Arts attendance among American adults is declining

“Danced at a wedding? Crocheted a sweater for your niece? Posted a photograph on Facebook? Then you participated in “art making” or “art sharing,” according to the survey. Listened to music on an iPod or a radio? Then you’re among the 71 percent of Americans who consumed the arts through electronic media, by far the most popular activity recorded.”

New York Times reporter Patricia Cohen recently wrote an article about the National Endowment for the Arts’s survey on arts participation. The survey’s overall findings were that arts attendance among American adults has declined since the last survey in 2008. There were increases in attendance for Dance, Jazz, and Movies, but Ballet, Musical Theater, Art Galleries, and Classical Music all saw decreased attendance. In fact, over the past decade theater attendance has decreased by 33 percent.

A key part of this survey also took into consideration people’s interactions with technology and how that impacted arts attendance. For example, how much are Netflix, Hulu, social media, and other video on demand options affecting how people spend their time? To this Heather A. Hitchens, executive director of the American Theater Wing, said “At the end of the day, I’m not troubled by it,” said . “I believe that all this technology is fantastic, but nothing is going to replace the live experience.” <<< this is what we call denial

To add to the denial, instead of addressing the  issue or talking solutions, the NEA has just expanded the definition of arts participation to everything from listening to music on an iPod to dancing at a friend’s wedding. Are you kidding me? Expanding the definition of arts participation is all well and good until we start talking about arts organizations’ reliance on public and private dollars for survival. Buying stock in Apple is not aiding in keeping the arts thriving.

These numbers are astonishing and scary for artists, arts administrators, city planners, tourism bureaus, and arts enthusiasts who are employed by government or arts organizations. Arts are the heartbeats of cities, but citizens don’t seem to realize it. Cut arts funding and you have a trickle down effect that could eliminate millions of jobs, not only at arts organizations, but also schools, universities, and in the hospitality and service industries.  The NEA is supposed to release another report in January on the reasons people gave for decreased attendance. I’m sure the usual suspects such as no money and no time will appear, but I’ll be interested to see what reasons people gave. Until then I guess we should go about, unconcerned.

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