A US-based arts data analysis body has received a $30,000 grant to help support a data collection project enabling arts organisations to understand the effects of COVID-19 on their operations.

Southern Methodist University (SMU) DataArts, a national hub for data resources, analysis, and insights for the arts and culture sector, has received the grant from US-based National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

The grant will support the expansion of a data collection project conducted by TRG Arts. The COVID-19 Sector Benchmark Dashboard project has been developed in collaboration with UK-based audience analytics company Purple Seven, and launched in early April.

The dashboard, which is free, provides near real-time intelligence and advice to help arts leaders see results as they respond to the pandemic.

TRG Arts chief executive Jill Robinson said: “The COVID-19 Sector Benchmark Dashboard is already showing value in the UK by providing insightful data for use by trade bodies, funders, government and the media.

“The generous and savvy investment by the National Endowment for the Arts will help drive rapid volume growth of this critical, quality intelligence for use by US arts organisations and sector stakeholders.”

When an organisation signs up for the dashboard, an automated data feed is set up between the organisation’s box office and the dashboard’s secure server. The automated feed provides a daily update on ticket sales, refunds and donations for the organisation.

In addition, data from all other organisations participating in the dashboard is aggregated in an anonymous format to create a national benchmark, which shows up on the dashboard and allows an organisation to see how it compares with a large group of its peers.

The dashboard is entirely anonymous, so no one else’s sales figures or customer data are identifiable to an organisation. The dashboard provides daily insights for individual organisations that they can share with constituents and stakeholders; reveals sector trends in almost real-time, which can assist in short- and long-term planning; allows arts leaders and policy makers to track daily sales data across entire sectors; and by data gathering and benchmarking across the UK, Canada and the US, gives a clearer picture of the effects of the virus on the arts sector and the recovery in each country.

SMU DataArts will integrate data collected through the project into its larger data set on arts organisations and their communities nationwide to research important issues in patronage and sustainability.

Zannie Voss, director of SMU DataArts, said: “This is a critical moment to tap into near real-time intelligence to help arts and cultural leaders overcome the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“NEA funding will not only allow more US organisations to access their own COVID-19 Sector Benchmark Dashboard, but it will provide us data to closely examine how patron decisions affect organisational health during these extraordinary times.”

Currently, nearly 400 arts organisations in the UK and the US are participating in the dashboard, and SMU DataArts and TRG Arts hope to increase that to 1,000 with the help of the NEA grant, which will allow secure feeds to be established with five additional ticketing software providers.

Image: TRG Arts