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For museums, performance centers, and other arts organizations all over the country, expanding into new trophy facilities has had mixed outcomes, according to a report just released by the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago, with many institutions finding themselves unable to pay the bills once their new homes had opened. The study looked at 700 projects undertaken by 500 organizations with budgets ranging from $4 million to $335 million over a period spanning 1994 to 2008.

Key findings in the report include...

• Cities in the South had the greatest increase in cultural buildings. The region had lagged behind the rest of the country prior to the building boom—the Northeast and West had twice the number of cultural facilities per capita in 1990 than did the South.

• Increases in building were most common in communities with increases in personal income and in education among their residents; this was another reason why the South led in building expansions.

• Spending was also strong across the rest of the country from 1994 to 2008. The New York area led the country in cultural building ($1.6 billion), while the Los Angeles area saw an expansion of $950 million and the Chicago area saw spending of $870 million on arts-related projects.

• Smaller cities with fewer than 500,000 people were building as well, and many of these cities were building for the first time. On a per capita basis, nine of the top ten spenders on cultural projects were in smaller cities. Pittsfield, Mass., for example, with a population of 44,700, led the list with a per capita expenditure of $605 for six projects at a total cost of more than $81 million.

• More than 80 percent of the projects we studied ran over budget, some by as much as 200 percent.

• More performing arts centers were built than any other kind of arts facility.

The center also examined four
case studies: The Art Institute of Chicago, the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, Austin’s Long Center for the Performing Arts, and the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia.

Read the full report here:
Set in Stone: Building America’s New Generation of Arts Facilities

The Cultural Policy Center has also produced a video introduction to the report...

...and an interviw with some of its researchers.

Photo: Foster + Partners' Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas / © Nigel Young / Foster + Partners