Cultivating Demand for the Arts

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 Cultivating Demand for the Arts

In the previous two chapters, we broadly described the institutional support infrastructures for youth and adult arts learning and identified areas having significant gaps. We also suggested that because of these gaps, many children and adults lack the tools they need to fully engage with works of art. In this chapter, we look at the role of SAAs in promoting arts learning. Using both quantitative and qualitative data, we assess the extent to which SAAs have sought to cultivate demand for the arts rather than to expand supply or improve access. We also point to recent initiatives by SAAs and the NEA that suggest the emergence of a new emphasis on demand.

SAA Grantmaking

We begin by looking at patterns and trends in SAA grantmaking. Historically, grants have been SAAs’ primary means for achieving their goals, and they remain the most visible of SAAs’ arts policy tools (National Research Center of the Arts, Inc., 1976; Lowell, 2004). The allocation of grants should therefore reflect SAAs’ main priorities: For example, a high percentage of SAA grant dollars going to artists and arts organizations to create works of art could indicate that increasing supply is an SAA priority. Alternatively, a high percentage of SAA grant dollars going to school districts for curriculum development could suggest that SAAs have a strong demand orientation. We note, however, that even a high percentage of a relatively small amount is still a small amount. In 2004, the latest year for which we have data, total grantmaking by all 56 state and territorial arts agencies came to just $209 million.1 In comparison, total expenditures by all U.S. public K–12 school systems in that year came to $472 billion (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 2006b).

SAAs have collected data on their grantees in every year since 1981 (digitized data from 1986 onward are available), when the National Standard for Arts Information Exchange (the National Standard) was first introduced.2 For each grant they receive, SAA grantees are required to report—among other things—the name, address, disciplinary affiliation, and institutional type of the successful applicant; the type of activity funded; and the extent to which the activity funded involves arts education. The data within each category are aggregated by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies to provide the number and value of SAA grants nationally within various categories. Our analysis focuses on the value of SAA grants by type of recipient, type of activity, and the extent to which the activity funded involves arts education as defined by the National Standard.

Categories of Recipients

Recipient data indicate which types of institutions have benefited most from SAA grantmaking. Beginning with the 52 types of grantee institutions identified in the National Standard, we group these data elements into five broad categories:3

  1. artists and arts organizations
  2. arts agencies
  3. educational institutions
  4. community organizations
  5. other non-arts organizations.

The first category consists primarily of organizations and individuals responsible for the creation and presentation of works of art. It includes performing arts groups, museums and galleries, cultural centers, and artists, as well as the various organizations that provide funding and services for artists and arts organizations: arts service organizations, concert associations, symphony leagues, opera guilds, etc. It also includes institutions that train artists, such as arts schools and institutes. In 2004, performing groups received the largest chunk of SAA grant money within this category, accounting for almost 40 percent of the value of the total.

Local and regional arts agencies, plus fellow SAAs, form the second category of SAA grant recipients. The data do not distinguish among them, but the prevalence of large regranting programs among SAAs suggests that local arts agencies dominate this category of recipients.

The third category, educational institutions, comprises K–12 schools and school districts, two- and four-year colleges and universities, parent-teacher organizations, and childcare providers. In 2004, the biggest beneficiaries within this category were colleges and universities, at 51 percent of all SAA grants to educational institutions. K–12 schools and school districts were a close runner-up, at 48 percent.

Organizations that serve local communities make up the fourth category of SAA grant recipients. Parks and recreation departments, senior centers, health-care facilities, correctional institutions, religious organizations, and other community service and human welfare organizations are in this category, as are media organizations, such as magazines, newspapers, radio stations, and television stations. In 2004, almost 40 percent of the value of grants to recipients in this category went to television stations, presumably for arts programming.

The fifth category comprises individuals and organizations whose primary missions lie outside the arts but that occasionally or even frequently sponsor artists and arts organizations, serve as venues for performances and exhibits, partner with artists and arts organizations on projects, etc. Examples are non-art museums (such as history and science museums), businesses, historical societies, humanities councils, and various agencies of state and local government. Within this category, non-art museums were the biggest beneficiaries of SAA grants, receiving 37 percent of the total in 2004.

Patterns and Trends in Grantmaking by Type of Recipient

Figure 6.1 shows the distribution of SAA grants for 2004, the most recent year for which we have grantmaking data. As can be seen, artists and arts organizations were the largest recipients, with just over one-half of the total value of SAA grants, and the next largest category was arts agencies, with roughly one-quarter of the total. Grants to the categories of other non-arts organizations, educational institutions, and community service organizations were smaller.

How closely do the 2004 shares reflect past patterns in SAA grantmaking? Figure 6.2 shows the trends from 1987 to 2004. It can be seen that the percentage of grants devoted to artists and arts organizations has declined over the past 20 years, from almost 70 percent of the total in 1987 to close to one-half of the total in 2004. This decline has been roughly mirrored by an increase in the share of grants to local arts agencies, which rose from just over 10 percent of the total in 1987 to just under 25 percent in 2004. In contrast, the shares represented by educational institutions, community organizations, and other non-arts organizations have remained remarkably steady over time: Educational institutions, for example, received just 6 percent of the total value of SAA grants in both 1987 and 2004. Similarly, the share awarded to community organizations rose by just one percentage point over the period, from 5 to 6 percent of the total, and the share for other non-arts organizations rose just two percentage points, from 7 to 9 percent.4


To the extent that SAA grants to artists and arts organizations are designed to encourage the production of artworks and their wider distribution among state residents, these trends point to a continued SAA focus on expanding supply and access. However, as discussed in Chapters Four and Five, the infrastructure of support for demand is diverse, containing many artists and arts organizations, as well as educational institutions and community service organizations. This means that some of the SAA grant monies directed to artists and arts organizations may be intended to support programs for cultivating demand.5 To determine whether this is so, we looked at data on the types of activities funded by SAA grants.


