The University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center, a joint initiative of the Harris School of Public Policy and its affiliated research organization NORC, launched in 2007 a major study of cultural building in the United States focusing on a building boom that included museums, performing arts centers and theaters. The goal of the study was to establish research that would serve as a basic and essential resource for any cultural group in the country engaged in planning construction, renovation or expansion of their facilities. The study was generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
This study will help the arts and culture sector understand more clearly the impact of the building boom on our field over the past 20 years, and also helps to distill some of the lessons learned — both positive and negative — for the future. National Arts Strategies was involved in the conceptual thinking for this project, and agreed to develop teaching and distribution materials when the researchers had completed their work. This important dissemination is part of our goal to bring the best academic thinking to cultural leaders in ways that are useful to them in their everyday work.
The results of the study provide evidenced-based guidance to groups and funders considering new projects. Among other things, these findings will help promote a more effective decision–making process for institutional leaders, trustees, donors and foundations, local and state government officials and arts organizations. This, in turn, will maximize the chances that the actual needs of the cultural organizations and the communities they serve will be better aligned and that more suitable and sustainable facilities for future generations of Americans will be built in the coming decades.
This report offers a rare opportunity for our field to look at a wealth of data that has been reviewed and analyzed by a nationally recognized team of researchers and made available to all who care about how resources are allocated in the arts. You can find out more about the study at the Cultural Policy Center’s website, where we have also created an online “bookshelf” for leaders and donors who want to dig deeper into the findings.