The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project

The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project - commonly known as SNAAP - is an annual online survey for graduates of degree-granting arts education institutions.  The project encompasses arts high schools through undergraduate and graduate art and design colleges, conservatories, and arts schools and programs within comprehensive universities.

In 2008, SNAAP was officially launched as a collaboration between two university-based research centers:  the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research and the Vanderbilt University Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy.  In its first two years, SNAAP surveyed over 6,000 arts graduates of more than 90 institutions. More than 100 new institutions will participate in the third and final field test in the fall of 2010.

When fully implemented, SNAAP will provide information about the educational experiences and career choices of arts alumni. Preliminary data from the 2009 field test, in which 3,700 alumni from 54 institutions responded to the survey, gives substance to the generally-held concept that arts graduates have diverse careers.

Findings include:

  • Over half of all alumni responding to the 2009 survey (53%) have taught or currently teach the arts
  • Eight in ten (80%) have been self-employed at some point in their careers
  • 20% founded or co-founded their own for-profit or not-for-profit company

Not all arts graduates work in the arts, of course. The 2009 survey reports that approximately 11 percent never intended to be artists.  Of those who once worked as professional artists, but no longer do, SNAAP data reveal that 43 percent say their arts training was relevant to their current work. Further analysis will allow schools and researchers to understand more precisely which skills are most relevant, which skills graduates feel were lacking in their training, and what experiences led them to persist as an artist or to seek other work.  Most importantly, for the first, time, schools will actually get detailed information about what their graduates are doing - the nature of their employment, the occupations they work in and their ongoing engagement with art.  SNAAP will help arts schools reform their educational offerings by improving their understanding of the world in which their alumni try to make a life and a living.

SNAAP's mission is to advance arts training in America by learning about the lives and careers of graduates, both those who become artists and those who pursue other careers.   The arts sector lags behind other sectors - health, science, engineering, business -- in developing useful data to inform education policy.  Over the past five years, educational leaders, funders and scholars from across the cultural sector have taken the lead to correct this critical gap in knowledge.

George Kuh, Chancellor's Professor of Higher Education at Indiana University and SNAAP director says "SNAAP is positioned to be the self-sustaining center of arts research, policy and service that we have intended from the outset."

SNAAP's Senior Scholar, Steven J. Tepper of the Curb Center, notes that, "Never before has a project of this scope been attempted. The data that SNAAP will provide about the role and relevance of arts training in society and about the careers of arts-trained workers is unparalleled."

Beginning in 2011, all arts high schools and postsecondary institutions with arts graduates will be able to participate in SNAAP for a modest fee to learn about their graduates.  In 2012, Vanderbilt's Curb Center will convene a national gathering of arts education leaders to discuss the implications of SNAAP's findings, and will subsequently publish a landmark report on Training and Preparing Artists and Creative Workers in the 21st Century.

Further information about SNAAP is available at


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