Types of Activities Funded

The National Standard identifies 38 kinds of activities supported by SAAs, which we grouped into six broad categories:

  1. creation, exhibition, and preservation of artworks
  2. institutional support
  3. arts learning
  4. broadening of arts participation
  5. regranting
  6. other.

The first category covers grants for the commission or acquisition of new works of art; support for concerts, performances, exhibitions, and readings; artist fellowships; and conservation and preservation of existing works of art. These grants directly help to increase the quantity and quality of artworks (the supply objective) and may also increase opportunities for state residents to experience these artworks (the access objective). In 2004, support for concerts, performances, exhibitions, and readings represented almost 60 percent of the value of grants in this category.

The second category consists of grants designed to support organizations rather than particular projects or programs. Included in this category are grants for operational, administrative, artistic, and endowment support; to help establish new organizations; for facility construction, maintenance, and renovation; and for equipment purchase or rental. Whether these grants serve to expand supply, promote access, or cultivate demand depends on the receiving organization’s mission. For example, a general operating support (GOS) grant to a local children’s theater company may be more likely to cultivate demand than would a GOS grant to a cutting-edge art gallery. In 2004, GOS represented almost 80 percent of the value of grants in this category.

Grants in support of youth and adult arts learning make up the third category. Activities supported include artist residencies, arts instruction, assessment, curriculum development and implementation, identification and documentation of artworks, translation of written artworks and writing about art, and audience services. Together, arts instruction and artist residencies accounted for more than 80 percent of the value of grants in this category in 2004. Note that some arts instruction grants support the professional training of artists in conservatories and art schools, which is a supply-side activity in our framework. Also note that learning is very broadly defined here and includes many activities that might better be characterized as “exposure.”

The fourth category is grants designed to broaden arts participation and increase public awareness of the arts (that is, to promote access). Included here are grants for fairs and festivals; marketing of artworks and arts events; recording, filming, and taping; publication of books and manuals; distribution of films, books, and prints; broadcasting; and public awareness campaigns.6 In 2004, broadcasting accounted for 43 percent of the total value of grants in this category, followed by fairs and festivals at 40 percent.

The fifth category is regranting. SAAs do not collect information on how these grants are used, but the primary recipients are local arts agencies. According to Americans for the Arts (2001), 53 percent of local arts agencies provided GOS or special project support to local arts organizations in 2000, and 66 percent implemented arts education programs and activities. We do not know the relative importance of these forms of local arts agency support, however, because the value of grants in these categories is not reported. Nor do we know exactly what types of activities are classified as “arts education.”

The sixth category covers grants given for a miscellany of activities not accounted for elsewhere, such as technical assistance to artists and arts organizations, professional development and training, conferences and seminars, and research and planning. This category also includes activities classified as “not reported” or “none of the above,” which in some years were quite significant. In 2000, for example, such activities by themselves accounted for approximately 12 percent of the total value of SAA grants. Many of the grants classified as “not reported” represent legislative line item grants that were passed through SAA budgets but not awarded through SAA competitive panel processes.7

Trends in Grantmaking by Type of Activity

Figure 6.3 shows the distribution of SAA grants by activity type. In 2004, institutional support for organizations represented just over one-half of the total value of SAA grants, while support for the creation, exhibition, and preservation of the arts represented 17 percent. Percentages directed toward arts learning, regranting, and broadening of arts participation were much lower, even less than the percentage for “other” activities.


Figure 6.4 shows trends in SAA grantmaking by activity type from 1987 to 2004. Evident from the graph is that institutional support for organizations has dominated SAA grantmaking for many years. It has consistently represented the largest proportion by value, averaging 49 percent of the total over the period. Even at its lowest point, in 2000, it accounted for more than 40 percent of the total; at its highest point, in 1994, it reached 55 percent. Over the same period, grants in support of arts creation, exhibition, and preservation averaged 21 percent of the total, while the various other activity categories hovered between 5 and 10 percent of the total.8


Funding of Education-Oriented Activities

As noted above, the National Standard recipient and activity data do not reveal what recipients of institutional support typically do with the funds they receive. Nor do these data allow us to determine the extent to which activities such as the presentation and exhibition of artworks have an educational dimension.9 However, the National Standard reports a third type of data that explicitly accounts for arts learning activities subsumed within other activity categories. Unfortunately, these “education- oriented activities” data underwent a definitional change in 1998 that effectively splits the sample in half—and some grantees are apparently rather casual about what they consider to be “educational.”10 But these data still shed important light on the extent to which grants that do not fall within our “arts learning” category have been funding arts learning activities.

A look at these data for 1987 through 1997 reveals that, on average, just over 6 percent of the total value of SAA institutional support grants and roughly 12 percent of the value of grants in support of arts creation, exhibition, and preservation were used in support of activities with a large educational component. In the 10 years from 1987 to 1997, the share of education-oriented grants overall rose from approximately 8 percent to 18 percent of the value of all SAA grants.

The 1998–2004 data indicate an even higher percentage of SAA grants supporting educational activities: By value, education-oriented grants accounted for almost one-quarter of all SAA grants over the period, including 17 percent of institutional support grants and 25 percent of grants supporting the creation, exhibition, and preservation of art.11 Looked at another way, within the set of education-oriented grants, almost 40 percent consisted of institutional support grants, and another 18 percent supported arts creation, exhibition, and preservation. Slightly less than one-quarter of all the education-oriented grants made by SAAs fell within the activity category of “arts learning” defined above.12

These data reveal that much of the SAAs’ education-oriented grantmaking goes to artists and arts organizations that view a large part of what they do, but by no means all of it, as educational. By comparison, much less is directed to activities specific to arts learning, such as curriculum development or writing about art. Even artist residencies, long the mainstay of SAAs’ youth arts learning programs, accounted for less than 15 percent of the value of all grants identified as education oriented between 1998 and 2004.

