A new study from the National Endowment of the Arts caught my eye this week on attendance/participation in the arts. The headline: “theater and museum attendance declining”. The drop was for all arts including theater, museums, and concerts in all demographics. Disappointing news for me. The results were sobering and possible reasons cited were rise in the Internet; less free time; and cuts to arts classes.
All the reasons are plausible. There’s not a lot of free time due to the present economy and overdrive work ethic. The decline in younger generations participating in classes for the arts maybe based on the fact in the past decade, the arts have been cut in most public schools not exposing them to being creative. I love theater, I love museums, and I love concerts. I hold the arts close to my heart. I can’t imagine not participating in some form of the arts; I grew up with constant exposure. And I can’t imagine not sharing the arts with my toddler son. Having my son and moving to Kentucky has changed the kind and frequency of arts I participate in. I still go to free open air concerts where my toddler can roam and dance freely. I still go to museums where my toddler can actively participate.
There’s a question I keep asking myself. What does this say about us as a culture? A bunch of soloed people preferring sitting on couches or in front of computer screens? While the Internet is great, nothing beats the real experience. Being there allows for all the senses to be active. No free time? I think it is a copout. Going to museums and attending theater/concerts is food for the mind and soul. Cutting classes focusing on the arts? It is like cutting off one facet of a person and not allowing them to be a complete, well-rounded person.
The study correlates arts participation with higher civic participation. This is a good for our society.  Participating in the arts is an investment in one’s cultural/civil well-being. Go make the investment today.

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