Primary tabs

Things We Love: Using DataArts Reports for Advocacy

Headquartered in Philadelphia, DataArts (formerly Cultural Data Project) provides arts research and insight that takes advocacy to the next level. Our Director of Policy & Community Engagement, Anne Marie Rhoades, tells us why she loves DataArts reports and how she uses the data to reach elected officials.

The DataArts Advocacy tool puts the Cultural Data Project data at your fingertips, and into attractive reports. As the Director of Policy & Community Engagement, I use the reports generated by DataArts constantly. I love putting them in front of an elected official or legislative staffer and watching the expression on their face change from “vaguely interested” to “very impressed.” The material we can share is excellent in scope, and also allows me to drill down quickly—and in full color—on the statistics that matter to these decision-makers. The information that DataArts collects and provides also tells a story that matters.

In one recent case, I was in the United States Capitol with other arts advocates, culture workers, students, and local activists. We were scheduled for a meeting with a staffer from one of Pennsylvania’s senators, and those meetings are typically brief. You have a short window of time to tell your story, present your case, and make an ask—this year, it was support for increased NEA funding.

Despite having an impressive group of advocates and activists from across the state around the table, the legislative assistant hosting us could not be swayed. She was clearly uninterested in the arts, at least in our state’s urban areas.

I could see the situation stalling and quickly ran a DataArts report for the Senator’s hometown and original congressional office. Having that in my hand, I could clearly connect the impact of the arts with the Senator’s personal and professional experience.

Down the table, a member of the DataArts team asked, “Did you just pull a report?!” Later, he told me they’d never seen someone use the DataArts tool for real-time advocacy. (A shout-out to this person: I’m still crossing my fingers for a mobile app!)

Beyond legislators, I’ve seen arts advocates rediscover their excitement for economic impact of arts in neighborhoods. I’ve used DataArts data to make a compelling—and ultimately successful—case for preserving public arts funding.

This is where data—and DataArts—really shines. I can take these financial, programmatic, and operational numbers and turn them into a compelling story of school kids receiving free access to arts performances, communities being driven by jobs in the arts, a new generation of civically engaged Pennsylvanians who live, work, and vote in the region. These are the stories that matter to the decision-makers, but anecdotes aren’t enough for advocacy. They have to be data-driven at the same time they’re impactful, and that’s what DataArts makes possible.

To learn more about getting started with DataArts, click here. The Cultural Alliance also offers our own custom research consulting which can help guide you through the DataArts process and more. Contact Research Analyst Morgan Findley at for more information.