How much and what kinds of educational programming do SAAs support through grants that are not specifically targeting arts learning? Unfortunately, as discussed in Chapters Four and Five, few data are available on community-based arts learning opportunities for youth or adults, including opportunities made possible through SAA grants. We do know that with respect to institutional support, about 30 percent of the SAAs offering GOS required applicants to provide some kind of educational programming. 13 However, SAA requirements typically did not specify what form these education programs should take. Certainly, no SAA that we know of required all of their GOS recipients’ education programs to be standards based.14 The limited information we have about such programs suggests that most still consist of visits to schools (assembly programs) and student field trips to off-campus performances and exhibits. They typically are not embedded in any sort of comprehensive, sequential arts learning.15 Most would therefore be more correctly categorized as arts exposure rather than arts learning, which we would describe as increasing access to the arts.

SAA Programs That Target Youth Arts Learning

We can say somewhat more about SAA grant programs connected to the K–12 public schools, of which there are three main types: artist residency programs, professional development programs, and school-community partnerships.16 Often developed in conjunction with the NEA, these programs are the focus of considerable SAA attention: On average, SAAs dedicate 1.5 full-time-equivalent employees to them, a significant commitment since few SAAs have more than 20 full-time-equivalent employees (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and NEA, 2005; National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 2005).

The artist residency has traditionally been the centerpiece of SAA demand-side grantmaking. SAAs in all 50 states either directly administer or fund programs that put artists in K–12 classrooms.17 But the nature and purpose of artist residencies are changing. We discuss the evolution of artist residencies and what they imply for broader changes in SAA approaches to promoting arts learning below.

In addition to funding residencies, a number of SAAs have instituted small programs to provide in-service training to educational professionals. One of the longest-running programs of this kind is the Nebraska Art Council’s Prairie Visions Institute. Since 1988, Prairie Visions has provided two- to three-week summer workshops to classroom teachers, arts specialists, and school administrators in areas such as curriculum development (Fiske, 1997).18 The goal of Prairie Visions is to help schools make the study of the visual arts integral to a Nebraska K–12 education. To date, over 2,500 Nebraska teachers and administrators have participated (Nebraska Arts Council, n.d.). According to a 2005 survey, 37 out of 50 SAAs now provide similar programs either as summer institutes or as workshops scattered throughout the school year (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and NEA, 2005).

A more recent trend among SAAs has been to support youth arts learning through programs that promote arts education partnerships among local arts organizations, K–12 schools, individual artists, parent groups, and civic groups using the national and state arts standards as a common reference.19 In the state of Washington, for example, the Community Consortium grants program of the Washington State Arts Commission (2008) funds arts education partnerships that meet the following criteria:

  • have long-term, sustainable plans to expand and/or improve in-school arts education for all students
  • are aligned with Washington state’s arts standards
  • feature active and committed community partnerships
  • respond to local needs and opportunities and develop local resources
  • have district-level support and participation
  • demonstrate effective and sustainable arts education practices in areas including assessment of student learning in the arts, planning, evaluation, budgeting, and advocacy.

The Commission believes that strong community-based partners can help schools to develop and implement standards-based arts curricula, recognize and take advantage of arts resources available in their neighborhoods, and strengthen the support of parents and other community members for arts education. Schools will then be in a much better position to sustain arts education in the face of competing claims on their budgets and schedules (RAND interviews). As of November 2007, SAAs in 20 states had initiated arts education partnership programs, though most do not appear to be as comprehensive or as rigorous as Washington’s.

These kinds of efforts look promising, but they represent, as our analysis makes clear, a relatively small fraction of SAA grantmaking. Once again, only about 10 percent of the value of SAA grantmaking is specifically directed to arts learning, compared with one-half of all grantmaking dollars going to organizations in the form of general institutional support—mostly as GOS—and almost 20 percent going to support the creation, exhibition, and preservation of art.

Beyond Grantmaking?

Although very important, grantmaking is not the only policy tool available to SAAs. A number of SAAs have moved beyond the role of grantmaker in recent years, becoming providers of more-comprehensive services to the arts community and others within their states (Lowell, 2004; Lowell and Ondaatje, 2006). A review of SAA Web sites, which we have summarized in Table 6.1, reveals some of the ways in which SAAs are becoming information hubs as well as financial resources for their state arts communities.

As shown in the table, 80 percent of SAAs now compile rosters of artists available for teaching or touring, and roughly three-quarters publish or provide links to cultural calendars and arts-related job opportunities. Over half of all SAAs sponsor statewide conferences or workshops on arts-related topics, provide materials or links relevant to arts advocacy, provide links to arts content standards and/or curriculum guides, and showcase selected artists either in physical exhibition spaces or online. A smaller number provide presenter or venue listings and links to online business and career management materials, sponsor cultural tours or trails, direct artists to information about health insurance, and review or podcast local arts events.


In the following sections, we explore the extent to which SAAs have used tools other than grantmaking to cultivate demand. Specifically, we consider the historical role of SAAs in supporting youth arts learning, from the genesis of the artist residency concept to more recent activities such as participation in governmental forums and convening of stakeholders. Our analysis draws on a survey of the literature on NEA and SAA education policy, as well as on interviews and discussions with individuals involved in the field.

Brief History of SAA Support for Youth Arts Learning

The first SAA forays into the field of youth arts learning came in 1969, a time when the vast majority of SAAs still depended heavily on the NEA for funding (Scott, 1970; Larson, 1983). In that year, the NEA expanded both the scope and the geographic reach of a small residency program for poets that it had piloted in a handful of states. This new Artists-in-Schools program was jointly supported by the NEA and the U.S. Office of Education and was administered by SAAs (Eisner, 1974; Biddle, 1988).

