SE Michigan: A Portrait of the Cultural Ecosystem

For more than a year, the Sustain Arts research team has located, gathered, cleaned, reconciled, integrated, and analyzed more than a dozen highly-relevant national, regional, and local data sets that collectively begin to tell a cogent story about the arts and cultural sector in the region.

The result is Sustain Arts / S.E. Michigan: A Portrait of the Cultural Ecosystem, a report of key learnings from the four counties stakeholders agreed had the largest share of arts and cultural activity in the region. This report accompanies a state-of-the-art online platform that allows users to explore the data in-depth.

For-profit Organizations Dominate the Scene

There are six for-profit arts and cultural organizations for every nonprofit in the SE Michigan region.

* e.g., arts councils, arts centers
** e.g., religious organizations, universities

Data sources: Guidestar, 2013 (nonprofit organizations). Includes organizations that filed an IRS Form 990 between 2011 and 2013. Infogroup, 2013 (for-profit organizations). Includes creative enterprises from InfoUSA’s business database.

One in Six Arts & Cultural Nonprofits Folded in the Past Decade

Smaller organizations were the least likely to survive. Are there natural limits or an optimal “carrying capacity” associated with the nonprofit arts ecosystem? Or, does a crowded creative sector serve as a stimulus for innovation?

Data source: National Center for Charitable Statistics, 2013. Includes organizations that filed an IRS Form 990 in 2000 with over $50,000 in revenue.

Comparatively High Survival Rates

Despite Southeast Michigan’s challenging economy, the turnover rate from 2000 to 2010 was lower than those of five other metropolitan areas.

Data source: National Center for Charitable Statistics, 2013. Includes organizations that filed an IRS Form 990 in 2000 with over $50,000 in revenue.

Funding is Unevenly Distributed

Less than 10 percent of nonprofits have budgets over $1 million, but they receive over two thirds of foundation funding for the arts in SE Michigan. Is this the right balance for the arts and cultural ecosystem?

Data sources: Guidestar, 2013 (number of organizations). Includes organizations that filed an IRS Form 990 between 2011 and 2013. Foundation Center, 2013 (amount of funding). Based on all grants of $10,000 or more awarded by a set of 20 U.S. foundations that were responsible for the majority of foundation giving for arts and culture in the region over the past decade. For community foundations, only discretionary grants are included. Grants to individuals are not included.

Region Well Supported by Foundations

In 2011, of total regional foundation dollars in six metropolitan areas, Detroit ranked second in the share of those dollars that go to art and culture.

*This figure includes an unusually large grant of $10M; when excluded, this number drops to 15.4%

Data source: Foundation Center, 2013. Based on all grants of $10,000 or more awarded by a national sample of larger U.S. foundations. For community foundations, only discretionary grants are included. Grants to individuals are not included.

Alternative Giving Vehicles, Such as Kickstarter, Are Making a Mark

More than $1.3 million was raised on the crowdfunding platform for arts-related projects in SE Michigan in 2013.

Data source: Kickstarter, 2013.

Regional Arts Participation May Lag Behind Nation

Demographic analyses suggest that arts participation rates in SE Michigan may lag behind national averages. Comparing demographics and related participation rates of national arts audiences to those in the region’s four-county metro-area suggests public demand for the visual arts, humanities, and film may be lower than the nation.

Data source: National Endowment for the Arts’ Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, 2012.


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