Using data to show our impact

What happens when over 500 arts and cultural organizations from around the Commonwealth focus on data collection? We get a whole lot of numbers. More than that, though, we gain a wealth of information and tools to add depth and analysis when we tell our stories about the impact the creative community in our towns and cities.

This is one of the primary purposes of the Cultural Data Project, a program operated by Pew Charitable Trusts. The CDP collects and compiles data from a broad range of arts and cultural institutions around the country. The program started in Massachusetts in 2009 and is now operating in eleven other states and DC with the goal of strengthening our sector by collecting and disseminating socioeconomic data thathighlights the impact of the creative community.

cdp_logo.jpgFor example, the CDP tracks volunteer time, jobs created, attendance and annual expenditures of the participating arts and cultural organizations.

Last week, MASSCreative supporters came together to discuss how we could use the data from the CDP to further our advocacy efforts. We were joined by Tom Kaiden of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, an expert at the forefront of using CDP for successful advocacy for the creative community. He outlined his group’s successes in Pennsylvania and showed us some powerful examples of data presentation, like this postcard.

This data is a crucial part of showing our decision-makers the broad and deep impact of the creative community’s work and that we mean business. These numbers are solid proof that art and culture are necessary and are integral to the fabric of our communities and our quality of life.

The most impactful way, however, to use these numbers is in conjunction with stories and images from our communities. Without the stories of our community’s successes, we can blend in with any other sector. One of our most valued assets is our creativity and quirkiness and we need to use that to ask for what we want and push our cultural institutions, performance spaces, youth arts programs and working artists forward.  

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