Kristin Puch’s perspective on arts and culture is perhaps more numeric than aesthetic — as a researcher, she looks at arts and culture through the lens of data. “Data infuses all the work we do,” she says. “It’s a tool for understanding what’s going well [in the sector] and what the challenges are.”
The Youngstown, Ohio, native has had a firm grasp on the struggles and strengths of the local arts and culture sector since her arrival at Arts Cleveland in 2008. At the time, she was finishing her master’s in Public Administration at Cleveland State University in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, specializing in economic development. She was also researching topics related to public administration, nonprofit management and volunteerism, and her studies sparked a strong interest in neighborhood revitalization. Becoming aware of Arts Cleveland’s efforts to unite arts and culture with the community development sector, she applied for, and received, a one-year research fellowship with the organization to explore that concept. Her fellowship work included authoring a post-conference white paper based on the first From Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference, which examined the many ways artists and community developers collaborated to spur renewed growth in neighborhoods in formerly industrial cities such as Cleveland.
Building on this success, Kristin joined the Arts Cleveland staff in 2009 as Research Manager and was promoted to Director of Research and Advancement in 2012. Today, as the organization’s Senior Researcher, she’s responsible for coordinating the organization’s research and counsels artists and arts and culture organizations in the areas of research design, survey development and data analysis. Throughout her tenure, however, she and Arts Cleveland have remained focused on the value of the intersection of arts and culture with other community sectors.
The Creative Minds in Medicine project, for instance, investigated how Cleveland’s arts and healthcare assets affected health and well-being outcomes for individuals and communities alike. As with From Rust Belt to Artist Belt, Kristin developed an exploratory white paper on the topic and coordinated the eponymous Cleveland-based conference.
Kristin has also overseen the development of Arts Cleveland’s discipline-specific economic impact studies: Remix Cleveland: A Music Industry Study; Forming Cleveland: A Visual Arts, Craft and Design Industry Study; Staging Cleveland: A Theater Industry Study; and Inside the Margins: A Cleveland Literature Industry Study. In addition, she’s leveraged information from DataArts’ Cultural Data Profiles to develop Arts Cleveland’s Culture Pulse series, which has taken snapshots of Cleveland’s arts and culture nonprofits in terms of financial, infrastructure and human resources trends.
As central as data is to all of Kristin’s and Arts Cleveland’s work — the organization’s founding mandate was to do wide-ranging, in-depth sector and community research — just as essential is how all that information is obtained. Simply put, Kristin and her colleagues talk to people, and then listen to what people say. “Doing interviews and surveys gives us a good place to start from,” Kristin notes about one of the core methods by which Arts Cleveland gathers data. The technique “is foundational to all the work we do.”
This personal approach also allows the resulting data to be shared in a way that enables people to connect more fully with the meaning it reveals. “When you present raw numbers,” explains Kristin, “how do you [show the value] of arts and culture through them? Presenting quantitative data with qualitative stories … helps us illustrate the benefits of arts and culture.”
Kristin’s lens may be research, but looking through that lens has provided her with moments of deep personal and professional satisfaction. Creative Minds in Medicine, for instance, turned out to be a watershed moment not only for arts and for the community, but also for Kristin. At the conference, the CEO of the Cuyahoga County MetroHealth System announced that the health organization would make a significant investment in the development of its own arts and health program. Suddenly, arts and culture were to be integrated into the entire MetroHealth System.
That moment, for Kristin, reverberated with the possibilities inherent in the nexus of arts and culture and other community sectors. She says, “it was another moment when I realized that Arts Cleveland’s work was drawing heightened attention to our community’s ‘creative intersections’ and that arts and culture was being further embedded in the community.”
Contact: (216) 575-0331, x124 or Kristin@artscleveland.org