Illinois Cultural Data Project

The Pew Charitable Trusts and Arts Alliance Illinois launched the Cultural Data Project (CDP) in Illinois in 2009 -- in partnership with the Illinois Arts Council, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Boeing Company, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Woods Fund of Chicago.

In early 2013, the Cultural Data Project began operations as an independent 501(c)3 organization.


The CDP collects and disseminates quality longitudinal data that supports fact-based decision-making in the arts sector.

The CDP's system allows arts organizations to enter financial, operational, and programmatic data into a standardized online form once per fiscal year. Data is drawn from an organization's audit or financial statements, ensuring accurate and reliable information.

Organizations can use the CDP to generate reports that assist them in identifying strengths and challenges and benchmarking themselves against organizations of similar size, discipline, or region. In addition to informing their decision-making, organizations can utilize the CDP to create reports as part of the application process to participating grantmakers.

In addition to creating a streamlined data-collection process for hundreds of museums, theatres, dance companies, orchestras, and cultural centers throughout Illinois, the CDP provides a critical source of consistent and reliable information on the state's cultural sector. Now in its fifth year of operations, CDP has reported that over 3,900 data profiles have been created by organizations throughout the state of Illinois since 2009.

Here's what others are saying about the Cultural Data Project:

The CDP strikes me as one hammer that can hit four different nails. Arts groups get new tools to help them make smart decisions; arts advocates get the kind of hard evidence that can be persuasive to policymakers; the arts field as a whole can finally have real data from which to learn about itself; and the arts grantmaking process can be rationalized. It's all good - Paul Botts, Director, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

The Cultural Data Project comes to Illinois at the perfect time. This streamlined process for collecting data will allow arts organizations to illustrate their impact and importance in their region. It's in keeping with the nation's movement of partnership, accountability, and transparency - Anne E. O'Keefe, Executive Director, Rockford Area Arts Council

OK - This is the greatest thing. I heard about it a few years ago and thought it would never really come true, but then I heard it was in place in Pennsylvania and I was hearing good things about it and THEN, I heard it was coming to Illinois and NOW it is" - Deb Clapp, Executive Director, League of Chicago Theaters

The Cultural Data Project is a great example of what happens when funding partners rally around a systematic problem. It will elevate the level of management, service, and funding in the nonprofit arts sector - Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO, Americans for the Arts

How We're Using CDP Data

Arts Alliance Illinois frequently uses data from the CDP data to track the health and condition of the arts sector and communicate the impact of the arts to lawmakers and other key decision-makers.

  • CDP data was featured in four Arts & Economic Prosperity reports for the City of Chicago, which were released in 2012 by Arts Alliance Illinois and Americans for the Arts.
  • CDP data is frequently used in the development of case statements in support of public funding for the arts and profiles on the arts and culture landscape within congressional and legislative districts for meeting and briefings with lawmakers.
  • Data from the Illinois CDP will be featured in the Alliance’s upcoming comprehensive Legislative Advocacy Handbook, which will equip Arts Alliance Illinois members, advocates, and activists with the information necessary to make the best possible case for a strong arts sector in our state

The Cultural Data Project, based in Philadelphia, staffs a toll-free help desk, reviews all data profiles, and provides training to users. CDP staff view all data submitted to CDP and check for errors during a rigorous verification process. In the event that anomalies are found, organizations have the ability to correct their submissions as necessary.

For more information on the Cultural Data Project, visit or for information on the CDP in Illinois.