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Art-Goers in Their Communities: Patterns of Civic and Social Engagement

March 7, 20117 March 2011

Social impacts of the arts

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This report examines correlations between participation in the arts and potential civic benefits, based on data from the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, which had a sample of more than 18,000 Americans 18 years of age or older. The survey results show that adults who attend art galleries, attend live performances, or read literature are more likely than non-attendees or non-readers to vote, volunteer and take part in community events. For example, the volunteer rate is 58% for adults who attended an art museum or gallery but only 24% for those who did not attend an art museum or gallery.

In addition, arts attendees and literary readers “show a greater likelihood of community involvement in a variety of other ways”, including attending sports, playing sports, participating in collaborative art forms, taking art classes, and taking children to out-of-school arts experiences.

The report uses a statistical regression model to show that the “relatively high rates of volunteerism continue to prevail, even after adjusting for the effects of education, gender, age, parental status, and other demographic factors”. More specifically, “the odds that performing arts attendees will volunteer are 3.8 times greater than for non-attendees, regardless of their educational attainment, gender, and other selected demographic traits…. Of all the demographic traits considered, only education rivals performing arts attendance as a predictor of civic or sports involvement.”

The report argues that “arts, literary, sports, and civic organizations may benefit from the creation of innovative partnerships to reach a potentially shared audience, one larger than usually supposed”.

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