According to Biddle (1988), the declared purpose of the Artists-in-Schools program was to supplement the public school arts curriculum already provided by arts specialists and classroom teachers. The visiting artist was to get students excited about art, not provide them with a comprehensive arts education. The study of art, especially art history, was within the purview of the National Endowment for the Humanities, not the NEA.20 Further, the U.S. Office of Education was responsible for federal programs addressing elementary schools, secondary schools, and teacher education. Thus, neither funding nor oversight of the arts education offered in K–12 public schools originally appeared to be a natural function for the NEA and its state-level satellites.21

Yet responsibility for youth arts education at the federal level soon devolved on the NEA—and by extension, the SAAs. Chapman (1992) claims this happened because “arts education was only one of many topics to be addressed” within the Office of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities, whereas “[by] virtue of its title, the Arts Endowment seemed to have responsibility for all proposals dealing with the arts, including arts education” (p. 125).22 Chapman also remarked that the Office of Education was hampered by “several staff cutbacks and various reorganizations” (p. 124). In any case, by 1974, the NEA had adopted full fiscal responsibility for the Artists-in-Schools program, and all 50 SAAs were receiving funds for its operation. Chapman estimates that by 1982, this program—which in 1980 changed its name to Artists-in-Education—had become the largest federal arts program for K–12 children.23

The Artists-in-Schools/Artists-in-Education program provoked considerable criticism from arts educators and arts education theorists. The major complaint was that artist residencies were not an effective way to teach children about the arts—and that the NEA and SAAs had avoided and even quashed unbiased evaluations of the program for this reason. Related criticisms were that the program’s primary function was to provide jobs for artists, that it contributed to the loss of jobs for arts specialists, that it reached very few students, and that the “deschooling” of arts education by introducing individuals from outside the school system marginalized the arts as subjects not requiring certified instructors (Eisner, 1974; Smith, 1977; Day, 1978; Chapman, 1982a).

Our interviews with SAA staff and our reading of the literature lead us to think there is some truth to these charges. Under the original structure of the Artists-in-Schools/Artists-in-Education program, ability to teach was not a main criteria in selecting artists.24 Artists were not integrated into classrooms because their work was considered— by them and everyone else—to be entirely outside the curricular structure. Further, residencies have never reached more than a very small percentage of American children: Eisner (1974) reported that just 2 to 3 percent of U.S. public schools were supporting an artist in residence; and Bumgarner (1994a) estimated that only 7 percent of U.S. public school students in 1990 had access to a resident artist.25

There is also no question that one of the program’s major purposes was to support artists. James Backas, executive director of the Maryland State Arts Council from 1972 to 1976 and 1986 to 2001, acknowledged this openly, stating that the Artists-in-Schools program had “two major purposes: (1) to introduce art to the young or to the uninitiated adult in a creative, participatory role through close personal contact with a professional artist; and (2) to provide meaningful employment for professional artists that will not interfere with their own creative work” (Backas, 1981, p. 13). The NEA, too, acknowledged this point in its influential 1988 Toward Civilization: A Report on Arts Education.

Less clear is whether the growth of artist residencies in schools—and by the mid-1980s, there probably was no growth—actually led to a decline in the employment of specialist and classroom teachers trained in the arts.26 We found no national data on school employment of arts specialists over the period and no empirical studies of a possible relationship between artist residencies and arts specialist employment. However, in the late 1970s, there were large-scale layoffs of arts specialists in a number of urban schools districts and in California following passage of Proposition 13.27 Additionally, declining enrollments in the late 1970s and early 1980s meant that schools across the country lost resources, forcing them to lay off (or simply not hire) classroom teachers as well as arts specialists (Arts, Education, and Americans Panel, 1977; Morisi, 1994).

By the mid-1980s, the sense that all was not well with American arts education was growing. In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education’s A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform was published, expressing concern about “a rising tide of mediocrity” in American public schools and spurring a “back to basics” reform movement. This report’s failure to acknowledge the arts as one of those basics was highly unwelcome, if not necessarily a surprise, to members of both the arts community and the arts education community (Herbert, 2004). In 1989, President George H. W. Bush and the state governors announced national education goals that initially did not include the arts. At the same time, some leaders in the arts community, and particularly at the NEA, were expressing concerns about what they saw as the widespread problem of “cultural illiteracy” in America,28 by which they meant the lack of a general appreciation for and understanding of the arts (Hodsoll, 1985). A first step to addressing the problem—and to making the arts basic—they believed, was to reintroduce the arts as core academic subjects in the schools. The NEA’s 1988 Toward Civilization: A Report on Arts Education summarized its new approach to arts education based on this view.

To further the goal of advancing arts literacy, the NEA introduced a program in 1987 designed to encourage SAAs to work with their state departments of education and local school districts to develop a statewide, sequential arts curriculum. This program, called Artists-in-Schools Basic Education Grants (AISBEG), never accounted for more than one-quarter of the NEA’s arts education budget and was maintained as a separate program for only four years.29 But it represents the first time that education, and not simply exposure, was acknowledged as the purpose of an NEA/SAA arts education program. Further, the AISBEG application guidelines were quite specific about what must be done to ensure that students receive an arts education: develop, establish, and realize (1) specific objectives and competencies for student accomplishment in the arts; (2) curricula and resources aimed at sequential achievement of those objectives and competencies; and (3) methods for evaluating student progress toward those objectives and competencies.30

AISBEG represented a major policy departure for most, if not all, SAAs.31 Some SAAs were deeply unhappy with the new program, seeing it as a diversion from their focus on introducing children to the arts through direct contact with artists. Several feared that closer relations with their state departments of education, which without exception were (and still are) among the largest departments within state governments, could compromise their independence. These SAAs have largely returned to the pre-AISBEG emphasis on artist residencies as the primary tool for encouraging youth arts learning (Bumgarner, 1994b; RAND interviews). 32

But for some SAAs, AISBEG proved to be a catalyst that transformed their approach to youth arts learning. Their collaboration with educators has brought a number of realizations, including (1) the stakeholders in youth arts learning (such as arts specialists, classroom teachers, arts policymakers, school administrators, artists, arts organizations, parents, and elected officials) are various, each with a different view of what the targeted objectives and competencies for student accomplishment in the arts should be; (2) representatives of these stakeholders are rarely in the same room together; (3) despite the differences, common ground can be found; (4) communities typically lack the information they need to help decide among competing priorities; and (5) inadequate arts education is, above all else, a political issue that cannot be resolved unless all stakeholders agree to work together.

