Having recently completed a pilot study of university-based arts incubators and their evaluation tools, my attention turned to the larger question of arts incubators nationally. What are the primary activities of arts incubators and what business and organizational structures are best suited to achieve an incubator’s goals? How do they measure their success?
Before I could address these larger questions, I needed a national inventory of arts incubators, activities, and business forms. I contacted the NBIA (National Business Incubatian Association), NASAA (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies) and AFTA (Americans for the Arts). The research director of each organization responded similarly and along the lines of, “no, we don’t have or know of a list, but are really glad you’re doing this research.” So I hunted and pecked through previoiusly published literature on the topic (there’s not much), scoured research databases, and made systematic use of that font of all knowledge: google.
In the interest of open access and the knowledge commons, I’ll share some of the raw data here, with the formal analysis and a typology of forms forthcoming at the STP+A (Social Theory, Politics, and Arts) conference and, hopefully, subsequent publication, following peer review. Some numbers:
- There are 47 arts incubators currently operating in the US (while there are organizations that serve incubation functions that are not included in this number, the 47 either refer to themselves or are referred to be others in publications as “arts incubators”)
- Of the 47, seven are university programs or university extension programs (including the Pave Arts Venture Incubator), three of which started up in the last 18 months
- Nine are city, county or state agency programs
- Most are 501c3 corporations, three of which are community development corporations
- Four are programs of larger 501c3 corporations
- It appears that only two are owned/operated as private for-profit entities
- Five incubators are currently in development, in addition to the 47
- Three incubators that were supposed to have opened in the last several years never started operations
And now, the real work can begin.
[Update: My article, “Arts Incubators: A Typology” is published in Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society 44(3), 169-180.]
 These numbers may change slightly but probably not significantly, as I dig deeper into each of the organizations and confirm the data collected thus far.