After months of sifting through more than 500 arts research studies published in 2016, Createquity has selected “Characteristics of Civically Engaged Nonprofit Arts Organizations: The Results of a National Survey” by Mirae Kim as the winner of the inaugural Createquity Arts Research Prize. Kim will receive a cash award of $500 in recognition of the contribution she has made to our field’s knowledge about the arts ecosystem.

As a think tank and online publication investigating the most important issues in the arts and what we can do about them, Createquity continually gathers and reviews research in the arts sector. With the Createquity Arts Research Prize, we set out to highlight and celebrate the groundbreaking research that we see as essential in maximizing the good that the arts can do.

Arts research occupies no single, well-defined space in either higher education or the wider world; it has roots in many different academic disciplines and intellectual traditions, and it stems from a variety of sources. Candidates for the Createquity Arts Research Prize were drawn from Createquity’s ongoing internal review of hundreds of publications as well as from external nominations, and the winner was selected via two rounds of evaluation. The first was conducted internally by Createquity’s research team using the three criteria of relevance, rigor, and the extent to which the research adds to existing knowledge. The top scoring studies from this round were then evaluated by an external panel comprised of some of the foremost research minds in the country, basing their choices on the criteria above as well as inventiveness, transparency, courage displayed in the choice of topic or approach, and the extent to which the prize would represent a significant opportunity for the author. (See more information on the selection process here.)

Winner of the 2017 Createquity Arts Research Prize, Mirae Kim

Winner of the 2017 Createquity Arts Research Prize, Mirae Kim

Mirae Kim’s prize-winning publication explores one aspect of the important and under-studied question of what sets civically engaged nonprofit arts organizations apart from those whose behaviors are more responsive to market forces. The topic is increasingly resonant within the arts sector, and directly addresses Createquity’s interest in the willingness of arts institutions to prioritize community needs ahead of their own growth and prestige. To investigate this topic, Kim applies a mixed methods approach, robust in its combination of interviews with 21 arts nonprofit directors to inform a survey of approximately 900+ arts organizations, and the integration of key financial data reported on 990 forms to try to uncover patterns related to income sources. The findings of the study suggest that arts organizations that are more civically engaged (as opposed to market-driven):

  • Have stronger networks (i.e., work with a greater range of other organizations like schools, senior center);
  • Consider civic engagement as an industry norm (i.e., nonprofits are inherently civic-minded institutions); and
  • Are consciously aware of their nonprofit status.

Kim also found that earned income negatively correlates with civic engagement behaviors, whereas no correlation between government funding and civic engagement was observed.

Originally, Kim was drawn to this research topic by looking at commercial versus nonprofit theaters in New Jersey, investigating what makes the nonprofits inherently different from commercial theatres. She questioned what is it about the 501(c)(3) identity that is different from commercial ventures.

At the time of her selection, Kim was aware of Createquity but not aware of this inaugural prize. Receiving the congratulatory email in a car driving to Georgia for her new assistant professor position, she was thrilled. She had worked for three years on her research, in some isolation in Missouri. Now, she’s excited by the opportunity to discuss her work and what it means, especially with practitioners. “I love the idea of condensing research into concise briefs and sharing research,” Kim explains. “I am excited about this and looking to connect with people who might want to have a more in-depth discussion about the research and what they see in the real world. This is a great opportunity for researchers who are studying in their offices trying to work on datasets and understand the world better to convey what they find to the people who are out there making real changes.”

This is the first time Createquity (or anyone else, to our knowledge) has attempted to review a year’s worth of arts research with anything approaching this level of comprehensiveness. Congratulations go out to Mirae Kim!

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Additional finalists for the 2016 Createquity Arts Research Prize included:


Artistic education matters: survival in the arts occupations
Trine Bille and Søren Jensen
Does a formal arts education matter in one’s potential for success as an artist? We have published several articles on the role of socioeconomic status in access to arts careers, so this title immediately stuck out as relevant. The research focuses on a group of artists in Denmark, and looks at the influence of their artistic education on survival in the labor market, comparing across different artistic disciplines using detailed statistical procedures. Createquity has published a Research Spotlight of this work.

Honorable Mention

”Does “Strong and Effective” Look Different for Culturally Specific Arts Organizations?”
Zannie Giraud Voss, Glenn Voss, Andrea Louie, Zenetta Drew, and Marla Rubio Teyolia
This working paper, from SMU’s National Center for Arts Research, was a timely response to the controversial 2015 DeVos Institute of Arts Management study that recommended funders consider consolidating grantmaking to organizations of color among a smaller number of institutions. This study was a key source for Createquity’s 2016 article “Making Sense of Cultural Equity.” Its approach of looking at quantitative data to track performance on key indicators, including access to funding, is a fresh lens through which to understand the effectiveness of culturally-specific organizations.

”Do Donors Care About Results? An Analysis of Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Organizations”
Cleopatra Charles and Mirae Kim
This study addresses Createquity’s interest in understanding what motivates decision-making by arts organizations. One of our hypotheses is that donors often dictate what arts institutions do, which may or may not be in alignment with a goal of improving the overall health of the arts ecosystem or maximizing wellbeing benefits from the arts. “Do Donors Care” looks at the important question of whether or not donors change the way they give (e.g., size of donation) based on how an organization performs on outcomes such as attendance via a regression analysis that controls for things like size of organization, age, and fundraising efficiency.

”Showcasing Creativity: Programming and Presenting First Nations Performing Arts”
Jackie Bailey and Hung-Yen Yang, BYP Group; Mandy Whitford and Marija Vodjanoska from the Australia Council for the Arts
One of the few studies on this list that focuses on populations outside of the United States, “Showcasing Creativity” focuses on the the barriers Aboriginal artists face in being able to reach broader audiences in Australia. The methodology combines data visualization techniques to describe frequency of presentations of Aboriginal artists, interviews with presenters, and survey data. Createquity has published a Research Spotlight of this work.

Music, Singing, and Wellbeing – What Works?
Norma Daykin, Guy Julier, Alan Tomlinson, Catherine Meads, Louise Mansfield, Annette Payne, Lily Grigsby Duffy, Jack Lane, Giorgia D’Innocenzo, Adele Burnett, Tess Kay, Paul Dolan, Stefano Testoni, Christina Victor Dolan
We came across this systematic evidence review project from the UK think tank What Works Wellbeing just as Createquity was getting ready to publish “Everything We Know About Whether and How the Arts Improve Lives.” It immediately impressed us as a major resource about the evidence of the effect of music on the wellbeing of adults, both healthy and with dementia (the main focus of the literature under review). Although it is not the first research synthesis covering the topics in question, its comprehensiveness and elegance of design struck us as a model of the genre.

”Well, if They Like it… Effects of Social Groups’ Ratings and Price Information on the Appreciation of Art”
Jon O. Lauring, Matthew Pelowski, Michael Forster, Matthias Gondan, Maurice Ptito, and Ron Kupers
This study looks at the impact of social and monetary contextual information on how people respond to art, potentially adding to our understanding of both the development and cultivation of artistic taste and social constructions of artistic excellence. For Createquity, these ideas are relevant to the question of how a healthy arts ecosystem matches arts participants with experiences that they are likely to find meaningful.


Featured image: South Dunedin community art project. Photo: Flickr user Paul S Allen.