Monday, February 05, 2007

Counting non-profit arts groups

Today's dot-org entry is a bit of an infomercial, in the sense that it's about my own work.
The following "Dear Colleague" email went out from our offices late today to arts groups, funders, service organizations, and others around the Chicago area:

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, in keeping with its longstanding mission interest in the artistic vitality of the Chicago region, has conducted a detailed comprehensive scan of active non-profit arts organizations in the region. The full written report on “The Arts Scan Project”, a two-page executive summary, and an Excel file containing the underlying data are now available for download.

Key findings of this effort will shortly be reported in the Chicago Tribune and it is scheduled for discussion on the "848" program on Chicago Public Radio WBEZ-FM (91.5) Tuesday morning. Highlights include:

-- As of summer 2006 there were about 1,158 arts non-profits active in the greater Chicago region.

-- About twice as many new arts non-profits were founded from 1997-2006 as from 1987-1996.
-- The creation of new arts non-profits today is more concentrated within the city of Chicago than was true a generation ago.

-- More than a quarter of all active arts non-profits in this region are focused on live theater and another quarter are focused on music.

-- While one-quarter of all active groups are concentrated in ten zip codes along the city's central and North Side lakefront, the enormous recent surge of new groups appears to include a number of new clusters in outlying areas of the city and suburbs.

We believe this to be the most comprehensive snapshot of this region's non-profit arts community ever assembled. We hope it will spark discussion about the region's artistic vitality and believe that such conversations are always most productive when rooted in real-world data.

P.S. YOUR THOUGHTS on this report would be of great interest to us and to the entire artistic community. Chicago Artists Resource [which, as an aside, is one of our current grantees] has created a public online forum for discussion of the Arts Scan and its findings, in which Donnelley Foundation staff [i.e., me] will answer questions about this research and report. We look forward to your comments about the Arts Scan and its implications. You can link to CAR's online forum from our website or by going directly here.

The comments in that online forum will naturally be about the study's findings, that is, about the state of the non-profit arts world in Chicago. Here I'd be happy to respond to comments or questions about why and how we did the research, or perhaps about the reports' data regarding arts groups' budget sizes, more the non-profit inside-baseball aspects.


Sean Hargadon said...


I was turned on to your report by a story done by Deanna Isaacs in the Chicago Reader.

An excellent idea well executed. My company, Janus Theatre, is based out of Elgin, even though we've worked throughout the suburbs, and fours in Chicago at the Athenaeum. We are permanently in Elgin as of this posting.

Your study interests me because we've always had a strong presence in Elgin, and now we have a home space, similar to the Storefront in Chicago.

I was excited and hopeful by the fact that Elgin is the leading "performing cluster" in Chicago's suburbs.

What we really interest me, however, is what type of audiences these groups attract and, is the trend growing with the increased populations west of Schaumburg?

Again, excellent work. I plan on forwarding the report to my colleagues.

Sean Hargadon
Producing Director
Janus Theatre Company

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