Steps to Creating an Arts and Cultural Plan

1. Define the Plan’s Objectives

Defining why an arts and cultural plan is needed will ensure the plan has focus and is relevant to the community. Every community will create its own approach, taking into account its unique history, resources, and existing cultural assets. Plans may vary in length from several pages to comprehensive reports, and take the form of a chapter that is incorporated into a community’s existing or developing comprehensive or regional economic development plan, a stand-alone plan that can be implemented quickly, or a large-scale plan that can span several years.

Community and Regional Examples

• The City of Concord Economic Development Advisory Council undertook a 2008 study, New Hampshire’s Creative Crossroads: The Concord Creative Economy Plan to understand the role of the creative economy in the City’s overall economic health. The objectives of this effort were to:

“…define what makes up the Concord Creative Economy, measure the economic impacts, develop a work plan to nurture and expand the Concord Creative Economy, and identify foundations, corporations, individuals, developers, and other potential partners in sustaining a long-term creative economy effort.”

• The Regional Cultural Plan for Northern New Hampshire lists the following planning goal:

“The planning process aim is to develop realistic recommendations for action that can be taken at the regional, sub-regional, local and agency levels to enrich cultural life, improve access to programming, and increase educational opportunities in the arts throughout northern New Hampshire."

2. Conduct a Community Visioning & Goal Setting Process

There are a variety of methods that can be used to conduct a community visioning process. One method is a facilitated community forum with questions designed to generate conversation about what role arts and cultural activities should play in the community. Another method is to create an advisory committee that develops a draft vision and mission, which is then reviewed in the larger community visioning and planning process.

 Community and Regional Examples

• The Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire and its regional partners established the following vision for its 2004 Regional Cultural Plan for northern New Hampshire:

“We envision that the North Country of New Hampshire will be experienced by both local residents and visitors as a region ripe with year-round arts experiences. We believe that cultural opportunities should be abundant, available, and accessible to people of all ages in all our communities, and that the arts should play an important role in community, educational, and economic life throughout our region.”

• The Lebanon City Council and Planning Board have adopted a "Community Design and Civic Art" chapter in the City’s Master Plan, which Includes the following vision and purpose:

"Civic art and cultural resources have the unique ability to invigorate and energize a community as well as attract people from surrounding areas, making Lebanon a regional arts and festival destination site. The City of Lebanon is committed to supporting civic art and cultural resources that will catalyze the creative economy, create a positive sense of place, establish our City as a regional cultural center, improve the visual presentation of our City, draw the community into public spaces, and elevate community pride. Lebanon will seek opportunities to integrate artists and designers into public projects and activities.”

• The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts 2010-2013 Strategic Plan vision:

“Arts expression and participation are vital to the human spirit and to a healthy community life. As stewards of public investment in the arts, we seek a shared vision of the role the arts can play in growing New Hampshire’s capacity for creativity; building more vibrant communities; and bridging differences among people to secure an open, civil society. Public investment also ensures that more people from all backgrounds and walks of life have access to participating and benefiting from the arts.”

The community visioning process also helps to identify important community issues relating to arts and cultural activities, and establish values-based goals and priorities that will guide policy makers, commissions, staff and volunteers as the plan is implemented. Between six and eight goals, objectives or priorities are recommended to maintain achievable outcomes. Strategic actions specific to the identified issues and available resources, and potential funders, partners and collaborators are developed under each goal, with cost estimates, and timeline and responsibility for completion included.


Community Examples

• The 2002 Portsmouth Cultural Plan outlined the following six goals:

    a) Preservation: Identify and preserve buildings and open spaces contributing to the unique character and cultural assets of Portsmouth.

    b) Space: Expand and support spaces for cultural activities and events, including affordable space for artists, and venues and space for performances, exhibitions, meetings, storage, rehearsal, and education.

    c) Youth: Engage young people in arts and cultural opportunities in all aspects of their life, including educational, recreational, and social settings.

    d) Business: Engage businesses with the arts and cultural community.

    e) Marketing: Market Portsmouth as a business and cultural destination.

    f) Agency: Create an arts and culture agency to act on the City's behalf on all matters related to arts and culture.

• Arts Rochester, Inc., and Rochester's Cultural Plan Advisory Committee’s 2006 Community Revitalization and the Arts plan determined the following goals:

    a) Heritage: Highlight our unique heritage to inspire a sense of place and pride in the City of Rochester.

    b) Potential: Identify, strengthen, promote and broadcast Rochester's cultural assets, infrastructure, and artistic treasures.

    c) Community: Facilitate community involvement in the arts.

    d) Commerce: Recognize the economic power of the arts and culture in Rochester.

    e) Image: Invigorate Rochester with an emphasis on the City's unique blend of old-fashioned charm and progressive vision.

    f) Leadership: Create a commission of Arts and Culture to act on the City's behalf on arts and cultural matters.

