Arts Attendance Drops in Mountain Region

A greater percentage of adults attend arts events in the Mountain Region than the US average artgoer, but arts attendance has declined 10 percent in the region between 2002 and 2008. The bright side? Increased participation via technology. The National Endowment for the Arts has released its 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts and the results are not good. Approximately 35 percent of all U.S. adults (78 million Americans) attended an arts exhibit or performance in the year prior to May 2008, when the survey was taken. That figure is down nearly 5 percent from 2002 and 6 percent from the high of 41 percent of U.S. adults who did the same in 1992. Museum visits declined nearly 4 percent, attendance at craft fairs and art festivals declined nearly 9 percent and visits to parks and historic sites declined by nearly 7 percent.

When looking at regional numbers, the decline is even more severe. While more adults attended arts events in the Mountain Region (36.4 percent in 2008) than the U.S. average, the decline in attendance from the 2002 was 10 percent.  In 2002, 46.8 percent of Mountain Region adults attended an arts activity. This was the highest percentage of any region of the country. That is no longer the case. The NEA attributed the decline to the recession and cost of living, saying that at the time of the survey the U.S. economy had been in recession for six months and that consumer spending throughout the survey period was week and tracks closely with trends in the broader U.S. economy. But no other region showed as steep decline as the Mountain Region, which is comprised of Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. It also significant to point out that while Arizona and Nevada have been hit hard by the recession, other states in the region have faired better.

Residents of the Mountain Region rank notably high in attending Latin music events, performing arts festivals, other dance performances and reading literature. Twenty-three percent of Mountain Region adults own original art and 6.5 percent purchased that art in the previous 12 months from when the survey was taken. That figure puts the Mountain Region third behind New England, where 30 percent owned original art and 10 percent of those had purchased in the prior 12 months and the Pacific Region where  the corresponding figures were 26.4 percent and 8.1 percent.

NEA Chairman, Rocco Landesman and Senior Deputy Chairman, Joan Shigekawa both focused on the increasing use of technology to connect with the arts yesterday during the streaming broadcast of the presentation of the report. Forty different National Service Organizations participated in the presentation. Landesman pointed out the 47 million Americans connected with the arts via technology according to survey results. Shikegawa added that “technology is helping democratize participation in the arts.”

Seventy percent of all U.S. adults reported using the Internet according the NEA survey. Forty-one percent of Americans explored, listened, or watched the arts through some form of media, which is higher than the 35 percent who physically attended an arts event. “Four in ten U.S. adults who used the Internet did so to view, listen to, download, or post artworks or performances in 2008.” And 30 percent did those activities at least once a week. Additionally, 20 percent of Internet using adults viewed paintings, sculpture, or photography online typically once a week.

Of great interest to is that 42 percent of all adults and 59.4 percent of Internet using adults indicated that they read articles, essays or blogs on the Internet or downloaded from the Internet. Among all Internet users, 20.2 percent look at visual art, 34.9 percent obtain information about exhibits or performances. These are benchmark numbers and will likely increase when the next survey results are compiled.

Unfortunately its the Pacific region that had among the highest rates of media participation and the adults in the Pacific region were more likely to write, paint or draw. For example, 19.3 percent of Pacific adults participated in the programs on artists, art works or art museums through broadcast or recorded media in 2008 compared to 13.9 percent in the Mountain region. Additionally, 11.7 percent of adults in Pacific region created painting or drawing compared to 9.4 percent in the Mountain region. However, weaving and sewing were higher in the Mountain region 15.5 percent compared to 13.6 percent in Pacific.

The summary report is available here.

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