Arts Participation in the US

We know that arts are an important part of many lives–creatively, economically, socially, and more. A recent report released by the National Endowment for the Arts, U.S. Patterns of Arts Participation: A Full Report from the 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, shows the many ways Americans engage with the arts.  This survey of adults is the nation’s largest and most representative assessment of demographics and patterns of art participation, and provides both national and state-level information across the disciplines of visual arts, music, dance, theater, and literary activity. As summarized in the report’s introduction, electronic media (including websites such as POBA) plays a significant role in art participation:

In 2017, U.S. adults (aged 18 and older) participated in the arts in one or more of the following ways:

  • Used electronic media to consume artistic or arts‐related content (74 percent, or 175 million adults)
  • Read books not required for work or school, and/or read novels and short stories, poems, or plays in particular (57 percent or 138 million adults)
  • Attended artistic, creative, or cultural activities (54 percent, or 133 million adults)
  • Created or performed art (54 percent, or 133 million adults)
  • Learned an art form informally (17 percent, or 41 million adults) or took formal arts classes or lessons (9.5 percent, or 23 million adults)

Future research reports will elaborate on topics such as reading and other literary activities; motivations and barriers in arts participation; the role of digital media; and forms and modes of arts access. The Arts Endowment will also release state‐level estimates of arts participation. Meanwhile, this report offers many national findings that merit close attention:

  • Among adults who participated—as creators or performers—in performing arts activities, the majority (62 percent) did so to spend time with family and friends. By contrast, most adults who created visual artworks reported doing so because they felt “creative or creatively inspired” (61 percent).
  • More than half of adults who attended artistic, creative, or cultural activities did so more than twice a year.
  • Among adults who sang, made music, danced, or acted, 63 percent did so in the home, while 40 percent did so in a place of worship.
  • More than a third of Americans (35 percent) did not agree with this statement: “There are plenty of opportunities for me to take part in arts and cultural activities in my neighborhood or community.”

–from the Office of Research & Analysis, National Endowment for the Arts, December 2019


We celebrate our POBA Presenters and Partners, who have helped to keep creative legacies alive, and also provide additional ways to bring art to those who might otherwise not have access.