The National Benefits Hub

Research that Supports Recreation

← Home

Advanced Search

Art-Goers in Their Communities: Patterns of Civic and Social Engagement

Key Message

"American adults who attend art museums, art galleries, or live arts performances are far more likely than non-attendees to vote, volunteer, or take part in community events." (p.1)

Source

National Endowment for the Arts. (2009. Art-Goers in Their Communities: Patterns of Civic and Social Engagement. Nea Research Note #98. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Purpose

Recent attempts to study arts participation as a factor in strengthening the lives of communities have focused on quantifying economic or social impacts of artists and arts organizations. For its own part, the National Endowment for the Arts has contributed to such research with a series of reports about artists in the U.S. workforce.1 Since 2006, however, NEA researchers have examined civic benefits associated with arts activity through the lens of the participant.


The NEA’s periodic Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) allows researchers to study the correlations between U.S. adults’ self-reported levels of arts engagement and a range of positive civic and social behaviors. This Research Note incorporates data from the 2008 SPPA. (p. 1)

More than 18,000 Americans 18 years of age or older were surveyed. A statistical regression model to show that the “relatively high rates of volunteerism continue to prevail, even after adjusting for the effects of education, gender, age, parental status, and other demographic factors.

Evidence

Arts participants volunteer, attend community meetings, and vote in presidential elections at rates considerably higher than those of Americans who do not participate in the arts. In 2008, for example, 57 percent of performing arts attendees volunteered or did charity work at least once over a 12-month period.4 This rate was more than 35 percentage points greater than the volunteer rate for adults who did not attend arts performances. Similarly, the volunteer rate for art museum visitors was 58 percent—a rate more than double that of adults who did not visit art museums.5 Even for literary readers, the volunteer rate (43 percent) was higher than for non-readers of literature—by 22 points.6

Relatively high rates of volunteerism continue to prevail, even after adjusting for the effects of education, gender, age, parental status, and other demographic factors.


 Arts participants and literary readers show a greater likelihood of community involvement in a variety of other ways, including sports participation, collaborative art-making, and taking their children to out-of-school performances.

In 2008, more than half of all adults who attended performing arts events or art museums also attended a sporting event. By contrast, sports attendance rates were roughly 30 percentage points lower for adults who did not attend performing arts events or art museums. The sports attendance rate for literary readers was 38 percent. As a group, arts participants (attendees and readers) are about twice as likely as non-arts participants to play sports.  (p. 2)

Of all the demographic traits considered, only education rivals performing arts attendance as a predictor of civic or sports involvement. (p. 11)

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

Get Updates By Email