Arts & Culture: Community Connections
This report summarizes survey research conducted in the fall of 1998 into the community connections of arts attendees and participants in five American communities. The report goes beyond the typical analysis of attendee demographics by examining the social factors involved in arts participation. This research thread reminds practitioners that a cultural experience (defined broadly in this report) is not generally a solo experience. For participants, the experience usually involves social connections “with particular people or acquaintances in their communities; through community organizations that are important to them; or at places that are familiar, friendly and accessible”. The survey found that the most frequent reason given for arts participation is “to get together with friends or family” (59% of respondents) and the second most frequent reason is “to support friends or family” (49%). Other reasons given are “to support an organization or event important to the community” (47%), to “experience the high quality of the art” (42%), and “to learn about another culture” (38%). The Urban Institute’s research contributes to a growing body of work that demonstrates the connectedness of arts participants: they attend events, volunteer in their communities, engage in the political process, and are often community activists. Ensuring that these “connector” individuals draw their circle of acquaintances into arts participation could be an important tool in the development of arts audiences. Strategies for turning community connections into arts engagement can be helpful for those wishing to build arts participation and to strengthen their own communities.