New numbers show current supply, demand and motivation in the arts


The NEA reports show interest in the arts is there, but not always put to use. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • The NEA reports show interest in the arts is there, but not always put to use.
Monday, the National Endowment for the Arts released findings from three studies that detail consumer behavior in the arts. The studies measured why people attend art events, how they participate, and — the biggie — the economic value of the arts. 

The splashiest finding, picked up by the Washington Post, was that half of all American adults participate in the arts, which is great. But there was bad news for the likes of classical music, jazz, ballet, theater and art museums (so ... a healthy chunk), where participation was found to be dropping.

Study 1 reveals that in 2012 (the year in question for all three reports), the main motivations for arts attendance were: to socialize, to learn new things, to experience culture, and to support the community, in that order. Barriers were time (largely defined by parents with young children), followed by cost, access (largely defined by retirees and those with physical disabilities) and "no one to go with." (Aw, really?)

The NEA writes, "Thwarted interest, rather than lack of interest, may be the cause for lower attendance rates among some audiences." Thus, the search is on for these "interested non-attendees," also called "the missing audience," of about 31 million people. Shifting demographics play a key role, but there's also "a lot of competition for leisure activities," as NEA director of research and analysis Sunil Iyengar told Pacific Standard.

Study 2 takes from a vast sample group of 37,000 adults and compares findings with similar surveys done as far back as 2002. It finds that adults who attended museums or performances as children are three to four times more likely to do the same as adults. "Exposure to the arts in childhood turns out to be a stronger predictor of adult arts participation than education, gender, age, or income."

Except for a few categories, women participate in the arts at higher rates than men. The exceptions? Men are over twice as likely to use electronic media to create or perform music, and are more likely to create visual art online.

Now then, Study 3, the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account — the first federal effort to analyze the arts against GDP. It revealed that "the arts are a bigger driver of GDP and jobs than previously estimated." For instance, in 2012, the arts eclipsed both construction and transportation/warehousing in contributing to the economy. It brought in $698 billion (or 4.32 percent of the GDP), compared to construction's $586.7 billion. According to SFGate, it also raked in more than tourism and agriculture.

Not bad. Plus, on top of the 4.7 million workers in the arts and culture sector, studies show that for every "100 jobs created from new demand for the arts, 62 additional jobs are also created."

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast