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Taking on What Seems a Burdensome Task

As part of our research, we have been speaking with executive directors and development directors of state arts agencies and cultural organizations. For most of these people, evaluation and assessment is taking a back seat to the more urgent work of survival. While all agree that ticket sales and attendance metrics do not convey the real outcomes of arts programs, lack of staff time and other resources keep even those who are supportive of evaluation from moving beyond these rudimentary statistics. Where more extensive evaluation is happening, it is primarily because a funder has required it, and, in many cases, is funding it. But there are exceptions. For example, one contemporary arts organization is building evaluation into some of its programs, such that programming will change from one event to the next based on the results of evaluation efforts – sometimes to the discomfort of staff. In general, there is interest in moving beyond “counting heads,” but in a time of scarce resources, doing so remains a vague dream.

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