The fundamental goal of the Urban Institute's Arts and Culture Indicators Project (ACIP) is to help policymakers make better decisions for neighborhoods and cities. To this end, ACIP provides researchers, practitioners, and policymakers with information about the presence and role of arts and culture in communities—how arts and culture affect neighborhood conditions and community dynamics. Specifically, ACIP develops quantifiable measures of arts and culture and integrates them into quality of life measurement systems that can compare conditions across communities and in the same community over time. Launched in the late 1990s with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, ACIP's basic premises are (a) that a healthy place to live includes opportunities for and the presence of arts, culture, and creative expression, (b) that arts, culture, and creative expression are important determinants of how communities fare, and by extension (c) that full understanding of U.S. communities is inherently impossible without including these important perspectives.
ACIP's approach has always been deliberately applied. The concepts we develop, the measures we find promising, and the data-related practices we advocate have been vetted, tested, and, in some cases, initially developed in conjunction with practitioners, researchers, and policy players in urban planning, community development, and arts-related fields. In addition, we collaborate with community indicator initiatives around the country in our continuing efforts to integrate arts and culture into indicator systems. At the same time, our years of research on arts and culture in a range of communities across the United States have enabled us to expand the conventional paradigm of what counts as arts and culture in a way that makes it more consistent with, and inclusive of, the demographic realities of our nation—including low- and moderate-income communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities.