SMU Releases Arts Org Health Check Report

by Paula Newton December 6, 2013
Photo: © William Dudziak,

Photo: © William Dudziak,

Why do some arts organizations fail, others thrive, and many seem to consistently remain in the middle of some nervous tightrope act? The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University has just released its inaugural report assessing the health of the nonprofit arts industry. Some smart folks at the SMU Meadows School of the Arts and the SMU Cox School of Business got together to gather and interpret data from all over the country to identify which factors make some arts organizations more successful than others.

“Some of the findings were as one would expect, but we did find some surprises,” said NCAR director Dr. Zannie Voss. “Perhaps more than any other industry, arts organizations are driven by managerial and artistic expertise.”

For those who like to dig into data and pie charts, the report is available online at, although they are still uploading and interpreting data. NCAR admits to the need for further research and they welcome input: “Some anomalies also point to additional questions to explore.” There are plans for a YouTube channel for video responses, as well as an online resource library with helpful tools and templates. And, sometime in 2014, NCAR will launch an interactive dashboard, created in partnership with IBM, which will be accessible to arts organizations nationwide. Nonprofit arts groups will be able to plug in their own numbers and see how they measure up to successful performance standards.

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