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Patterns of Attendance and Cultural Participation by Young People in the Canadian Theatre for Young Audiences and Children’s Festivals Sector

May 10, 201710 May 2017

Arts education / Theatre / Social benefits of the arts

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Based on a literature review, existing statistics, two focus groups, and a targeted survey of 30 stakeholders, this report examines “the patterns of attendance and cultural participation by young people in the theatre for young audiences (TYA) and the children’s festival sector in Canada”.

The report identifies three characteristics that “seem to contribute to the success of organizations that present artistic programming for young people:

  • Significant collaboration and concerted action among the cultural, educational, political and economic stakeholders in the same community;
  • Available support for circulating a variety of works in under-served regions;
  • Development of activities that stimulate appreciation of art by both children and teachers.”

The report finds that “the overall TYA sector does not seem to have suffered a decline of critical proportions” but is in a “situation of apparent stagnation”. Regarding new technologies, the report indicates that “there is little evidence that new technologies and social media have caused significant harm to the TYA sector in Canada”.

Important challenges in the young audiences sector include overlap with the education system (and its different priorities) as well as “a lack of national statistics on young people’s cultural attendance and participation”. Other challenges may vary between different types of organizations and from one organization to another, including population decline, ethnic diversity, geographic isolation, local economic situations, and government priorities. The report indicates that “the sector’s key stakeholders are capable of transforming [these challenges] into opportunities”.

Moving forward, the report recommends a number of potential research priorities to better understand the situation of the TYA sector: 1) “a more accurate picture of cultural participation in certain activities”; 2) a better analytical grasp of demographic phenomena that will have “a direct impact on the size and composition of potential audiences”; 3) a better understanding of the relationship (and regional specificities) in the school sector, which the report identifies as a “prerequisite for consolidating, designing or setting up levers for better collaboration” between TYA organizations and the education system.

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