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Reggae to Rachmaninoff: How and why people participate in arts and culture

Key Message

Five factors merit the attention of arts and cultural leaders because they suggest new participation building strategies:

1. Social and family connections lead to engagement in arts and culture for many individuals.
2. People define their own participation in arts and culture more broadly than arts and cultural institutions traditionally have.
3. An active subset of arts and culture participants are civic-minded and involved in their communities in multiple ways.
4. Non-arts organizations that sponsor arts and cultural events represent an important path to participation in arts and culture.
5. Religion plays an important role in arts and cultural participation. Worship services constitute a significant venue for participation in arts and culture, especially music, and religious organizations are often nonarts sponsors of arts and cultural events. “

Source

Walker, C., Scott-Melnyk, S., & Sherwood, K. (2002). Reggae to Rachmaninoff: How and why people participate in arts and culture. Washington, District of Columbia: Urban Institute.

Purpose

In 1997, the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds launched a major national initiative to encourage community foundations to invest in broadening, deepening, and diversifying cultural participation in communities in the United States. The Community Partnerships for Cultural Participation (CPCP) initiative enlisted 10 community foundations as partners and local leaders in encouraging participation in arts and cultural life. These community foundations raised local funding to invest in programs and institutions intended to spur broader, deeper, and more diverse cultural participation in their communities through a wide range of activities.

In January 1998, the Funds commissioned the Urban Institute to evaluate the initiative. This monograph follows our first report from the evaluation — Community Partnerships for Cultural Participation: Concepts, Prospects, and Challenges — which presented our early findings from the first round of field investigations.

On the following pages, Urban Institute researchers present findings from a telephone survey of cultural participation in five communities served by three of the community foundations. We offer these findings to inform those who aim to broaden and diversify cultural participation and promote the role of arts and culture in strengthening American communities.

Evidence

Five lessons emerged from the CPCP research that merit the attention of arts and cultural leaders because they suggest new participation building strategies.

1. Social and family connections are a path to engagement in arts and culture for many individuals.
2. People define their own participation in arts and culture more broadly than arts and cultural institutions traditionally have.
3. An active subset of arts and culture participants are civic-minded and involved in their communities in multiple ways.
4. Non-arts organizations that sponsor arts and cultural events represent an important path to participation in arts and culture.
5. Religion plays an important role in arts and cultural participation. Worship services constitute a significant venue for participation in arts and culture, especially music, and religious organizations are often nonarts sponsors of arts and cultural events.

New strategies for broadening, deepening, and diversifying cultural participation based on these lessons might include:
1. Creating marketing strategies and messages that highlight and provide incentives for bringing family members and friends to arts and cultural events.
2. Designing events to provide opportunities for socializing.
3. Offering programs and events that encompass the range of styles and types that people who participate identify as arts and culture.
4. Creating connections between arts and cultural programs and events and local nonarts causes and organizations.
5. Establishing partnerships between arts and cultural organizations and other nonprofit and volunteer organizations – particularly religious organizations – to produce arts and cultural programs and events.

One subgroup of arts and culture participants deserves close attention. These people have the potential to be formally engaged as marketers of arts and culture. They are also prime candidates for deepening their own involvement. Members of this group participate frequently in arts and culture, and are likely to participate in multiple forms of art as well as “popular” and “classical” styles or types. They tend to participate in arts and cultural events in order to support organizations or events important in their communities and because they are interested in arts and culture; and they belong to multiple organizations.

These people are at the nexus of the community focused CPCP findings about arts and cultural participation. Such civically-engaged people have many associates, some active like themselves and some less active. They are, therefore, socially positioned to draw others into their pursuits. These are the people whom volunteer associations and nonprofit organizations of all kinds seek to place on their boards and committees and to help with their fundraising.

Additional Information

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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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