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Beyond attendance: A multi-modal understanding of arts participation

Based on the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (Research Report 51)

February 21, 201221 February 2012

Arts attendance and participation

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This American report, based on the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, examines “how arts organizations might best channel the myriad pathways through which Americans now engage in artistic and creative expression”. More specifically, the report finds that, in 2008, 74% of American adults participated in at least one of “three primary categories, or ‘modes’, of arts activities: arts attendance, personal creation and performance, and arts participation through electronic media”.

The overall 74% participation rate includes the:

  • 26% of Americans who participated in all three modes of arts participation (i.e., arts attendance, arts creation, and media-based participation).
  • 23% who participated only in ways other than arts attendance (including 10% who participated only through electronic media, 6% who participated only in arts creation, and 7% who participated in both media-based activities and arts creation).
  • 17% who participated in arts attendance and one of the other modes of participation (including 10% who attended an arts event and participated through electronic media and 7% who attended and created art).
  • 8% who participated in the arts only through attendance.

The report highlights the important relationship between taking art lessons and participating in the arts: “having had any arts lessons increases the likelihood of arts creation by 32%, increases the likelihood of media-based arts participation by 33%, and increases the likelihood of arts attendance by 29%, after controlling for demographic variables”. Interestingly, the report finds that people living in metropolitan areas are “10% less likely to participate in arts creation”.

The report finds that “demographic variables … explain less than 20% of the variation in attendance rates at arts events”. On the other hand, the report indicates that “the form of artistic expression and the setting in which it occurs are two contextual factors that influence who participates”. Alternate settings include fairs, festivals, school and religious institutions.

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