Arts Participation

Steps to Stronger Cultural and Community Life

2010, 20 pages, The Urban Institute, 2100 M Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20037, (202) 833-7200 http://www.urban.org

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People participate in arts and culture in four primary ways: they attend programs and events, encourage their children to participate, make or perform art as amateurs, or support the arts through donations of time and money. The more ways people participate—and the more often—the more likely they are to engage in other activities that support community life. These findings can enhance the efforts of arts and cultural providers and supporters to increase arts and cultural participation by working with their existing bases of support to intensify involvement. Encouraging people to advance along a "ladder of increasing commitment" within these four types of cultural participation will benefit not only artistic institutions but civic and community organizations as well. Increased participation, in turn, strengthens the case for providing political and economic support of arts and cultural institutions as valuable community assets.

These findings come from the recent Cultural Participation Survey conducted by the Urban Institute and funded by The Wallace Foundation as part of an evaluation of the Community Partnerships for Cultural Participation (CPCP) initiative.1 The survey asked residents in five communities about their attendance at live music, dance, and theater performances and their visual arts experiences, as well as about other forms of participation in arts and culture and in civic affairs. Responses to the survey suggest new ways to think about connections between arts and cultural participation and community participation.

Indications of Americans' declining involvement in civic affairs have recently attracted media attention and national concern.2 If participation in community activities is indeed declining, continued civic health may depend on nurturing those institutions in which people remain actively involved. Promoting more arts and cultural participation, and the institutions that foster it, is therefore an important way to help strengthen communities as well as the arts and cultural institutions themselves.

Available online in pdf format from The Urban Institute

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