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NEA reports new habits lead to broader arts participation

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 24, 2011; 8:21 PM

Expanding the boundaries of how and where people enjoy the arts, a new survey from the National Endowment for the Arts concludes that nearly 75 percent of Americans participate in the arts.

The federal arts agency, catching up with the delivery systems - such as the iPod - and alarmed that participation at live performances was declining, asked a group of experts to look again at the results from its 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.

The new analysis, released Thursday, included responses about people using electronic media, attending festivals or performances at nontraditional locations - such as historic sites - and producing their own art.

The agency had asked about the use of media as far back as 1992, and in 2008 included the broad category of participation via the media.

Looking again at the data, the new report found 53 percent of all U.S. adults pinpointed electronic media as their delivery system. And 75 percent of all adults interacted with the arts, not only through electronic media, but also by attending arts events or creating art. That compares with 34.6 percent of adults who had attended a live performance - opera, ballet, jazz, plays - or visited an art museum in the 2008 survey.

And classical music is winning out, with 18 percent of those adults saying they used mobile devices and the Internet to get their doses of Chopin, followed by 15 percent for Latin music. That's why Celia Cruz and Yo-Yo Ma are seeping through earphones all over town.

The NEA released three reports: one on the value of arts education; another on age and arts participation; and the third on attendance and participation.

Apparently, those who create art can't get enough. The report found that 81 percent of the respondents who said they did their own creative writing also were avid readers. And 80 percent of adults who attended a dance performance were more likely to create their own art.

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