mikePublic Participation In The Arts Data Reflects Digital Shift

The National Endowment for the Arts has released data from the 2012 Survey for Public Participation in the Arts, and there are some interesting trends.

More than 70% of American adults accessed electronic media, 1 in 4 adults now share photography online (see Instagram and facebook), and 1 in 5 shared music. The flip-side? Adult consumption of literary media (e.g., novels, poems, etc.) dropped 3% in lieu of greater electronic access. On the uptick? “Substantial” increases in adults attending live arts performances.

Hard to pin down any significant trend here other than the ubiquity of digital media, though even that has an inverse: while 29% of users used the internet to listen to music, that means more than 70% do not.

You can see the excerpted results from the press release below.

National Endowment of the Arts 2012 Survey Release

This initial analysis of the 2012 SPPA shows that large segments of the U.S. adult population reported taking part in at least one kind of arts activity. A closer look at the data reveals subtle shifts in demographic and behavioral patterns that occurred since 2008, the previous survey year.

Art and Electronic Media

  • More than two-thirds of American adults (71 percent or 167 million) accessed art via electronic media, including TV, radio, handheld or mobile devices, the Internet, and DVDs, CDs, tapes, or records.
  • Music viewing and/or listening is the most popular form of media arts participation—whether on TV, radio, or the Internet. Fifty percent of adults used TV or radio to watch or listen to music, and 29 percent used the Internet to watch, listen to, or download music.
  • Mobile devices appear to narrow racial/ethnic gaps in arts engagement. Whether listening to music, looking at a photo, or watching a dance or theater performance, all racial/ethnic groups show roughly the same rates of engagement via mobile devices.

Attending Arts Events and Activities

  • Nearly half of the nation’s adults (49 percent or 115 million) attended at least one type of visual or performing arts activity. Fifty-nine percent of adults attended at least one movie, an activity that increased substantially among most demographic subgroups.
  • Musical play attendance saw the first significant drop since the 1985 SPPA: a 9 percent rate of decline from 2008 to 2012. Non-musical play attendance fell at a 12 percent rate over the same period.  Museum-going also saw a decline: 21 percent of adults (or 47 million) visited an art museum or gallery in 2012, down from 23 percent in 2008.
  • Non-white and Hispanic Americans saw no declines in their arts attendance rates from 2008 to 2012; on the contrary, they even saw increases in some categories. In 2012, African Americans outpaced whites’ attendance rates at jazz events.
  • Festivals show promise as entry points to the arts. One in four younger adults (ages 18-24) attended an outdoor performing arts festival in 2012, up from 22 percent in 2008.

Art-Making and Art-Sharing

  • About half of the nation’s adults created, performed, or shared art of various types. Social dancing is the most popular form of art-making or art-sharing; nearly one in three adults (32 percent) danced at weddings, clubs, or other social settings. Young adults and Hispanic Americans are the most avid dancers; 40 percent of 18-34 year olds and 36 percent of Hispanics reported social dancing.
  • One in four adults (26 percent) e-mailed, posted, or shared photography in 2012. One in five adults (21 percent) e-mailed, posted, or shared music. Fifteen percent shared their own photos, and 13 percent shared film or videos. Thirteen percent did photo editing, and 12 percent did photography for artistic purposes.
  • In this category, the fiber arts were among the most popular. Thirteen percent of adults reported participating in weaving, crocheting, quilting, needlepoint, knitting, or sewing in 2012. Twelve percent of adults played a musical instrument. Nine percent reported singing, either alone or with others, and 8 percent created leatherwork, metalwork, or woodwork.

Reading Books and Literature

  • More than half of American adults read a work of literature or a book (fiction or nonfiction) not required for work or school. However, adults’ rates of literary reading (novels or short stories, poetry, and plays) dropped back to 2002 levels (from 50 percent in 2008 to 47 percent in 2012).
  • Older Americans (65 and older) now have higher rates of literary reading than any other adult age group.

Arts Education

As of 2012, roughly half of all adults had experienced some arts learning at some point in their lives, whether through classes or lessons, in or out of school, or outside of formal instruction. But disparities persist by gender, race/ethnicity, and level of general education. For example, a college graduate is nearly twice as likely to have taken an art class or lesson in childhood than a high school graduate (59 percent compared to 32 percent). Meanwhile, adults of all racial and ethnic backgrounds reported similar rates of taking arts classes or lessons in the last year.

  • The most popular classes adults reported taking in childhood (in or out of school) were voice training or playing an instrument (36 percent), visual arts (19 percent), and art appreciation or art history (18 percent).
  • A new, more inclusive question about arts education reveals more arts participants than before. Fifty-six percent of adults reported that they received arts education at some point in their lives—whether through classes, lessons, or through informal instruction (from friends, family tradition, or teaching oneself). This compares to the 49 percent who reported having taken formal instruction (a class or lesson, in or out of school) at some point in their lives. The most popular informal learning experiences were voice training or playing an instrument (18 percent), dance (16 percent), photography or filmmaking (13 percent), and music appreciation (11 percent).

Next year, the NEA will release a full report with in-depth findings including more geographic and demographic details for arts engagement among U.S. adults. Beyond today’s highlights report, the entire survey questionnaire, raw data, and user’s guide are available to researchers and the public at arts.gov.

Image attribution flickr user –Mike–