NIAD Art Center: Intentional Program Evaluation

In 2017 Deb Dyer, Executive Director of this 30+-year-old center that supports artists with developmental disabilities, needed help articulating to outside stakeholders the effects of the center’s studio art program on the artists who participate. I was hired to work with the art teachers to identify ways the artists changed and grew. We developed a logic model and then a pilot observation tool the teachers would use to assess each artist’s art-making interests, abilities and social skills. We also developed a pilot interview protocol for a staffer to engage each artist in a conversation about their experiences at NIAD and how they felt they had benefited.

One year after data collection began, Dyer analyzed the data and determined that the studio art program appeared successful in moving the needle in participants’ commitment to art-making and their development of a distinctive artistic style–attributes tied to their ability to sell their work and generate income. The data also showed which artists benefitted the most from NIAD; this insight led to a significant program change intended to ensure deep impact.

Said Dyer, “This topic [of program evaluation] is especially hard in arts organizations as they have focused on activities rather than the impact of programs. Add in the disability portion and it becomes even harder. Eleanor walked the staff through the process [of developing appropriate and meaningful participant outcomes] and brought consensus to this necessary step so everyone understood the importance in attracting funding as well as improving the program using solid data.”

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