• The City of Concord’s 2008 Creative Economy Plan goals:

    a) Capacity: Build capacity of Concord’s creative sector through strategies such as public and private funding for not-for-profits, information, networking, management assistance, and coordination.

    b) Creative Climate: Develop a business and public policy climate that encourages creativity with a public commitment to creative economic development that actively enables creative enterprises and individual artists.

    c) Identity: Define and promote a creative identity and brand for Concord, so residents, current and prospective employers, potential creative workers, and visitors understand Concord’s unique and authentic identity as a home and destination.

    d) Downtown: Develop and enhance Concord’s downtown, implementing Main Street Concord plans for upper-story residential and creative enterprises, special events, restaurants, shopping, and streetscape and façade development that result in a vibrant, lively downtown with activity into the evenings and weekends.

    e) Greater Concord: Enhance neighborhoods and surrounding communities as walkable villages that encourage creative businesses, artist housing, cultural programming, parks and open space, and cultural attractions.

3. Review Existing Plans

A useful step in creating an Arts and Cultural Plan is to research existing community, regional and state plans that might contain references to arts and cultural issues. These plans can inform the local and regional planning process. It is important to align with existing plans, including economic development, trails, open space and recreation, tourism, transportation, and sustainability plans for the community or the region. Communicating with local and regional planners to understand the process for including the completed Arts and Cultural Plan in existing plans is recommended.

Community and Regional Examples

• New Hampshire State Council on the Arts 2013 Strategic Plan
contains goals and objectives to support its vision, which can easily be related to local community efforts, for example:

    a) Encourage participation in the arts to enrich the quality of life in communities.
    b) Provide funding and leadership for programs that engage communities in the arts.
    c) Integrate the arts into health care.
    d) Encourage communities to use the arts as a means of improving community vitality.
    e) Promote the value of the arts as contributors to the economic vitality of the state.
    f) Support research that documents the impact of the creative sector on the state’s economy.
    g) Build networks that assert the importance of the creative sector to the state’s economy.
    h) Increase awareness of the arts and culture as a tourism asset.

• The Upper Valley Arts and Culture 2010 Assessment of Regional Assets, Needs, and Opportunities (NH Charitable Foundation) identified needs and gaps:

    a) Arts organizations are in need of basic core operating support. Few have meaningful cash reserves to weather an economic storm, and sponsors often find “artistic product” more exciting to support than infrastructure.

    b) A livable wage is beyond the reach of many solo artists, who struggle with basic costs of food, housing, transportation, and art supplies. Many forego art careers as a result, while others live within a precarious margin.

• The Manchester Office of Economic Development’s 2010 “Arts and Cultural Development” study identified the following priorities for developing the creative economy in the City:

    a) Get organized with high level CEOs from both the arts and cultural community. Identify those likely CEO allies/champions in the business community.

    b) Craft and tell the story of the economic significance of the arts and cultural community.

    c) Get organized internally among arts and cultural organizations, commercial enterprises, and institutions.

• Creative Concord’s Artspace Survey of artist live-work space needs yielded the following results for the “Cool Capital” regarding the need for creative spaces:

    a) Studio and working spaces for creative individuals and enterprises to rent on an ongoing or occasional basis

    b) Permanent spaces for cultural/arts organizations, creative enterprises and interested businesses

    c) Shared performance, production, exhibit, office, incubator, educational and other types of space for creative organizations, businesses, and individuals to rent on a short-term or occasional basis


4. Research Trends and Creative Industry Demographics

Industry research on the positive impact of the arts and culture on the economy, and the value of integrating arts and cultural activities into education, parks, trails, health care, community events, and economic development initiatives is available from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New England Foundation for the Arts, the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, Artspace, and Americans for the Arts, among others. In New Hampshire, reports on the economic impact of the arts have been conducted in the Monadnock region, Portsmouth, Concord, Rochester, Newmarket, Manchester, and northern New Hampshire.

Community, State and National Examples

Trend: Enhancing the Public Infrastructure

New Hampshire's Percent for Art Program was enacted by the New Hampshire State Legislature in 1979 through RSA 19-A:9 & RSA 19-A:10 and authorizes ½ half of one percent of the capital budget appropriation for new buildings or significant renovations to be set aside in a non-lapsing account for the acquisition or commissioning of artwork. The Percent for Art Program is dedicated to aesthetically enriching state funded buildings, enhancing the effectiveness of the services provided in state buildings through the art that is displayed there and making the arts more available to our citizens.

• The City of Portsmouth has a “Funding of Public Art” ordinance (PDF), which supports the allocation of…”a portion of the expense of public building construction and significant building renovation projects to be spent on works of art”. Public art installations also promote "wayfinding" by giving landmarks and helping to define the character of a location.

• The Federal Transportation Authority has developed case studies on how to incorporate art into transportation systems. This may be another strategy for communities to consider as a funding source to incorporate arts and cultural elements into community infrastructure.

Trend: Supporting Public Health

• At Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, the arts program for patients and staff is supported by foundation grants and private donations, and includes:
      a) Permanent installations of donated and purchased artworks
      b) Rotating exhibitions in seven locations throughout the hospital campus
      c) Creative Arts specialists who provide patients with individual art experiences
      d) Live performances in two locations

Trend: Measuring Economic Impact

In New Hampshire, $139 million spent by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations became $67 million in sales, and the total economic impact of nearly 1,600 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations was $278 million, supporting over 3,700 jobs during. (Americans for the Arts, Arts and Economic Prosperity IV). Over 160 of New Hampshire’s non-profit arts and cultural organizations were surveyed in 2010, and more than 3,400 audience members attending performances, exhibits and events were surveyed in 2011.

Trend: Helping Children Succeed In and Out of School

• Many research studies show that students who participate in the arts have higher self-esteem than those who do not, that studying the arts may improve academic gains in other areas and lower the drop-out rate, and that schools that value the arts have more positive school cultures and climates. (New Hampshire State Council on the Arts)

• The Arts Education Partnership has numerous resources, toolkits, research and policy guides to support advancing arts education.

• The Rhode Island Arts Learning Network has a community toolkit to enhance arts education, including extensive research on the value of the arts in education.

Trend: Multi-Sector Collaborations

Creative Concord, a committee under the umbrella of the Concord Chamber of Commerce, is a unique model of multi-sector involvement in advancing the creative economy. Creative Concord works closely with the City's Economic Development Advisory Council and arts, business and community leaders to study and measure the creative economy, and create a long-range, strategic plan to maximize Concord’s creative capital.

Creative Industry Demographics

Americans for the Arts (AFTA) conducts research on the impact of the creative economy in each state, identifying the number and type of creative industry jobs that exist. The creative industries are composed of arts businesses that range from non-profit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and advertising companies.


Measuring the Creative Economy – Non-Profits and Creative Industries

AFTA’s website explains: “Using data from Dun & Bradstreet—widely acknowledged as the most comprehensive and trusted source for business information in the United States—Creative Industries: Business & Employment in the Arts reports offer a research-based approach to understanding the scope and importance of the arts to the nation's economy. While most economic impact studies of the arts have focused on the nonprofit sector, Creative Industries is the first national study that encompasses both the nonprofit and for-profit arts industries.”

Data for the City of Concord included in the 2008 Creative Economy Plan demonstrates the value of understanding job growth in the creative sector:

• “The total number of people employed in Concord’s creative sector grew by a robust 13.5 percent between 2003 and 2005 from 3,962 to 4,495, while the total number of workers in Concord grew by only 2.5 percent from 58,038 to 59,490. Creative businesses represent about 7.5 percent of the total, yet they account for 36.7 percent of all new jobs in Concord.”

The draft Belknap County Economic Development Council 2012 – 2015 Strategic Plan seeks to balance the region’s demographics by increasing the number of young people who live and work in Belknap County, as noted in its draft plan:

Goal 2: Strengthen Belknap County’s creative economy, which will in turn make the region more attractive to young people.

Action 2.1 Convene a partnership that will ultimately provide technical assistance (organizational development, fundraising, financial management, marketing), funding, and physical space to creative entrepreneurs and arts & culture initiatives.

Action 2.2 Develop and fund a two-year start-up plan for the partnership’s toolbox (tools may include targeted loans, grants, service providers/consultants, free or low-cost physical space, affordable housing).

Action 2.3 Market the availability of this support structure for creative entrepreneurs as a way to attract young people.

Performance measures: Number of members of social networks/followers, website statistics, number of inquiries from social media tools and website, conversion of inquiries into real relationships, number of conversions from inquiries to actual relocations. Starting in January 2013, these statistics will be presented quarterly to the Board of Directors.

5. Conduct Citizen Forums and Surveys

Citizen input is vital to formulating a sustainable Arts and Cultural Plan. Forums, and web-based, mail or telephone surveys, conducted randomly by a professional survey firm, a college/university or by the community inform community goals and strategic actions. Free online survey tools are available, for example, Survey Monkey and KwikSurveys, and offer a no-cost method for collecting data, but are generally not considered to be statistically valid. MindMixer is another emerging tool for web-based public opinion data collection.