In the following sections, we look at the experiences of two SAAs—the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (NJSCA)—that have worked closely with their state departments of education and with others to improve the condition and status of youth arts learning in their states. Although some aspects of these experiences are unique, we think they nonetheless echo what is occurring in other states where SAAs have become strong policy partners with other stakeholders in youth arts learning (RAND interviews). These experiences may offer lessons to SAAs still seeking to have a strong, positive influence on the amount and quality of arts education received by K–12 students in their states.

Rhode Island: A Systems Approach to Improving Youth Arts Learning

RISCA, like the vast majority of SAAs, is small relative to other units of state government. When the NEA introduced AISBEG in 1987, RISCA’s total revenues—including both state appropriations and NEA grants—were just $1.1 million, or 0.04 percent of the state of Rhode Island’s total revenues, which is an about-average percentage for SAAs.33 Just under half of RISCA’s revenues came from the NEA rather than the state legislature, a somewhat larger federal share than for most SAAs at that time (Lowell and Ondaatje, 2006). Twenty years later, in 2007, RISCA’s total revenue was $4.4 million, putting it among the top five SAAs in its share of total state revenue and its total revenue per capita. Fourteen percent of its revenues represented grants from the NEA, which was just slightly above average for SAAs.

RISCA was among the first set of SAAs to apply for and receive a planning grant under AISBEG. According to RISCA’s director of arts education, the position of arts coordinator at the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (RIDE) has only been filled sporadically, so it was up to RISCA staff to find people they could work with there. They chose the Literacy Office for two very practical reasons. First, the issue of literacy was receiving a great deal of attention both statewide and nationally at the time, so the office had money as well as regulatory punch. Second, some Literary Office staff were interested in working with RISCA to explore the issue of arts literacy.

RISCA and RIDE worked closely together to develop Rhode Island’s voluntary “Arts Framework” (including arts content standards), which was published in 1996. In 1999, after policy conversations initiated by the two agencies, then-governor Lincoln Almond asked them to administer a task force on literacy in the arts, which was charged with examining the relationship between education reform and the arts and making policy recommendations on how the arts can have a significant effect on the educational agenda of Rhode Island.34 To address this relationship, the task force reviewed a wide range of scholarly research and writing and held public dialogue sessions around the state. It also acquired information and baseline data through surveys collected from Rhode Island K–12 school districts, institutions of higher learning, arts educators, artists, and community organizations.

A key premise of the task force was that arts learning in home and community settings, as well as at school, is critical to providing a comprehensive arts education to all K–12 students. Organizations and individuals at home, in the community, and at school together form a system of arts learning providers that operates best when values, goals, and resources are aligned. This premise was based in part on research conducted by the Arts Education Partnership and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (and reported in Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning [Fiske, 1999]), which identified “the active involvement of influential segments of the community” as the single most important factor in shaping and implementing effective districtwide arts education policies and programs (p. 9). It also reflected stakeholder views expressed in surveys and in conversations with members of the task force.

What the task force found, however, is that arts learning in Rhode Island homes and communities is often disconnected from arts learning in the schools because the various providers are not coordinated sufficiently. Accordingly, the task force called for the development of action plans to

  • map the arts resources available in Rhode Island cities and towns
  • raise awareness of the national standards for arts education and the Rhode Island Arts Framework
  • facilitate coordination among providers
  • align public and private resources to that end.

The task force also called for a change in Rhode Island’s high school arts graduation requirement to a “standards-based demonstration of proficiency and knowledge for all students, based on Rhode Island and national arts standards” (State of Rhode Island, Governor’s Task Force, 2001, p. 32). To draw up and help implement the plans, a network consisting of all stakeholders was to be created and was to be administered by RISCA, RIDE, and the Rhode Island Office of Higher Education. Rhode Island’s Arts Learning Network was born.

In 2003, the Arts Learning Network convinced the Rhode Island Board of Regents of Elementary and Secondary Education to pass a statewide, proficiency-based arts graduation requirement. Beginning in 2008, all graduating seniors must demonstrate proficiency in two of the three areas of creating, performing, and responding. To help with the new requirement, RISCA offered planning grants to school districts and assisted in organizing and supporting four educator-artist- parent-student teams, one each in dance, music, theater, and the visual arts. These teams developed district-level guidelines on how to define and measure discipline-specific proficiency in the three areas. RISCA also helped to set up and fund Rhode Island’s Arts Passport program, in which professional and university arts organiza-tions provide free access to their events and exhibits to help high school students meet the graduation requirement (Galligan and Burgess, 2005).

The new graduation requirement has drawn considerable attention to arts education in Rhode Island from parents, students, teachers, and school administrators, and not all of it has been positive. There was a recent backlash by parents worried that their high school seniors might not graduate because of the requirement (RAND interviews). It seems that they had not taken the requirement seriously, which is exactly the point: Proficiency in the arts has been made a requirement for graduation, so students, teachers, and parents must all take arts learning seriously. According to our respondent, despite the backlash, the requirement still has the full support of Rhode Island’s Education Commissioner.

