WASHINGTON - For nearly three decades, the periodic survey has focused primarily on live attendance at "benchmark" arts activities which are defined as live attendance at jazz or classical music concerts, opera, plays, ballet, or visits to art museums or galleries. Although attendance rates have declined or held flat for these activities, this depiction of arts participation habits is incomplete. Going forward, the NEA will measure and analyze a fuller spectrum of artistic genres, arts participation via electronic media, and personal arts creation.
To launch this expanded conversation, the NEA invited Nick Rabkin and E.C. Hedberg of NORC, University of Chicago; Mark J. Stern of the University of Pennsylvania; and Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard and Alan S. Brown of the research firm WolfBrown to mine the SPPA data. Their findings are offered in three, newly released reports that also confirm the importance of arts education, argue for a more expansive system to measure arts participation, and challenge the notion of the "graying" of arts audiences.
"We are encouraging researchers to ask new questions about how Americans engage with the arts, and the new analysis can help arts organizations reach audiences through new venues, new delivery systems, and new approaches." said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "While this research is encouraging, it also confirms that arts education as a child is an important factor in arts participation as an adult. Arts education is a key way to promote more arts participation."
Among the key findings:
Using a definition that more accurately reflects Americans' arts participation, the 2008 SPPA data reveals that 3 out of 4 Americans participate in arts activities. This definition includes a fuller variety of artistic genres, participation via electronic media, and personal arts creation.
There is a strong relationship between arts attendance and creation. These results suggest that successful audience-building strategies may consist of programs that combine art-making and personal performance with live attendance opportunities.
Childhood arts education has a potentially stronger effect on arts attendance than age, race, or socioeconomic status. Long-term declines in childhood arts education have serious implications for the future of arts participation in America.
Age and generation are statistically significant, but they are generally weak predictors of arts participation. Education levels influence rates of cultural participation much more than the year a person was born.
The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts is the nation's largest and most representative periodic study of adult participation in arts events and activities. It is conducted by the NEA in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau. Five times since 1982, the survey has asked U.S. adults 18 and older about their patterns of arts participation over a 12-month period. Recently, the NEA has convened both researchers and arts practitioners to consider the survey. Calls for a more accurate reflection of Americans' arts participation has led to the wider spectrum of questions being asked about arts engagement. Results from a 2012 survey will be released in 2013.
The three new NEA research reports are Arts Education in America: What the declines mean for arts participation by Nick Rabkin and E.C. Hedberg; Beyond Attendance: A multi-modal understanding of arts participation by Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard and Alan S. Brown; and Age and Arts Participation: A case against demographic destiny by Mark J. Stern. These research reports, along with a digest summarizing the findings of all three studies, are available in the Research section of the NEA website.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector