January 23, 2022

National Endowment for the Arts Releases New Data on Participation in the Arts at National, State, and Regional Levels

From the National Endowment for the Arts:

The National Endowment for the Arts is releasing [our emphasis] new research that for the first time offers a complete state-by-state perspective on how Americans participate in the arts. In addition, the data reveal that despite decades of declining arts attendance by U.S. adults in the performing and visual arts, more recent rates are holding steady.

The new research comes in the form of two “arts data profiles,” NEA collections of statistics, graphics, and summary results from data-mining about the arts.

The latest additions are Results from the Annual Arts Basic Survey (2013-2015) and State‐Level Estimates of Arts Participation Patterns.

Highlights From the Reports

Arts Data Profile 10: Results from the Annual Arts Basic Survey (2013-2015) includes five research briefs or summary findings from the dataset:

  • Visual and Performing Arts Attendance; Movie-Going; Literary Reading; and Learning through Arts Classes or Lessons
  • Personal Performance or Creation of Artworks
  • Urban/Rural Patterns of Arts Participation
  • Gender, Race and Ethnicity, and Age of Arts Participants
  • Job Analysis of Arts Participants

Among the key findings from these research briefs are:

Overall Numbers

  • In 2015, nearly 32 percent of U.S. adults totaling 76 million people attended a live music, theater, or dance performance over a 12-month period, while 19 percent of adults or 45 million attended an art exhibit. Both of these rates are similar to the share of adults who attended in 2013.
  • Despite the rates given above, the AABS shows a drop in the share of adults reading literature. From 47 percent in 2012, literary-reading rates fell to 45 percent in 2013, and to 43.1 percent in 2015.
  • Movie-going is the most popular arts activity, with 141 million adults or 58 percent of adults going out to see at least one movie in a year.
  • Young adults, ages 18 to 24, tend to participate in the arts at higher rates than adults in general, with 37 percent of young adults attending live performing arts events versus 32 percent of all adults. Relative to their share of the US population, young adults were overrepresented among performing arts attendees by 17 percent.


Arts Data Profile 11: State‐Level Estimates of Arts Participation Patterns features two issue briefs: “Highlights of Arts Participation by State (2012‐2015)” and “Why Some States Exhibit Higher (or Lower) Rates of Arts Participation.”

Among the key findings from the research briefs are:

  • Although adults’ state-level rates of arts participation are close to the national average, there are some broad differences.
    • Western states tend to have participation rates above average
    • Eastern states such as Maryland and Vermont also have above-average rates
    • Rates are below average in southern states such as Mississippi, West Virginia and Florida.
    • Kansas is one of the few states in the country with an above-average share of adults who use TV, radio, and/or the Internet to consume art or arts programming. In 2012, 71.5 percent of the state’s adults engaged in the arts through media.

Read the Complete NEA News Release for Additional Highlights


Direct to Results from the Annual Arts Basic Survey (2013-2015)

Direct to State‐Level Estimates of Arts Participation Patterns

See Also: Previously Released Arts Data Profiles

See Also: National Archive of Data on Arts and Culture

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.