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Getting in on the act: How arts groups are creating opportunities for active participation

February 21, 201221 February 2012

Arts attendance and participation

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This report provides a similar perspective to the National Endowment for the Arts report Beyond attendance: A multi-modal understanding of arts participation. Prepared by WolfBrown (the same authors of the Beyond attendance report), Getting in on the act argues that “a great shift is underway as participatory arts practice moves closer to the core of public value”. According to the authors, this provides the arts community with “an opportunity to engage the collaborative, co-creative, open source mindset that is present in every community”. The report argues that “arts groups devoted solely to a consumption model of program delivery will slowly lose ground in a competitive marketplace”.

The report puts forth an “audience involvement spectrum” in which arts participation includes, on one end of the spectrum, “receptive” activities such as “spectating” (i.e., receiving a finished artistic product) and “enhanced engagement” (e.g., educational or enrichment programs). The other side of the spectrum includes participatory activities such as crowd-sourcing, co-creation and “audience-as-artist”. The report provides examples of each type of activity and explores 10 case studies of “active arts practice employed by arts groups to engage audiences, visitors and communities”.

The report concludes that the shift toward more active, engaged and expressive arts participation calls for “a new generation of arts leaders ready to accept, integrate and celebrate all forms of artistic practice. This is, perhaps, the defining challenge of our time for artists, arts organizations and their supporters – to embrace a more holistic view of the cultural ecology and identify new possibilities for Americans to engage with the arts.”

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