Chapter 45: Participation
Charles M. Gray The arts are complicated phenomena in modern society. They are, among other things, hobbies, means of personal expression, spectator entertainments, social statements, offensive activities and debatable policy issues. But in all of these manifestations, they retain a unifying theme: the arts are economic activities, consuming resources that have alternative uses. As is made amply clear throughout this Handbook, production and consumption of the arts constitute supply and demand in more or less well-developed markets. Patterns of participation in the arts, as defined for the purposes of this chapter, provide information on the demand side of the arts marketplace and, in some instances, possible insights into market equilibrium outcomes. The past three decades have seen a burgeoning interest in public participation in the arts, by which is meant the extent that citizens engage in artistic activities, a few as professional artists of some stripe, but most as either audience or hobbyist. The US National Endowment for the Arts, the chief arts policy-making and implementation body of the federal government, has to date sponsored six national surveys, in 1982, 1985, 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2008, to determine the extent and nature of public participation. Even a cursory search through websites of the cultural ministries of many other nations will yield corresponding results of their own arts participation surveys. This chapter examines the topic through an economist’s lens and offers typical empirical measures based on that perspective. The focus here is on participation as an audience member or visitor, that...
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