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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 01/24/2011

Arts groups lost considerable ground in the recession

By Jacqueline Trescott
Dancers rehearse at Dance Place, a D.C. nonprofit dedicated to community outreach. (Sarah L. Voisin/Post)

A review of the country's arts industry shows the recession took away many of the financial gains the organizations enjoyed in the last decade.

In 2009, according to data released Monday by the Americans for the Arts, 41 percent of nonprofit arts groups failed to reach a balanced budget. That percentage, based on reporting to the IRS, rose from 36 percent in 2008, the year when the financial downturn began to take its toll on all businesses.

The findings indicate the health of the arts sector is at a 12-year low, said Americans for the Arts.

In a robust period of fund-raising between 2003-2007, arts groups made considerable progress in balancing budgets, expanding programs and staff, and, for many, building new facilities.

"The changes in philanthropy and the country's slow emergence from the Great Recession put these gains at risk. Now more than ever the arts need to make the case that they are not only inherently valuable but are also part of the solution to the economic problems our nation's communities are facing," said Robert L. Lynch, the president and CEO of Americans for the Arts.

Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit based in Washington and New York, is one of the country's chief advocacy and lobbying groups for the arts. The new report, an update to its National Arts Index, measures how the arts are faring.

And, ironically, as groups battle decreased funding and earned income, the number of arts groups continues to grow. The survey found 109,000 nonprofit arts organizations and 550,000 for-profit arts business.

Americans for the Arts also reported there are 2.2 million people who identify themselves as artists in the country. In 1996 1.9 million people reported they were working artists.

One sector has increased dramatically. The number of cultural and ethnically diverse arts institutions doubled in the last decade from 4,806 to 9,609, according to the report.

By Jacqueline Trescott  | January 24, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott  
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