18 Aug
by Holly Unruh, PhD, Associate Director of UCIRARecently, UCIRA secured funding from the UC Office of the President to initiate system-wide participation in the 2012 SNAAP Strategic National Arts Alumni Project survey.  We are excited to report that every campus in our system with degree-granting arts programs has elected to participate in the project.

SNAAP is an ongoing national survey of arts graduates. Their research provides the first national data on how those who have graduated with both undergraduate and graduate degrees in all arts disciplines develop post-graduation careers in this country, helps identify the factors needed to better connect arts training to artistic careers and allows education institutions, researchers and arts leaders to look at the systemic factors that helped or hindered the career paths of alumni, whether they have chosen to work as artists or pursue other paths. To date, UC Santa Barbara has participated in the pilot survey and the results are impressive.

With Research Opportunity Funds from the Research Office at UCOP, UCIRA has secured the opportunity to include several questions unique to the University of California experience in the 2012 survey. This additional data, paired with a system-wide evaluation of arts graduates, will begin to allow us to ask some system-specific questions about arts education at UC.Why is this research important? What kinds of research have been done on the arts/arts education to date?

At present, while there is abundant research and data on science and engineering graduates gathered by the NSF through a variety of regularly collected surveys – there is simply no research on the impact of arts education at the University level. SNAAP will help even the playing field in terms of data collection, doing for the arts what the NSF has done for the sciences.

There is a well-developed literature on the economic impact of arts organizations carried out by the national advocacy group Americans for the Arts. (UCIRA has participated in their regional studies since 2005.) There is also a strong body of literature on the impact of arts education on K-12 learning and success, as well as the benefits of arts education to a future workforce; numerous studies have also been done on the “social impact of the arts”/”arts and the creative economy” – most recently the Otis College of Art and Design partnered with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation to prepare a report on the creative economy of the greater Los Angeles region. Finally, the National Endowment for the Arts research office has, until now, focused mainly on K-12 arts education trends and issues affecting future arts participation in this country (see a summary of their reports here). [NEA will begin offering grants for the study of secondary data for the first time this fiscal year; we expect that we will be able to secure funding from NEA to analyze the SNAAP UC data.]

The most important gap that the work of SNAAP fills is obviously examining the link between education and careers for artists. No other existing research study does this; most studies are portraits of artists at one moment in time – a few ask some basic questions about education, but nothing as detailed as SNAAP provides.

Where will this research take us?

UCIRA staff recently came back from attending the Americans for the Arts national convention in San Diego. Over 1,000 arts professionals were in attendance from around the nation, ranging from teaching artists and leaders of small nonprofit organizations to program officers from major state and national arts programs and funders. At that conference we made a number of connections that we would like to bring together in order to set in motion a large foundational research project on the arts at UC. Participation in the SNAAP survey is the first step.

Evaluation and the Arts at UC: setting the context for evaluation.

In recognition of the fact that the kinds of data gathered to determine the value of other work (e.g. measuring the resources it brings to campus, its economic impact, social impact, etc.) may not adequately represent the effects of the arts or the intentions of its producers, we propose to work from a model developed by Theatre Bay Area and arts consulting firm WolfBrown to begin to form an appropriate evaluative tool for the arts at UC. This kind of study asks the question: “what if there were a new way to understand and talk about the value and success of art, situated between anecdotal accounts of artistic impact and dry statistics of sales and attendance? Can we come up with a quantitative way to understand the effectiveness of arts programs by building a body of standardized data on intellectual, emotional and social impact?”

To date the Theatre Bay Areas project has garnered more than $500,000 in support (1) and has allowed them to work with Wolf Brown to complete a major study and ongoing service tool “Intrinsic Impact: Assessing the Artistic Experience to Set Goals and Demonstrate Value.”

We have been in conversation with Clayton Lord from Theatre Bay Area about this work. He has also indicated an interest on their part in working with us to see how their theatre-specific study can be more useful in the academic context. We have also had some conversations with program officers from major California foundations who have expressed an interest in seeing this kind of work done within the context of California higher education.

We will post our thoughts and plans related to researching the arts within the UC system here on SOTA periodically. Please check back and keep in touch.


1) Theatre Bay Areas project has received funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grants, the City of San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs, the California Theatre Network via the California Arts Commission, Theatre Development Fund, A.R.T./New York, Arts Midwest, the LA Stage Alliance, the Helen Hayes Awards and the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia

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