3 Million Stories Conference: Arts Graduates in a Changing Economy

From March 3 to March 5, 2016, Arizona State University hosted 3 Million Stories, a national conference on the preparation and careers of America’s arts graduates in a rapidly changing economy. The second of its kind, the conference builds on the insights of the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), a survey of over 140,000 arts graduates from more than 300 institutions. The title comes from the roughly three million people with arts degrees from American educational institutions.

More than 300 arts school presidents, deans, faculty, administrators, working artists, academic scholars and arts leaders from 33 states and three Canadian provinces gathered in Tempe, Arizona, to revisit the status of arts graduates – and arts education – in an economy that continues to shift shape at an accelerating pace. More than 40 speakers presented and animated conversations about the future of creative work, about how higher education is changing, about how artists and designer are working differently in the world and how their work gets supported, and about the culture of design and arts schools and the critical role universities and colleges play in shaping culture in the U.S.

Conference Summary


List of Attendees

Video Presentations

Powerpoint Presentations


3 Million Stories: Understanding the Lives and Careers of America’s Arts Graduate

In March 2013, over 250 people--arts deans, faculty, researchers, artists, policy makers, funders, political advocates, and others--gathered at Vanderbilt University for the conference, "Three Million Stories: Understanding the Lives and Careers of America's Arts Graduate." The symposium drew stakeholders and field leaders across many arts disciplines and functions--united by their sustained engagement with issues surrounding the training and career paths of artists. The Surdna Foundation provided leadership funding for the convening, as a component of its overall support of SNAAP.

Building upon cutting-edge research--much of it emerging from SNAAP as well as other sources--participants investigated such questions as:

  • Where do artists work and how do they make a living?
  • Is their training relevant?
  • What do arts graduates, and those who train them, need to know about future trends in the artistic and creative labor market?
  • What do we need to know to better serve students from less privileged backgrounds?
  • What are the critical issues policy-makers and educational leaders must address to ensure the relevance and vitality of arts degrees, programs and schools in the future?

The meeting was fueled by a sense of urgency regarding:

  • the creative marketplace is undergoing rapid transformation,
  • institutions of higher learner are facing escalating accountability standards
  • issues of equity and access continue to plague the field.

Within this context, meeting participants probed issues ranging from curricular reform to institutional transformation--along the way covering such themes as the social life of the artist, mission and marketplace, the artist's "tool-kit" for a changing world, and the equity and access imperative. As one participant took note, "We are in the middle of a Renaissance. Arts programs that jump on the bandwagon today and help shape this new Renaissance will be the ones that thrive...."

Please click on the following links to view the conference summary, agenda, speakers, presentations, attendee list, and keynote address.

Conference Summary

Brief Video



Attendee List

Mary Schmidt Campbell's Keynote Speech, "Life after Art School, or Why Attend a School of the Arts"