philadelphia and formerly part of the Pew Charitable Trusts, collects extensive data from thousands of arts organizations in the United States. By combining and analyzing CDP data and data from other national and government sources such as the Theatre Communications Group, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Census Bureau and the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the new National Center for Arts Research will create the most complete picture of the health of the arts sector in the U.S.

The goal of the center is to become the nation’s leading source of expertise on:

  1. arts attendance and patronage,
  2. understanding how managerial decisions, arts attendance and patronage affect one another,
  3. the impact of the arts on communities across the U.S.
  4. the fiscal trends and fiscal stability of the arts in the U.S. 

Zannie Voss and Glenn Voss
Zannie Voss and Glenn Voss
The new collaboration will also draw on the academic expertise of Meadows and Cox faculty in the fields of arts management, marketing and statistics. Dr. Zannie Voss, chair and professor of arts management and arts entrepreneurship in the Meadows and Cox schools, will serve as NCAR’s director and Dr. Glenn Voss, the Marilyn R. and Leo F. Corrigan, Jr. Endowed Professor of Marketing at Cox, will serve as research director.

“The research and analysis at NCAR will result in an in-depth assessment of the industry that allows arts and cultural leaders to make more informed decisions and improve the health of their organizations,” said Zannie Voss. “Findings will serve as a catalyst for discussion within the arts about how to collectively seize opportunities and address critical issues.”

NCAR will maintain a website with an interactive “dashboard,” created in partnership with IBM, which will be accessible to arts organizations nationwide. Arts leaders will be able to enter information about their organizations and see how they compare to the highest performance standards for similar organizations in areas such as community engagement, earned and contributed revenue, and balance sheet health. The website will also foster public discussion of best practices and solutions and offer a dedicated YouTube channel for video responses, as well as an online resource library with helpful tools and templates. Nationally prominent leaders in the arts will be invited to serve as Center Fellows, who will share expertise and focus research attention on critical issues in the field. NCAR also will publish an online “state of the arts” report each year and hold a symposium to discuss significant findings.

National Partners Support the New Center

NCAR is able to pursue analysis of this unprecedented collation of data because a number of national partners have provided access to different types of information.

The Cultural Data Project collects data from more than 14,000 cultural organizations in 12 states and the District of Columbia about their finances, programs and operations. The CDP database enables arts and cultural organizations to enter their own financial, programmatic and operational data into a standardized online form, and then use the CDP to produce a variety of reports designed to help increase management capacity, identify strengths and challenges and inform decision-making. They can also generate reports to be included as part of the application processes to participating grantmakers.

SMU Student PainterNew York-based Theatre Communications Group (TCG), whose mission is to strengthen, nurture and promote the professional not-for-profit American theatre, will also contribute data gathered from its annual fiscal and attendance surveys of theatres across the country.

“In this age of ‘Big Data,’ NCAR presents an important opportunity for arts organizations to leverage field-wide knowledge to better serve their local communities,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director, TCG. “We’re looking forward to bringing TCG’s many years of research in the theatre field into this cross-sector collaboration with NCAR.”

In addition, IRS data on nonprofit organizations is being provided by the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics. Data from the Census Bureau will provide a look at factors such as population numbers and household incomes that can affect arts attendance. And data from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Survey of Public Participation in the Arts will provide information about arts consumption and engagement.

Other partners are supporting the NCAR with a host of additional services. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) provided nine weeks of pro-bono consulting to assist the center in establishing a vision, mission, scope, governance and structure. The work resulted in a strategic plan for NCAR’s first three to five years, and BCG continues to be involved in the center’s advisory board.

TRG Arts will consult with NCAR to offer insights into how consumers invest their time and money in the arts.  TRG is a national consulting firm that provides arts, culture and entertainment clients with guidance and solutions to grow patrons and sustainable revenue. From its client work and management of 19 data network programs across the U.S., TRG regularly studies arts consumer behavior and publishes its analyses online and at industry conferences.

IBM will create the NCAR’s online interactive “dashboard” enabling arts organizations to access the center’s data.  IBM will work with SMU to develop and customize the dashboard application, which is expected to be ready for use in late 2014.

SMU Violin StudentNonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) is a national leader in nonprofit, philanthropic and social enterprise finance. NFF provides loan financing, access to capital and direct advisory services that build the capacity and the financial health of mission-driven organizations. NFF has been working with the NCAR to develop the financial measures used in the dashboard and the annual state-of-the-arts report.

More than a dozen visionary foundations and individual arts patrons have also supported the new center with financial investments, including the Communities Foundation of Texas, M. R. & Evelyn Hudson Foundation, Jennifer and Peter Altabef, Marilyn Augur, Molly Byrne, Bess and Ted Enloe, Melissa and Trevor Fetter, Carol and Don Glendenning, Jeanne R. Johnson, Nancy Nasher, Nancy Perot, Bonnie Pitman, Caren Prothro and Donna Wilhelm.

“NCAR will be a powerful resource for the arts in America,” said Rick Lester, founder and CEO of TRG Arts and a distinguished visiting professor of arts management at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts.  “With the fact-based decision-making capabilities that NCAR makes possible, organizations will be better equipped to develop good fiscal and operational health.”

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About the Meadows School of the Arts

The Meadows School of the Arts, formally established in 1969 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, is one of the foremost arts education institutions in the United States. The Meadows School offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, communication studies, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music and theatre.

The goal of the Meadows School of the Arts, as a comprehensive educational institution, is to prepare students to meet the demands of professional careers. The Meadows School is a leader in developing innovative outreach and community engagement programs, challenging its students to make a difference locally and globally by developing connections between art, entrepreneurship and change.

The Meadows School of the Arts is also a convener for the arts in North Texas, serving as a catalyst for new collaborations and providing critical industry research. For more information, visit

About the Cox School of Business

SMU's Cox School of Business, originally established in 1920 and named in honor of benefactor Edwin L. Cox in 1978, offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate business education programs.  Among them:  BBA, Full-Time MBA, Professional MBA (PMBA), Executive MBA (EMBA), Master of Science in Accounting, Master of Science in Entrepreneurship, Master of Science in Finance, Master of Science in Management, Master of Science in Sport Management and Executive Education.

The school also offers a number of unique resources and activities for students, ranging from its Business Leadership Center (BLC), Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship, Maguire Energy Institute and Global Leadership Program to its Associate Board Executive Mentoring Program and an international alumni network with chapters in more than 20 countries.

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Media Contacts:

Victoria Winkelman
Meadows School of the Arts

Hanna Gisel
Resnicow Schroeder Associates