Community and Regional Examples

• In Lebanon, the Arts for Everyone Community Forum asked participants to provide answers to three questions:

      a) What does a vibrant arts community look like?
      b) How can the public, private, and non-profit sectors work together in Lebanon and in the region to promote a vibrant arts community?
      c) How can we attract people to Lebanon’s arts opportunities?

• In Keene, the Hannah Grimes Center Forum on Artist and Artisans Business Needs asked the following questions:

      a) What needs do you have as a business owner?
      b) What’s your greatest challenge to being profitable?
      c) What resources, programs or people have helped you strengthen your business?

ArtsAlive! Commissioned a research study by American for the Arts of the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture audiences in the Monadnock Region. Data were collected from 1,629 event attendees during 2009. Researchers used an audience-intercept methodology, a standard technique in which patrons complete a written survey about their event-related spending while attending the event. The 24 nonprofit arts and culture organizations that responded to the detailed organizational survey reported that the aggregate attendance to their events was 191,709. These attendees spent a total of $3.5 million, excluding the cost of event admission.

The City of Nashua conducted a “Cultural Planning” survey in 2008, asking citizens to comment on Nashua’s cultural assets, a vision for arts and culture, and where more emphasis was needed to help Nashua evolve its creative economy.

6. Conduct an Arts and Cultural Assets Inventory

It is important to inventory the range of public art installations, artists, businesses, and arts and cultural program providers to identify local strengths and to determine what aspects are missing as they relate to the community’s values and priorities. The other benefit of conducting a complete inventory of arts and cultural assets is to explore potential collaborations and opportunities for collaborative marketing and resource sharing. Categories to consider when conducting an arts and cultural asset inventory:

• Museums/Collections – museums, botanical gardens, historical societies
• Performing Arts – music, theatre, dance, opera, facilities, performers
• Visual Arts – crafts, visual arts, photography
• Film, Radio, and TV
• Design – architecture, graphic design, technology, bookmaking, landscape design, advertising
• Art and Music Schools
• Public Art Installations and Memorials
• Business Art Installations
• Literary Arts – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, poetry societies, writers, journalists, playwrights, publishing
• Community Arts – community choruses/choral societies, theatre groups, orchestras, dance studios

Community Examples

• The Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Arts and Culture in Portsmouth conducted a brainstorming session to create a Cultural Assets Inventory (PDF) in 2000.

• Lebanon’s Community Design and Civic Art Chapter in its 2012 Master Plan contains a comprehensive list of Lebanon’s cultural and civic art resources and partners.

7. Develop Recommendations and Strategic Actions

The heart and soul of an arts and cultural resources plan is the Recommendations and Strategic Actions section. This is where the various tools for community engagement, data collection, and industry research come together to create implementable actions to achieve the community’s vision for arts and culture, economic development and community vitality.

Arts and Cultural Plans are dynamic documents. Once a community arts and cultural plan is completed, an annual work plan can be developed, including annual benchmarks for achieving the recommended actions, organizations and individuals responsible for implementation of the actions, and estimates of resources required. Ideally, arts and cultural plans (or chapters in existing community master plans) should be referred to frequently and updated every five years.

Community Examples

• An excerpt from the 2009 Portsmouth Cultural Plan, Community Life and the Arts:


Recommendation: Create opportunities for collaboration between the cultural and the business communities.

Strategic Actions:

    • Strengthen the linkage between business organizations and cultural organizations, such as those being developed by the Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee.

    • Create programs that link businesses with individual artists or cultural organizations, such as a cultural resource bank that provides businesses with access to art work and cultural performances for workplaces and conferences,

    • Survey businesses and cultural organizations that already have successful partnerships to determine the benefits of partnerships; use them to create models for others.

8. Add Appendices

For a stand-alone arts and cultural plan, appendices provide backup information on survey questions, community forum summaries, glossaries and planning methodologies. For arts and cultural chapters in a community or regional comprehensive plan, appendices relating to the arts and cultural planning process are included in aggregate with other plan resources. Potential appendices that may be considered are:

      a. Creative industry demographics
      b. Benchmarking data from similar communities
      c. Community and creative industry survey analysis
      d. Glossary of creative economy and cultural resources terms
      e. Sample ordinance for percent for art
      f. Funding Resources
      g. Arts and culture asset inventory

In Summary

Developing an Arts and Cultural Plan can raise awareness, engage community members in meaningful dialogue, serve to increase access to the arts and culture, and create excitement and momentum for community enrichment and economic development potential. Community and regional planners are invaluable resources for implementing the process.