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Social Impacts of the Performing Arts

Presentation at CAPACOA

November 21, 200821 November 2008

Performing arts: Attendance, donors and social impacts

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This presentation highlights findings regarding the broad social impacts of performing arts attendance for individuals. In addition, the presentation provides key data regarding performing arts attendance in 2005 and trends in attendance since 1992.

The core of the presentation deals with evidence about the relationship between performing arts attendance and social phenomena such as volunteering, donating, neighbourhood connections, sense of belonging and quality of life. The evidence is based on two recent reports from Hill Strategies Research: Social Effects of Culture: Exploratory Statistical Evidence and Social Effects of Culture: Detailed Statistical Models. The data for both reports is drawn from Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey of 2005. Almost 10,000 Canadians responded to the survey’s cultural questions.

The presentation notes that a performing arts attendee is defined as anyone who attended at least one live performance in 2005. In addition, the performing arts include popular music, classical music, theatre, dance or opera. Clearly, this is a low threshold of cultural participation. Many activities within these categories do not have explicit social goals. As such, their social impacts may be less than for those artistic activities that have an explicit social goal.

For some social indicators, there is little or no difference between performing arts attendees and non-attendees. However, other statistics do show a relationship between performing arts attendance and positive social engagement. Some positive indicators of social engagement for performing arts attendees include:

  • The percentage of performing arts attendees volunteering for a non-profit organization (48%) is much higher than the percentage of non-attendees (28%).
  • The percentage of performing arts attendees donating money or goods to a non-profit organization (88%) is much higher than the percentage of non-attendees (71%).
  • Seventy-three percent of performing arts attendees (compared with 67% of non-attendees) indicated that they had done a favour for a neighbour in the past month.
  • Fewer performing arts attendees than non-attendees feel trapped in a daily routine (33% of performing arts attendees compared with 38% of non-attendees).
  • In the six statistical models to predict social behaviour, theatre attendance was found to have a statistically-significant impact on four of the six social indicators.

The presentation argues that this information can be important for audience and donor development in the performing arts. Organizations are encouraged to speak with their audiences and donors about what motivates them, what benefits they most appreciate, and whether they have the experiences that they had hoped to have at performances.

The presentation highlights motivations that have been found to be important in some recent research projects and provides suggestions as to how performing arts organizations can “add value to the arts experience”.

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