Last week on September 13 members of Austin’s creative communities came together for ACA’s third Crisis & Opportunity forum. Cultural Data Project (CDP) Director Neville Vakharia and Senior Associate Flo Gardner traveled from Philadelphia to give us a very informative presentation on the CDP and the benefits the online management tool could have for arts and culture in Austin and around the state.
But first, what is the CDP? The Cultural Data Project is a powerful online management tool designed to strengthen the arts and culture sectors. Now operating in 11 states, the CDP is a unique system that enables organizations to enter financial, programmatic and operational data into a standardized online form.
Organizations can subsequently quickly and easily generate reports to use as part of the application process for participating funders. They can also use the CDP as a tool to track their own trends over time or to benchmark key components of their operations against others in aggregate by discipline, budget size, geographic location and many other criteria.
This knowledge is power: organizations have leveraged increased board support or lowered their rental costs thanks to their findings. The CDP is staffed with ten full-time employees with previous creative backgrounds whose sole mission is to help the 11,000 organizations it services.
For more info on the CDP, visit http://www.culturaldata.org/
What could this mean for Texas?
Their presentation illustrated the plans for expansion in the upcoming month—Texas included. Neville and Flo gave examples of the success CDP has had throughout the country.
During the last mayoral election in Philadelphia, data from a CDP report on the state of the arts in Pennsylvania helped revive an arts and culture scene in the city that was about to be cut significantly. Upon reviewing the report, government officials saw that arts and culture generated more than $1 billion each year. They also saw that more people visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art annually than a season of Philadelphia Eagles’ home games.
When the candidates saw these figures, reviving the creative sectors immediately became apart of their campaign platforms. Michael Nutter, the candidate with the strongest arts platform, won the election and delivered on those campaign promises once in office. In 2009, he created a Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council of around 48 arts and cultural leaders to brief him on arts-related issues. Nutter also reopened the Office of Arts and Culture eliminated years earlier by the previous mayor.
Philadelphia is one of the many examples. Success stories fueled by CDP reports have been seen around the country in organizations, local and state governments, university researchers, etc.
Can this happen in Texas?
They’re hoping that Texas will also see these success stories in the near future by bringing CDP to the state ideally by next September. Flo explained to the audience that Texas needs to form a cohort of leadership around the state in order to build more collaboration.
In response to questions asked by audience members, our presenters explained that money has been put on the table but they need to “make sure interest is state-wide.” They’ve already visited and met with leaders in Dallas and Houston, with their Austin stop completing the first tier of Texas cities. The second tier the pair has plans to visit in the coming months includes San Antonio and El Paso.
For more information on the Cultural Data Project visit
Crisis & Opportunity 2.1 press release: CrisisAndOpp2-1.1Release