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Arts Research Monitor

Key Message

Performing arts attendees have positive indicators of social engagement:

• They volunteer for non‐profit organizations at almost twice the rate of non-attendees
• They donate money or goods to non-profit organizations at a much higher rate
• They are more likely to do favors for their neighbors
• They report feeling less trapped in daily routines.


Hill Strategies Research Inc. (2008). Arts Research Monitor, 7(1).


In this issue: four reports related to arts attendance, including an American study of the intrinsic impacts of performance attendance, a Canadian examination of the social impacts of performing arts attendance, a study of attendees’ motivations, abilities and opportunities to participate, and a report on the demographic and cultural factors involved in performing arts attendance in Canada.


This report “attempts to define and measure how audiences are transformed by a live performance”. Two different surveys were conducted by six presenters with 1,730 randomly‐selected audience members at 19 music, dance and theatre performances.

Captivation – the degree of attendees’ absorption in the performance – is highly correlated with their satisfaction with a performance. The report notes that many audience members spoke of “‘getting lost in the performance’ or ‘going to another place.’” Intellectual stimulation includes the degree of intellectual engagement with a performance, being challenged or provoked by what was seen, reflecting on one’s opinions or beliefs, and discussing the meaning and merits of the performance with others. “A large majority of respondents (87%) discussed the meaning or merits of the performance afterwards, although just 19% characterized their discussion as an ‘intense exchange.’” Performances can elicit emotional responses ranging from joy to despair. The data in the report shows a connection between emotion and memory, leading the researchers to argue that the emotional resonance of performances can “yield intrinsic ‘benefit dividends’ through life”.

REPORT 2 - Social Effects of Culture: Exploratory Statistical Evidence (Hill Strategies Research, March 2008,

While the WolfBrown report examines the intrinsic impacts of a single performance, this recent report investigates the broad social impacts of cultural activities for individuals. This report examines the relationship between four cultural activities (reading books, attending live performances, visiting art galleries and attending movie theatres) and social phenomena such as volunteering, donating, neighbourhood connections, sense of belonging and quality of life.

Some statistics in the report do show a relationship between some cultural activities and positive social engagement. Performing arts attendees do have positive indicators of social engagement. For example:
• The percentage of performing arts attendees volunteering for a non‐profit organization (48%) is much higher than the percentage of non-attendees (28%).
• The percentage of performing arts attendees donating money or goods to a non-profit organization (88%) is much higher than the percentage of non-attendees (71%).
• Seventy-three percent of performing arts attendees (compared with 67% of non-attendees) indicated that they had done a favour for a neighbour in the past month.
• Fewer performing arts attendees than non-attendees feel trapped in a daily routine (33% of performing arts attendees compared with 38% of non-attendees).

Overall, given the mix of positive and neutral findings regarding performing arts attendees, the report finds mild evidence of a link between performing arts attendance and positive social engagement. It should be noted that the definition of the performing arts in the report is quite broad, including popular music, classical music, theatre, dance or opera.

REPORT 1 - Assessing the Intrinsic Impacts of a Live Performance directly can be done at (WolfBrown, January 2007,

Additional Information

| PDF - Free public distribution is made possible by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Department of Canadian Heritage

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

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

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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