NEA finds that Americans are attending fewer art-related events

Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Brown at Birdland, photo by Marcel Fleiss

So, the good news, as I see it anyway, according to a recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), is that a third of Americans reported making art themselves. We're making it in the form of music, photography, weaving, sewing, painting, etc. Hooray! The bad news is that Americans are attending fewer art-related events put on by professionals, like musical concerts, plays and dance performances. Audiences are getting older and fewer (for example at classical and jazz music events).

I heard the story reported on NPR just a day after I saw on Facebook that my sister attended what sounded like an great Jazz festival. While I used to go to shows quite a bit, I realized after reading her update, that I just don't get out to hear music as much these days. For a music-lover, this is a strange and uncomfortable revelation.

The shows I used to go to were, more frequently than not, in the rock/pop/electronic genres—usually it was a night of dancing and high energy. But my tastes have changed, and while I still love a lot of that music, I've developed a love of other genres, perhaps mellower genres—folk, jazz, r+b, country and more ambient electronic.

So why am I not at least going to as many shows as I once did featuring these newer genres of interest? In my case, it's perhaps a little bit of what happens when we (and by 'we', I really mean, many of us) age—we are content to spend the evening at home reading, 'making' or chatting with friend. Of course there are often more responsibilities as we age as well—and that might be the primary piece of the puzzle for me. Because, although I'd love to head out when my beloved musicians make it to town, I now have my money 'earmarked' for other things, 'practical things', that hit higher on my priorities list. Sure, I feel like a grownup for knowing so, but I also feel a little sad as well.

So I'm vowing now to get out, at least a little bit more. In fact, our local Portland Ballet Company is struggling to sell tickets and it's people like me that they need to attend in order to stick around. So I'll see you at the ballet/jazz club/symphony/playhouse etc...


So what about you? Are you concerned about this drop in attendance to professional art events. Has your attendance to art-related events changed? If so, why?



by Briar Levit
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2 Comments Have Been Posted

I wish I could blame the recession...

... but I've always been this broke. I've definitely experienced this, though not for lack of interest. I simply can't afford to go out and art it up... recently I was living in Seattle, and when the Film Festival is going there are easily 10 movies I'd love to see, but at $10 a pop I can barely afford one. I'd love to see Stravinsky at the Symphony, but $50 for nosebleed seats isn't an option. I realize artists need to eat, and I'd love to help them do that, but if I'm to eat as well I can't afford to go out and support local art. So I try and support what I can, free or no, but it always boils down to that harsh budget, where discretionary spending is currently allotted -$300. :O

I wonder if people are going to less expensive arts events?

I wonder if the NPR story is also counting the smaller, less costly (and often free) art events as well as the larger concerts and museums? These days, as a 30-something-year old with a job, an 8-year-old daughter and lots of other things to do, I find that I'm more likely to attend a friend's nighttime art opening in a loft or storefront gallery than to try to make the time/find the money to go to a museum whose hours may not work for a 9-to-5er and whose staff may be a lot more hostile to the presence of a young child/budding art connoisseur.

The same with music--I'm more likely to go see a band play in a smaller venue (like a bar or small club or community center) than at a big hall. It's less money and I always feel like I get more out of the experience.

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