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One of the nonprofit organizations I support and volunteer with is Americans for the Arts, a national advocacy and membership organization. AFTA has recently published its latest public opinion survey on the arts entitled Americans Speak Out about the Arts. The report is based on a nationally representative sample of over 3,000 adults, and it updates a similar study that was conducted two years ago.
According to the survey, Americans are highly engaged in the arts – as attendees, arts makers, art purchasers and arts advocates -- and they believe that the arts promote well-being and help us understand other cultures in our communities. They also support public funding of arts and cultural organizations in their communities, and believe in the critical role of the arts in K-12 education.
Here are five (and a half) things that Americans believe about the arts:
“The arts provide meaning to our lives and unify our communities.”
69% of Americans believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences,” and 81% say the arts are “a positive experience in a troubled world” (this is an increase of 8% from 2015). 72% of Americans believe the arts “unify our communities regardless of age, race and ethnicity,” and 73% agree that the arts “help me understand other cultures better” (an increase of 11% from 2015).
“We enjoy arts experiences in our communities, often in unexpected places.”
72% of Americans attended an arts or cultural event such as the theater, a museum, a zoo or a musical performance during the previous year (up from 68% in 2015), and 70% of Americans enjoy the arts in non-traditional venues such as a symphony in the park, a performance in an airport or exhibitions in a hospital or shopping mall. Art in the parks, public spaces and sidewalks were the most popular places to have an arts experience.
“The arts add value to our communities, but not everyone has equal access to the arts.”
90% believe that cultural facilities such as theaters, museums, sculpture parks and neighborhood arts centers improve the quality of life in communities, and 86% believe that cultural facilities are important to local businesses and the economy. But, only 50% of those surveyed believe that everyone in their communities has equal access to the arts despite the many benefits that the arts bring to individuals and communities.
“We support arts education at all grade levels, and out-of-school experiences are important too.”
91% agree that the arts are critical part of a well-rounded K-12 education, including 61% who strongly agree with only 5% disagreeing. This overwhelming support for arts education holds at all grade levels: elementary school (94%), middle school (94%) and high school (93%). 89% think that the arts should be taught outside the classroom in the community as well.
“The arts help me be more creative, which makes me more successful in my job.”
55% of Americans said that their jobs require them to be “creative and come up with ideas that are new and unique,” and 60% say that the more creative and innovative they are at their jobs, the more successful they are in the workplace. 49% said that they would strongly consider whether a community is rich in the arts when deciding whether to relocate for a job.
“I love to sing in the shower...when no one is listening.”
Nearly half of Americans are personally involved in art-making activities such as painting, singing in a choir, making crafts, writing poetry or playing music. That includes singing in the shower when no one else is around.
Leaders of arts organizations can utilize this vital customer information to design and market programs that appeal to audiences and patrons in ways that are consistent with their beliefs. This is especially true for the issue of equal access to the arts. While 90% of Americans say they are pleased with their community as a place to live, most Americans say that they expect to get closer to “their best possible life” in the next five years. The arts should be a major part of that journey.
Portions of this blog post first appeared on Forbes.com
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