Arts Organizations Struggling To Make Ends Meet

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de Young Museum in San Francisco

de Young Museum in San Francisco (www.deyoung.famsf.org)

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Like so many other industries hit by the recession, a growing number of arts organizations have been struggling to make ends meet.

Experiencing the arts was traditionally about going to a museum, symphony or concert. However, a new survey found that the down economy had Americans re-thinking that plan.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

The National Arts Index was released Monday, offering the first comprehensive look at how the arts fared during the recession thus far.

The index, generated by the nonprofit Americans for the Arts, factored data dating back to 1998, finding nationwide attendance at art museums was down 13% between 2002 and 2008, and down 6% at popular music events. Donations also fell nearly 5% in a decade.

“The arts essentially follow the nation’s business cycle,” explained Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts. “When business is good and the economy is good, the arts economy is also good. And when it’s down, the arts economy is challenged.”

“In a bad economy, people have less money to spend, they have less money to give and there’s less money in corporate coffers and in endowment coffers.”

Interestingly, the survey also found interest in the arts, overall, was still high.

Technology, it seems, afforded people the opportunity to enjoy the arts at a reasonable price.

“In just the last five years for example, half of the nation’s CD and record stores have disappeared. So you may think arts demand is down but at the same time, download of music singles have grown to more than 1-billion units annually,” said Lynch.

“You see something like the Metropolitan Opera using technology as a way to broadcast their work and their audience figures for that kind of delivery mechanism is way up.”

The survey also found an increase in volunteerism surrounding the arts. In fact, volunteerism jumped 11% and personal participation – by making art of playing music – rose 5%.

“All they have to do is drive through a community like San Francisco or any city in America to see the power and the value of the arts as a downtown revitalization force, as a tourism force, you know, as a community identity force.”

Still, the economy weighed heavy on potential arts enthusiasts.

“A lot of people with kids, you know, they might want to teach them about art and seeing art in person but when you bring a family of two or three it adds up,” reasoned arts aficionado Leah Conyers, who recently visited San Francisco’s de Young Museum.

Conyers recounted the struggles her sister, an artist with her own gallery in Sun Valley, Idaho, has encountered during the recession.

“She has days when she’s open and no one comes in. Or she has a day when somebody will come in and buy a pair of earrings and it will be $29 and that’s what she makes for the day.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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