New Jersey: Identifying Priorities, Raising Visibility

New Jersey is geographically one of the smaller states, although its land area is roughly seven times that of the smallest state, Rhode Island. NJSCA’s budget is large relative to the budgets of most other SAAs. In 1987, it ranked third in the nation in total revenue per capita, at $14.0 million total revenue, and its share of state government revenue put it in the top five; in 2007, its $23.5 million in total revenue put it among the top ten SAAs, and its share of state government revenue put it in the top five. Less than 3 percent of its revenues derived from the NEA (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 2007).

But New Jersey has 611 school districts to serve its 8.7 million population, and each one is responsible for developing its own curriculum (RAND interviews).35 Accordingly, the process of developing and implementing statewide policies to encourage comprehensive arts education throughout New Jersey has been long and challenging— and it is not over. The recently formed New Jersey Arts Education Partnership, however, with NJSCA playing a lead role, is an encouraging development.

The story of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership parallels that of Rhode Island’s Arts Learning Network in a number of ways.36 As with RISCA, NJSCA first began to collaborate with the New Jersey Department of Education on curricular matters largely because of the money and encouragement provided through AISBEG. In 1987, NJSCA joined with the Alliance for Arts Education/New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Education Association, and the New Jersey Department of State in a “literacy in the arts” task force that was established by the New Jersey legislature to “create a comprehensive plan for the appropriate development of arts education in the elementary and secondary schools of the state” (Literacy in the Arts Task Force, 1989, p. 47). Among this task force’s specific assignments were the following:

  • Conduct a survey of all arts education programs in the state.
  • Develop a model curriculum with sequential instruction for grades K–12.
  • Explore partnerships and financial resources for the support of arts education in New Jersey.

The task force found that New Jersey had in place a legal and regulatory framework reflecting a strong commitment to arts education. However, it also found that despite an arts graduation requirement mandated by the state, high school seniors in New Jersey could easily graduate without taking a single course in music, dance, theater, creative writing, or the visual arts. Further, the survey conducted by the task force indicated that performance too often drove the arts curriculum in the schools. Insufficient attention was paid to the history of artists and arts forms, and students received limited exposure to the “aesthetic, interpretive, and critical aspects of arts literacy” (Literacy in the Arts Task Force, 1989, p. 12). The task force concluded that without effective evaluation procedures, “the arts will never be embraced” by schools or—perhaps more important—parents (p. 13).

The work of the task force partners helped to establish New Jersey’s visual and performing arts standards in 1996, plus a curricular framework designed to support those standards (New Jersey Department of Education, 1998). However, our respondents told us that because students’ and schools’ achievements in the arts were not assessed, many observers—including some members of the New Jersey State Board of Education—suspected that New Jersey’s independent school districts were not taking the steps needed to ensure implementation of the new standards (such as providing professional development opportunities to teachers). 37

To determine the status of arts education in New Jersey and to set a baseline for the recently adopted content standards, the task force partners, led by NJSCA and at this point including the Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, embarked on a detailed information-mapping project. By the early 2000s, they had collected information on a large number of New Jersey schools. In 2002, however, the Alliance for Arts Education/ New Jersey ceased operations. A state budget squeeze and personnel and policy changes diverted the attention of NJSCA and the education department, and the data from the mapping project were never adequately analyzed.

This situation persisted until 2004, when the budgetary threats to NJSCA and the education department were defused. NJSCA joined with a new set of partners to push forward the idea of mapping the status of arts education in New Jersey schools. The education department and the state board of education—which were once again confronting the issue of assessment—signed on, and the New Jersey Arts Education Census Project was created.38 NJSCA, the New Jersey Department of Education, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, and Music for All were the partners in this effort. Music for All, a newly formed national advocacy group then based in New Jersey and “committed to expanding the role of music and the arts in education” was the leader (RAND interviews; Music for All Foundation, n.d.). The Census Project partners also formed the core of a reimagined arts education advocacy entity, the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership.39

The New Jersey Department of Education required every New Jersey public school to respond to the online survey that is at the heart of the new “mapping project” and was met with a 98.5 percent response rate. According to our respondents, schools were not tempted to overstate their achievements, because the education department and the project partners stressed the importance of understanding the true status of arts education around the state in order to resolve any problems. The fact that the two most significant funders of arts education in the state—NJSCA and the Dodge Foundation— were also project partners gave schools an extra reason to respond honestly to the survey questionnaire.

Because of its high response rate, the New Jersey survey offers a comprehensive picture of which schools are complying with the state mandate to provide a well-rounded arts education.40 More than that, the survey report, which was released in October 2007, is already proving an effective tool for raising awareness of arts education among parents, school administrators, and elected officials (RAND interviews).41 The partners are now taking advantage of that heightened awareness to push for a number of changes, including inclusion of per-pupil arts spending in New Jersey’s Comparative Spending Guide for public schools, professional development for school and district administrators that emphasizes the importance of the visual and performing arts, the creation of a clearinghouse that will enable schools in need of certified arts specialists to find them quickly and easily, and greater support for collaborations between arts organizations and school districts.


Our examination of SAA grantmaking patterns and trends reveals that despite gaps in the support infrastructure for demand for the arts (as identified in Chapters Four and Five), SAAs primarily focus on expanding supply of the arts and promoting access to the arts. On average, 60 to 70 percent of the value of grants awarded by SAAs between 1987 and 2004 went to supporting arts organizations or the creation, exhibition, and preservation of art, and less than 10 percent was specifically directed to arts learning.

Although roughly one-quarter of the value of SAA grants in 2004 went in part to support activities that grantees considered educational, SAAs’ promotion of arts learning through GOS and other types of grants not specific to arts learning appears to be more opportunistic than systematic. While encouraging these grantees to provide educational programming, most SAAs offer little guidance on what that programming should look like.42 Anecdotally, much of it appears to be aimed at expanding access and exposure, rather than developing the skills and knowledge needed for long-term arts engagement. But there is not much we can say about this programming, because to our knowledge, no SAA keeps track of the cost or character of the educational programming it helps make possible through GOS or program and project support grants. And no SAA has a grant program specifically directed to adult arts learning.

What we can say is that whether SAAs’ education-oriented grantmaking is broadly or narrowly defined, it is simply too small to reach more than a tiny fraction of their states’ populations. In fact, even if SAAs were to devote their entire budgets to grants in aid of arts learning, the impact would be minimal: In 2007, SAA budgets represented approximately 0.05 percent of state general fund expenditures, or just over $1.25 per state citizen (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 2007).

But grantmaking dollars do not fully reflect the effects that SAAs can have on arts learning in their states. An increasing number of SAAs are relying on tools other than—and in addition to—grants to promote arts learning, particularly youth arts learning. For example, many SAAs now support summer institutes, workshops, and other professional development opportunities designed to help educators navigate their states’ new K–12 arts content standards. SAAs are also actively seeking to strengthen collaborations between arts organizations and schools by supporting those that are aligned with state and national arts standards, have a long-term outlook, involve parents, and enjoy district-level support and participation.

Perhaps most important is that a few SAAs—and their national association—are now forging very broad partnerships with stakeholders in youth arts learning at the state and even the national level. Through the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, SAAs helped to found the Arts Education Partnership, the primary forum for advancing arts education in America. Among other things, the Arts Education Partnership has produced highly influential research documenting the factors that correlate with strong youth arts learning programs.43 As illustrated by what has happened in Rhode Island and New Jersey, partnerships can take a long time to develop and can entail considerable effort. But RISCA and NJSCA can already point to the significant positive returns from this approach, and a number of states appear likely to follow.44

It is, of course, too soon to judge whether a few pioneering efforts represent a nationwide trend, but there is evidence that public and private arts policymakers at the federal level are paying increased attention to programs that combine educational and aesthetic experiences in order to cultivate demand. Over the past few years, the NEA has sponsored a number of nationwide initiatives designed to build the kinds of skills and knowledge that enable individuals to have engaging arts experiences. These programs include American Masterpieces, Poetry Out Loud, the NEA Arts Journalism Institutes, The Big Read, and Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (see NEA, n.d.). The foundation community is also making new commitments to furthering the field of arts education, including research (see, for example, Dana Foundation, 2003, and Wallace Foundation, 2008). In the next chapter, we suggest that the time is right for such policymakers and funders to join forces with others in the cultural, educational, business, and political communities to improve arts learning for all people, particularly the young.

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1. Except where indicated, the grantmaking data and analysis in this chapter are for the 56 U.S. arts agencies, which include agencies for the 50 states plus six special jurisdictions: American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands. Years are fiscal years unless noted otherwise.

2. The National Standard is a tool used by public arts agencies to organize and report information about their activities. National Standard codes and definitions are determined jointly by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the NEA based on feedback from all SAAs, regional arts organizations, and other data users. The NEA requires state and regional arts organizations to follow these guidelines in their reporting. We thank the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies for providing this information.

3. These groupings are modifications of the categories constructed by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the NEA for their annual reports on SAA grantmaking. See Appendix B for a full listing. Data coded “none of the above” or “not reported” are not discussed; after 1986, they represent a very small fraction (1 percent in 2004) of the total value of grants.

4. These patterns reflect the experience of most SAAs. In 2002 (date of available data), for example, four-fifths of SAAs devoted over 50 percent of their grantmaking dollars to artists and arts organizations. But there were, of course, exceptions—for example, 72 percent of the Wyoming Arts Council’s 2002 budget went to local arts agencies, and the Maine Arts Commission devoted over one-third of its 2002 budget to educational institutions.

5. Similarly, because educational institutions—and particularly institutions of higher education—are important both as presenters of artworks and trainers of artists, some grants to educational institutions may have been used to expand supply and promote access rather than to cultivate demand.

6. Activities in the recording, filming, and taping category do not include the creation of media artworks.

7. In 2002, for example, fully 40 percent of the California Arts Council’s grants ($15.6 million) were classified as “not reported” under the National Standard. This corresponds exactly to $15.6 million in “legislative member requests” reported by the Council (California Arts Council, 2006).

8. There is greater variance across states in grantmaking by activity than in grantmaking by recipient. In 2002, 19 out of 50 SAAs spent more than one-half of their grantmaking budgets on institutional support, while 35 spent more than one-third. SAAs in four states (Hawaii, Maine, Oklahoma, Vermont) spent less than 10 percent. Proportionately, the SAA that spent the most on arts learning was the Maine Arts Commission, at 42 percent of its grantmaking budget. The SAA that spent the least was the Georgia Council for the Arts, at less than one-tenth of 1 percent.

9. In fact, because of the wide range of possible arts education activities, and the degree to which such activities are embedded in many different kinds of grants and institutions, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies feels strongly that the recipient and activity data do not provide an accurate proxy for the entirety of SAAs’ education-oriented grantmaking.

10. From 1986 to 1997, a single composite code identified grants that involved the presenting or touring of art as well as “any organized or systematic educational effort with the primary goal of increasing knowledge or skills in the arts [or using] the arts to teach non-arts subjects” (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, n.d.). Beginning in 1998, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the NEA replaced this code with a unique arts education code that identifies whether 50 percent or more of the activities supported by a grant are designed to “increase knowledge or skill in the arts with measurable outcomes” (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, n.d.). Although the second set of data is more reliable than the first, a number of our respondents told us that their grantees still have difficulty deciding whether 50 percent or more of the activities supported by a particular grant should be classified as educational. This difficulty is more pronounced for institutional support grants than for other types of grants.

11. We averaged over the 1998–2004 period. Note that the apparent jump in education-oriented grants between 1987 and 1997 and 1998 and 2004 may be misleading because of the definitional change in 1998.

12. The state with the highest share of education-oriented grants in 2002 was Hawaii, at 59 percent; the state with the least was Tennessee, at 7 percent.

13. This is based on a survey of 2007–2008 grant guidelines for SAAs in the 50 states.

14. Our visits and conversations with SAA staff suggest that at most SAAs, staff that direct institutional support programs coordinate only loosely, if they coordinate at all, with staff that direct arts education programs.

15. See, for example, Washington State Arts Commission, 2006; Rowe et al., 2004; and Myers, 2001.

16. A few SAAs also support after-school arts learning programs, early childhood programs, and programs for pre-service teachers. See, for example, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and NEA, 2005.

17. Based on a review of individual SAA Web sites in February 2008 and data presented in National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and NEA, 2005.

18. Prairie Visions was originally funded by the J. Paul Getty Trust as part of its Discipline-Based Arts Education initiative. The Nebraska Department of Education, the Nebraska Arts Council, nine state universities, two art museums, and the state art teachers’ association were partners in the program.

19. Integration into the school curriculum through adherence to the standards is a key characteristic distinguishing these arts education partnerships from the more ad hoc collaborations described in Rowe et al., 2004.

20. See Biddle, 1988, and Chapman, 1992. The 1965 enabling legislation for the NEA makes no mention of arts education. It was not until the reauthorization of the NEA in 1990 that arts education was recognized explicitly as one of its responsibilities. In 1997, Congress required the NEA to raise arts education to a priority (U.S. Congress, 1997).

21. It is important to keep in mind that the vast majority of public arts education flows through state and local education agencies and institutions.

22. Myers and Brooks (2002) suggest that the NEA also became involved in arts education early on because it owed political favors to the arts education community, which had been helpful in gaining congressional support for its creation.

23. The Artists-in-Education program expanded on Artists-in-Schools by including after-school programs.

24. According to one of our respondents, most SAAs did screen residency artists in an attempt to avoid problems, but screening consisted mainly of ensuring that the person did not have a criminal record. See, for example, various quotations in Arts, Education, and Americans Panel, 1977.

25. The name of the Artists-in-Education program changed to Arts in Education in 1988.

26. Between 1986 and 2004, the annual average rate of growth in the total value of grants for artist residencies in schools was, at 1 percent, less than the rate of inflation.

27. See, for example, Moskowitz, 2003, and Illinois Arts Alliance, 2006. California’s Proposition 13, which passed in 1978, reduced property taxes by 57 percent, leading to major cutbacks in arts programs and layoffs of arts teachers.

28. As indicated above, arts educators and their representative organizations had long been aware of the decline in arts literacy among American youth. According to one of our reviewers, they “pleaded with the NEA to change course” well before it actually did.

29. Authors’ calculations based on data provided in NEA Annual Report, various years. In fiscal year 1992, AISBEG and the State Arts in Education grants program (a program funding artist residencies) merged to form a new program, Arts Education Partnership Grants.

30. Paraphrase of Bumgarner (1994b, p. 13), who quotes the NEA’s Arts in Education program guidelines for fiscal year 1990.

31. In interviews with Arts in Education staff members at the NEA and at several SAAs, Bumgarner (1994b) found that no SAA had an “AISBEG-like” program prior to AISBEG itself. According to SAA staff, however, the genesis of their own AISBEG programs was the educational reform movement that began in the mid-1980s, not AISBEG per se.

32. For example, SAAs now appear to put much greater emphasis on the teaching abilities of artists chosen for school-based residencies. These artists are now called “teaching artists,” and our SAA respondents told us that the change is not merely semantic: In several states, artists known to be poor teachers have been removed from SAA teaching artist rosters.

33. Authors’ calculations based on state legislative appropriations data for 1987 provided by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (2007), NEA grantmaking data published in the NEA’s Annual Report for 1987, and U.S. Census Bureau data on state and local government finances (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1990). Total revenues for RISCA were calculated as state legislative appropriations plus NEA grants; total state government revenues include federal transfers.

34. The task force was made up of 19 leaders broadly representing the stakeholders in youth arts education: arts educators, classroom teachers, school administrators, parent-teacher organizations, arts policymakers, and artists and arts organizations. All task force members were appointed by the governor (Galligan and Burgess, 2005).

35. Rhode Island’s 36 districts serve a population of slightly over one million.

36. This is not a coincidence. We were told by respondents in New Jersey and Rhode Island that the two SAAs have borrowed ideas from each other since at least the 1990s.

37. The New Jersey State Board of Education is the governing body for the state’s education department. It sets the rules needed to implement state education laws. See State of New Jersey, Department of Education, 2006.

38. Education policymakers in New Jersey were concerned about possible neglect of all core curriculum content standards areas not subject to statewide testing under NCLB. Their first data collection, in 2004, addressed the extent to which K–12 public school instruction in world languages was meeting state standards. See New Jersey Department of Education, 2005.

39. The new partnership has many members, including Music for All, NJSCA, the New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey Music Educators Association, Art Educators of New Jersey, Young Audiences, the New Jersey PTA, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey. See New Jersey Arts Education Census Project, 2007a.

40. Comparisons have been facilitated by the creation of an “arts education index,” an arithmetic combination of scores related to survey responses on the various components of arts education in each school.

41. For example, in a November 2007 meeting of the state board of education, the first hour was devoted to discussing the survey results.

42. Based on a review of SAA grant guidelines for 2007–2008. There are, of course, exceptions: The Arizona Commission on the Arts, for example, requires each of its larger GOS recipients (organizations with total adjusted operating incomes in excess of $1 million) to have a board-approved plan for K–12 education that aligns with the Arizona arts standards.

43. The Arts Education Partnership is co-managed by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the Council of Chief State School Officers and was created by the U.S. Department of Education and the NEA.

44. For example, according to a respondent, at least four SAAs have contacted New Jersey’s Arts Education Partnership about conducting a census of arts education similar to New Jersey’s.