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The Diversity of Cultural Participation: Findings of a National Survey

January 31, 200631 January 2006

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The Diversity of Cultural Participation, based on the same survey of 1,231 Americans as Motivations Matter, examines in more detail the arts participation decisions of survey respondents. The report notes that 70% of respondents attended at least one arts event during the 12 months preceding the survey. A typical respondent attended three arts events during the year.

The report stresses the diversity of preferences regarding: types of arts events; the companions with whom events are attended; the venues in which people attend events; reasons for attending; and experiences at events. The “survey findings also indicate some important differences in participation among members of different ethnic groups and among frequent, moderate, and infrequent attendees”.

The report highlights the percentage of respondents who attended each type of arts event: live music; arts or crafts fairs or festivals; art museums or galleries; plays; and dance performances. The report further breaks down live music attendance into: rock, pop, country, rap and hip-hop; religious music; blues or rhythm and blues; classical music or opera; jazz; and Latin, Spanish or salsa.

The report notes that “certain cultural forms were more likely to share audiences with one another”. Attendance crossovers are most prevalent between: plays and dance; plays and live music; plays and art galleries; as well as dance and art galleries.

Regarding venues, the survey results show that concert halls or theatres (60%) and parks or other outdoor facilities (57%) were the most frequently attended venues, followed by: “museums and galleries; clubs, coffee houses, or restaurants; churches or other places of worship; community centers, recreation centers, or libraries; and colleges or universities”.

Factors affecting the likelihood of arts attendance include education levels, having taken art classes as a child or youth, having attended arts events as a child or youth, and full-time employment. Surprisingly, however, “having taken art lessons as a child did not influence frequency of attendance”.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents attended their most recent event with someone else, most commonly a relative or a friend. “Higher percentages of those who went to dance (75%) and fairs (70%) went with relatives than did those attending museums (64%), music performances (59%) and plays (55%).” People were more likely to attend music performances and plays than other artforms with friends.

Frequent attendees, who tend to participate in a wide variety of events, may draw different benefits from different types of arts events. The author notes that “it may well be that a desire for a diversity of experiences is exactly what drives these individuals to attend diverse cultural forms”.

Frequent arts attendees are more likely “to attend the arts because of the art itself”, more civically engaged, and more likely to donate to cultural organizations. Given that frequent attendees tend to participate in a wide variety of events, efforts to increase the frequency of arts attendance could pay off for a number of different types of organizations.

Factors other than programming may be important in encouraging repeat visits by casual attendees. “The two negative experiences that were most likely to result in respondents saying they would not attend again were not liking the venue and not having an enjoyable social occasion.”

The survey’s findings regarding motivations for attending and experiences at arts events are highlighted in our synopsis of the accompanying Motivations Matter report.

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