Friday, November 03, 2006

"The Arts and Civic Engagement"

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting piece today which provides some disturbing food for thought when it comes to the younger generation and its (dis)connect with the arts and volunteerism in the broader community:
Survey finds a decline in attendance
By Mike Boehm
Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2006

A new report by the National Endowment for the Arts on arts attendance and how it relates to volunteerism shows Americans 18 to 34 increasingly tuned out from the arts and the broader community.

The brief report, "The Arts and Civic Engagement," was culled from a Census Bureau telephone survey of some 17,000 adults, conducted in 2001-02.

Among its findings: Folks who read literature and attend the arts are more than twice as likely as others to do volunteer work, and at least 50% more likely to attend sporting events or take part in athletics. That correlation holds among all income groups, said Sunil Iyengar, director of research and analysis for the NEA.

The results for the 18-to-34 set: In 2002, only 45.2% reported reading even a single poem, short story, novel or play, down from 53.5% in 1992 and 61.1% in 1982. As for performing arts attendance, jazz concerts drew 10.6%, down from 12.7% in 1992 and 15.7% in 1982. Classical: 8.5% compared to 10.2% and 12.2%. Opera: 2.6% — pretty much flat over the 20 years. Musicals drew 15.1% compared to 18.5% 20 years ago; plays attracted 10.9%, compared to 12.5% in 1992.

Attendance trends among older groups were not published, but Iyengar said it grew or held steady.


Volunteerism also suffered among the younger crowd: 25.5% reported doing community work in 2002, compared to 28.9% in 1992 and 26.1% in 1982.

While foundations and arts organizations increasingly have been taking isolated steps to staunch the bleeding away of younger patrons, Iyengar hopes the NEA's survey results will help galvanize a more unified effort. A 2005 study by the Rand Corp. contended that exposure to the arts in childhood is the most important predictor of whether a person will appreciate them as an adult.

"We've taken leadership in getting the data out there as clearly and robustly as we can," Iyengar said. "We really hope someone will take leadership out there."

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