American audiences for the arts are getting older, and their numbers are declining, according to new research released today by the National Endowment for the Arts
. Arts Participation 2008: Highlights from a National Survey features top findings from the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, the nation's largest and most representative periodic study of adult participation in arts events and activities, 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. The 2008 survey reveals dwindling audiences for many art forms, but it also captures new data on Internet use and other forms of arts participation.
Arts Participation 2008: Highlights from a National Survey brochure can be ordered or downloded
from the NEA Web site.
Although the 2008 recession likely affected survey responses, long-term trend analysis shows that other factors also may have contributed to lower arts participation rates. More detailed study results will be available later this year.
"Clearly, there is interest in better understanding of the American public's engagement in many art forms," said Acting Chairman Patrice Walker Powell. "The NEA survey will offer valuable data to both researchers and cultural arts organizations about national trends that may help shape arts programming and address the evolving habits of audiences."
Among the findings:
There are persistent patterns of decline in participation for most art forms. Nearly 35 percent of U.S. adults – or an estimated 78 million – attended an art museum or an arts performance in the 2008 survey period, compared with about 40 percent in 1982, 1992, and 2002. i ii
Attendance at the most popular types of arts events – such as art museums and craft/visual arts festivals – saw notable declines. The U.S. rate of attendance for art museums fell from a high of 26 percent in 1992-2002 to 23 percent in 2008, comparable to the 1982 level.
Between 1982 and 2008, attendance at performing arts such as classical music, jazz, opera, ballet, musical theater, and dramatic plays has seen double-digit rates of decline.
Fewer adults are creating and performing art. For example, the percentage of adults performing dance has lost six points since 1992. Weaving and sewing remain popular as crafts, but the percentage of adults who do those activities has declined by 12 points. Only the share of adults doing photography has increased – from 12 percent in 1992 to 15 percent in 2008.
Aging audiences are a long-term trend. Performing arts attendees are increasingly older than the average U.S. adult (45). The aging of the baby boom generation does not appear to account for the overall increase in age.
Audiences for jazz and classical music are substantially older than before. In 1982, jazz concerts drew the youngest adult audience (median age 29). In the 2008 survey, the median age of jazz concert-goers was 46 – a 17-year increase. Since 1982, young adult (18-24) attendance rates for jazz and classical music have declined the most, compared with other art forms.
Forty-five to 54-year-olds – historically dependable arts participants – showed the steepest declines in attendance for most art events, compared with other age groups.
Educated Americans are participating less than before, and educated audiences are the most likely to attend or participate in the arts.
College-educated audiences (including those with advanced degrees and certifications), have curbed their attendance in nearly all art forms.
Ballet attendance for this group has declined at the sharpest rate – down 43 percent since 1982.
Less-educated adults have significantly reduced their already low levels of attendance.
The Internet and mass media are reaching substantial audiences for the arts.
About 70 percent of U.S. adults went online for any purpose in 2008 survey, and of those adults, nearly 40 percent used the Internet to view, listen to, download, or post artworks or performances.
Thirty percent of adults who use the Internet, download, watch, or listen to music, theater, or dance performances online at least once a week. More than 20 percent of Internet-using adults view paintings, sculpture, or photography at least once a week.
More Americans view or listen to broadcasts and recordings of arts events than attend them live (live theater being the sole exception). Classical and Latin or salsa music were the most popular music categories (with 40 and 33.5 million viewers/listeners, respectively), and 33.7 million adults reported listening to, or viewing programs or recordings about books/writers. The same number (33.7 million) enjoyed broadcasts or recordings about the visual arts.
The 2008 survey was the NEA's first attempt to measure attendance at performing arts festivals, use of community venues, and attendance at Latin/Spanish/salsa concerts. This fall, the NEA will release a full summary report of survey findings, including regional data on arts participation. In the next year, the NEA will release more topic-specific reports on the roles of age, race and ethnicity, arts learning, Internet use, and arts creation and performance. In advance of those reports, the NEA is making raw data and detailed statistical tables available to researchers and the public. The tables highlight demographic factors affecting adult participation in a variety of art forms. Another table ranking types of music preferred by adults is also included. The entire survey questionnaire and the raw data and user's guide are available both on the NEA website and on CPANDA, Princeton University's Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive.