Any serious reckoning of how Americans participate in arts and cultural activities must account for demographic and geographic diversity. Prior National Endowment for the Arts
publications, including the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, already have examined the age, race/ethnicity, gender, and education and income status of arts-goers. Another way to understand arts participation is by asking where it takes place. Come as You Are: Informal Arts Participation in Urban and Rural Communities is the NEA's first research publication in several years to examine the "informal arts" -- such as playing a musical instrument, attending an art event at a place of worship, or visiting a craft fair. This finding is part of new research from the NEA, announced today during a visit by NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman to Chelsea, Michigan, as part of the NEA's Art Works Tour. The publication provides an analysis of arts participation in rural and urban areas.
"Art works everywhere and this new research helps us to understand the many ways and many places in which people across America experience art in their daily lives," said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "I look forward to drawing on this data as we move forward with opportunities for cities and towns to invest in the arts in their communities."
Come as You Are: Informal Arts Participation in Urban and Rural Communities analyzes data from the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). Among the findings:
Traditional arts venues and institutions such as art museums, galleries, and performing arts centers and companies cluster in urban populations. Eighty-eight percent of nonprofit performing art organizations and art museums are located in urban metropolitan areas, with the top 10 metro areas home to 30 percent of the nonprofit arts institutions. As a result, a third of all urban metro dwellers attended at least one of the main performing arts events tracked by the SPPA (classical music, jazz, or Latin/salsa music performances; opera; musical or non-musical plays; or ballet or other dance). Similarly, 24 percent of urban dwellers visited an art museum or gallery in 2008.
However, an analysis of the "informal arts" offers a more comprehensive measure of arts participation. Informal arts comprise a broad range of "citizen" arts in the forms of folk arts, popular culture, and casual or hobby arts. Informal arts activities captured by the SPPA include: visiting historical parks and neighborhoods, craft fairs, and outdoor performing arts festivals; attending arts events at places of worship and schools; and personal performance and creation of art, such as playing a musical instrument, singing in a choir, or doing creative writing.
When looking at the informal arts, metro and non-metro residents enjoy most of these activities at the same rates.
In 2008, one in four residents from each type of community -- urban or rural -- visited a historical park or neighborhood or attended an arts and craft fair; one in five adults from both communities went to an outdoor performing arts festival.
Twenty percent of both urban and rural dwellers attended a music, theater, or dance performance at a place of worship.
Urban and rural dwellers played musical instruments at the same rate -- 13 percent. Nine percent of each group created paintings, drawings, or sculptures. Two percent performed dance.
There are two notable exceptions: rural residents were more likely to sing in choirs, sew, weave, crochet, or quilt. Urban dwellers were more likely than rural dwellers to create photography, videos, or films for artistic purposes.
The 2008 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, 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.