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ArtsFund hosted Turning Data Into Action on April 11, a convening centered on how data drives decision-making in support of the arts by arts organizations, policy makers, civic leaders, funders, and businesses. One hundred attendees from over 60 organizations attended the event at Seattle Art Museum, representing arts and cultural organizations, public entities, and funders from across the region.

The convening began with a review of the findings of ArtsFund’s Economic Impact Study of Arts, Cultural, and Scientific Organizations in the Central Puget Sound Region, released in November of 2015. ArtsFund staff members Sarah Sidman and Andrew Golden reviewed the key data points as part of a broader story about how arts and culture impacts economic and community development. The slides of this presentation are available below.

Following the presentation, the panel of speakers took the stage for a lively discussion on how data influences their work. The panel featured Sung Yang, Deputy Executive, Office of King County Executive Dow Constantine; Kim Vu, Seattle Market Manager, Enterprise Business & Community Engagement, Bank of America; Tracey Wickersham, Director of Cultural Tourism, Visit Seattle; and Bernie Griffin, Managing Director, the 5th Avenue Theatre. The panel began with each speaker talking about how data influences their work, followed by a discussion moderated by Terri Hiroshima, Vice-Chair, Seattle Arts Commission.

Kim Vu opened by discussing Bank of America’s use of data as a funder and community partner. Kim said data is vital to her work with the community, saying one “can’t really make decisions or create change without data.” She spoke further about how the data from the Economic Impact Study reflects how arts and culture impact the key areas where Bank of America contributes funds. Bank of America has invested over $3 million to the arts in the region in the last 10 years.

Sung Yang spoke to how data “does not exist in a vacuum—data tells a story,” adding that investing in the arts is good not just for art’s sake, but because it is good for the broader community. As a public official, he stated the findings from the study that most strongly support public investment in arts and culture center around the public mission of the arts, and pointed to the number of student visits, the amount of free and discounted tickets provided by cultural organizations, and the amount of contributed income coming from other sources.

Tracey Wickersham shared her view from the tourism perspective, citing the research about non-local patron visits and expenditures. Speaking on how she has used the Economic Impact Study in her work, Tracey said, “The study is important because it puts clear, external justifications on the focus we are placing on culture.” She went on to speak on the close links between tourism and the arts, saying they have a “symbiotic relationship,” with both being important and valuable to each other. “We have the data which shows that if we turn our back on [the cultural tourism] market, we are missing [something] really important.”

Bernie Griffin spoke last before the panel discussion from the point of view of an arts organization. Bernie talked about how “arts people” have not traditionally been “data people,” and that they have had to learn and adapt to stay strong. She added that data is a tool which can strengthen the sector, and that the data shows how “we are all interdependent on each other, so we can have this community of artists living here.” Bernie reminded the audience that “we exist to serve our community” and that “we have strength in numbers,” encouraging board members, business leaders, corporate partners and arts organizations to share in delivering the message about the broad impact of the arts.

An open discussion followed, covering a wide range of topics including qualitative versus quantitative data and their uses, forming and evolving partnerships, contributed income, and more. The panel took the remaining time for open discussion and questions from the audience.

Members from a number of organizations also took this opportunity to share how they work with data, with staff from TeenTix, SAM, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Path with Art sharing some of their experiences.

After the panel discussion attendees were invited to a networking reception for further conversation about the topics discussed during the afternoon.

Click here for the agenda for Turning Data Into Action

Click here for the slides from the presentation of the findings of the Economic Impact Study

ArtsFund’s convenings series is sponsored by The Boeing Company.

Helpful Resources
WESTAF Webinar: Why Data? What Every Arts Administrator Needs to Know
Americans for the Arts: Arts & Economic Prosperity IV—Economic Impact of the Nonprofit Arts & Culture Industry
ArtsWave: The Arts Ripple Effect: A Research-Based Strategy to Build Shared Responsibility for the Arts