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23 September 2014

Sustainable Fine Art Funding 

Funding of the fine arts is bound by centuries of tradition, but an innovative UK group thinks the time is ripe for change.

The London-based nonprofit Nesta is calling on arts organizations to invest more in research on new ways to pay for programs. It argues that despite years of economic upheaval, arts funding models froze in the early 2000s.

An example is the umbrella organization Arts Council England, which receives 40% of its revenue from state subsidies, 50% from performance ticket sales, and 10% from philanthropy and donations – all sources vulnerable to the whims of politicians as well as the economic climate, affecting both donations and attendance at arts events.

Nesta believes arts funding is missing a cornerstone of private sector innovation – research and development. In a new report, it also highlights ‘social enterprises’ that partner with the private sector to break out of the purely grant-funded approach long characterizing nonprofit financing.

Some innovations are leading the way. The London Symphony Orchestra, for example, has developed a mobile app that has enabled 80% of previously unsold tickets to be snapped up at a discount by university students – the next generation of classical music listeners.

Such successes require audience research, technological innovation and painstaking follow-up to ensure they work well. These standard private enterprise strategies could brighten the prospects of the cultural world.