The National Endowment for the Arts just announced some of the highlights from its 2008 “Survey of Public Participation in the Arts,” and the results, well, aren’t very encouraging. Here are just some of the gloomy findings:

There are persistent patterns of decline in participation for most art forms. Nearly 35 percent of U.S. adults – or an estimated 78 million – attended an art museum or an arts performance in the 2008 survey period, compared with about 40 percent in 1982, 1992, and 2002.

Aging audiences are a long-term trend. Performing arts attendees are increasingly older than the average U.S. adult (45). The aging of the baby boom generation does not appear to account for the overall increase in age.

Audiences for jazz and classical music are substantially older than before. In 1982, jazz concerts drew the youngest adult audience (median age 29). In the 2008 survey, the median age of jazz concert-goers was 46 – a 17-year increase. Since 1982, young adult (18-24) attendance rates for jazz and classical music have declined the most, compared with other art forms.

College-educated audiences (including those with advanced degrees and certifications), have curbed their attendance in nearly all art forms.

The one bright spot (maybe not necessarily for a book publisher, but still, arts participation is arts participation) is the findings about the internet:

About 70 percent of U.S. adults went online for any purpose in 2008 survey, and of those adults, nearly 40 percent used the Internet to view, listen to, download, or post artworks or performances.

Thirty percent of adults who use the Internet, download, watch, or listen to music, theater, or dance performances online at least once a week. More than 20 percent of Internet-using adults view paintings, sculpture, or photography at least once a week.

At least the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior approved a bill setting the FY2010 NEA budget at $170 million—an increase of $15 million over the current budget. Of course, this is still $6 million lower than the 1992 high water mark of $176 million . . . which would actually be $270 million in 2009 dollars.

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