Transformation - by Flickr user corydalus, Creative Commons license

Transformation – by Flickr user corydalus, Creative Commons license

The arts in the United States are extremely decentralized, with very little government policy in place to guide outcomes and the dynamics of the system driven to a large extent by market forces. There are many advantages to such a model, but one of the challenges it poses is that it makes any kind of large-scale, systemic change extremely difficult to accomplish. This constraint poses a significant challenge to Createquity, because so long as it remains in effect the range of realistic strategies we can recommend to improve arts ecosystem outcomes will be sharply limited.

Our definition of a healthy arts ecosystem asserts that cultural infrastructure, including organizations led by professional managers, provides value only insofar as it furthers the goal of improving people’s lives in concrete and meaningful ways through the arts. To the extent that any element within that infrastructure is unwilling or unable to put that impact first, it’s acting as a drag on the system’s capacity to change for the better.

We see this problem manifesting in a number of ways, including the reluctance of cultural institutions to prioritize the interests of the ecosystem as a whole ahead of their own prosperity; a disproportionate share of influence wielded within the sector by wealthy individuals who do not always use that influence to further the best interests of the ecosystem; and a gap in the skills and information resources arts managers have at their disposal to make effective decisions on behalf of the collective good.

Thus, in the coming months we will be investigating ways to increase the capacity to create change within the ecosystem. What can research tell us about the pre-conditions, motivations, information, resources, processes, and incentives that are necessary to create sector-wide changes? Who within the arts ecosystem is in the best position to make changes currently, and to what extent are the relevant levers questions of policy, collective action, or both? We will likely end up looking beyond the US and/or beyond the arts for literature that can inform our thinking on these matters.

Our work in each of our issue areas is just beginning. As our research process moves forward, we’ll update this page with findings, links to relevant articles, and more. We hope you’ll stay tuned and come back again soon. (If you’d like to participate more actively, see our Get Involved page.)