Recently, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released 3 distinct reports on arts and cultural industries explaining how they affect the nation’s economy, and perhaps more importantly, the agency published a comprehensive data set listing the reasons American adults engage in arts and culture. This is the first time one can see the research as it relates to a specific year in arts activity; in this case, 2012.

Of note is the versatility and in-depth nature of the data provided. The arts and cultural industry is still incredibly lucrative. In 2012, it contributed almost $700 billion to the U.S. economy and for every 100 jobs created from new demand for the arts, 62 additional jobs were created. However, audiences for American arts are dwindling every year. Attendance of “benchmark” arts events (jazz, classical music, opera, musical and non-musical plays, ballet and art museums or exhibits) dropped 6 percent in the last decade. Still, the statistics do provide insight into how arts organizations can work to eliminate the hurdles preventing these adults from participating and focus on the catalysts that do elicit attendance.

NEA Infographic - why people attend the arts

The infographic above is a report provided by the NEA (partnered with the General Social Survey) that provides statistics on the people attending (or not attending) arts events and the reasons why. Some things to take away are:

  • Nearly ¾ of all adults participating in the arts do so to socialize
  • Almost half of all adults not participating in arts activity claim that they just don’t have enough time to do so, especially those with children under the age of 6
  • Access, cost and lack of social activity were three other significant factors limiting attendance in the arts, especially for the elderly

As NEA chairman Jane Chu said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, “We have the opportunity to make sure people understand the arts are essential to our lives, and that they are there even when we’re not aware of them. The arts don’t exist in a silo.”

For more, read the full reports on the website