Providing equitable access to arts and culture is a challenging proposition for state agencies across the United States. In this scenario, I’m tasked with establishing data analysis protocols to determine where access is weak and what can be done to increase said access. I uncovered the following data points and surrounding questions that should be explored when solving the challenge of how to increase access to arts and eliminate barriers to access.
What is the demographic make-up of self-identified artists and creators? This question is critical to gaining an understanding of what members in the community are actively participating in the arts. Understanding that data make-up can then help the agency explore further ways of understanding artist needs through making connections with the self-identified demographics. But, this data will help us gain an understanding of what groups aren’t self-identifying as artists and creators. When using an assumption that it’s likely proportionate amounts of people within each demographic are artists and creators (relative to their size based on community demographic census data), we’d be able to see which groups have members who might be counting themselves out entirely as artists. This state agency can then build programming that reaches out to those communities that appear to have less artists to continue helping them as well, but with more specific programming that seeks to solves issues around self-identification, which I think is very closely tied with access.
What is the cost barrier to engaging with arts spaces? Everything costs money and it will be critical to link demographic data, particularly economic data, with the economic costs of engaging with arts spaces. We’d have to go beyond admission and product prices and also account for travel (gas and public transit fares) in addition to potential costs involving child and elder care for artist caretakers, as well as taking time off work. Understanding this will help direct funding to the right spaces and programs while also helping the agency decide future partners to help support its mission.
How many people are aware of and applying to local programs, including schools, civic arts classes, grants and scholarships? Combining this data with demographic data will help highlight who knows where they can go to for support. Is knowledge about programmatic avenues equitable? Are these programs accepting or admitting a population that represents the community? We’d also start to get a sense of what role these programs play in providing access or creating barrier to access.
What role does proximity to arts programs, organizations and venues informs someone’s access to arts? Understanding how close or far something is can play a huge role in anyone’s decision-making, so it will be important to account for how far people are from arts venues, programs, classes and more. Getting this data can help determine the opening of new facilities or programs that can reach communities.
What resources, such as supplies, money or labor, do you need more of? This will not only help the agency understand what it can directly supply, but also gain an understanding of the types of artists exist in the community and the types of works they may be working with.