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Americans Speak Out About the Arts

An In-Depth Look at Perceptions and Attitudes about the Arts in America

August 23, 201723 August 2017

Public perception of the arts and culture

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Based on an online survey of 3,020 American adults in December 2015, this report summarizes responses to a series of questions about arts engagement, education, government funding, and the benefits to individuals and communities.

Regarding arts engagement, the survey found that 68% of Americans attended at least one of 11 types of arts events in the past year, with slightly higher participation rates among people of colour (71%) than white respondents (66%). In addition, three-quarters of respondents (77%) experienced the arts in non-traditional venues, such as parks, public plazas, schools, streets, sidewalks, shopping malls, and places of worship. Sixty-nine percent of respondents display art in their homes. One-half of respondents (49%) are involved in art-making activities “such as painting, singing in a choir, making crafts, writing poetry, or playing music”. The report calls Millennials “the most active arts generation”, with relatively high engagement rates across a number of indicators. Despite the fairly high overall level of arts engagement, there is a recognition among many respondents that not “everyone in my community has equal access to the arts.”

Regarding arts education, 88% of survey respondents “agree that the arts are part of a well‐rounded K‐12 education”. The vast majority of respondents agree that arts education should take place in many different settings, including elementary schools (88%), middle schools (90%), high schools (89%), as well as in community settings outside of schools (83%).

On the subject of government arts funding, a majority of respondents approve of both local (58%) and state (57%) governments providing grants to artists and arts organizations. There was also strong support for federal arts funding, although the question about federal funding was worded quite differently: “The federal government collects about $4,400 per person in revenue every year. Currently, it spends about 45 cents per person on grants to arts organizations (such as museums, theaters, and community arts centers). In your opinion, is this…” not enough (43%), just right (26%), too much (13%), and don’t know (17%).

Concerning the benefits of the arts to themselves personally, about two-thirds of respondents agree that:

  • “The arts give me pure pleasure to experience or participate in” (66%)
  • “The arts help to lift me up beyond everyday experiences” (63%)
  • “The arts help me understand other cultures better” (62%)
  • “The arts make me feel more creative” (60%)

Regarding the benefits of the arts to their community, a majority of respondents agree that:

  • “The arts are a positive experience in a troubled world” (73%)
  • “The arts unify us, regardless of age, race, and ethnicity” (67%)
  • “The arts improve the image and identity of my community” (60%)

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