Hill Strategies Research on Arts Attendance and Participation

In this issue of Hill Strategies' Arts Research Monitor: A focus on arts attendance and participation, including a Canadian study of arts attendance by diverse audiences, a report on cultural participation by Aboriginal children, a landmark American report on arts attendance, and an examination of whether Canadians are interested in reading Canadian content.

Diversity and Arts Attendance by Canadians in 2010

Hill Strategies Research Inc., March 2014

Based on the 2010 General Social Survey of 7,502 Canadians 15 years of age or older, this report examines arts attendance by eight “diverse” demographic groups:

  • Visible minority Canadians.
  • First-generation immigrants.
  • Aboriginal people.
  • Canadians with disabilities.
  • Youth (15 to 24 years of age).
  • Seniors (65 and older).
  • Anglophones in Quebec (official language minority community).
  • Francophones outside Quebec (official language minority community). 

Overall, 71% of Canadians attended one of five arts activities in 2010 (art galleries, theatre performances, pop concerts, classical concerts, and cultural festivals). 

The report finds that youth have a higher overall attendance rate than Canadians 25 and older (80% vs. 70%), while seniors 65 to 74 years of age have a lower attendance rate than Canadians between 15 and 64 (67% vs. 73%). The arts attendance rate is lower for Canadians with disabilities than for other Canadians (61% vs. 74%) and slightly lower for visible minority Canadians than other Canadians (68% vs. 72%). 

Compared with other Canadians, the arts attendance rate is similar for immigrants, Aboriginal people, Anglophones in Quebec, and Francophones outside Quebec.

The report highlights specific results of the statistical analysis for each of five arts activities. On the whole, there are relatively few statistically significant differences:

  • Art galleries have “significantly lower attendance by Canadians with a disability and Aboriginal people”.
  • Theatres have significantly higher attendance rates by youth but lower attendance rates “by visible minority and immigrant Canadians, Aboriginal people, and Canadians with a disability”.
  • Pop concerts are particularly well attended by youth but see lower attendance rates “by visible minority and immigrant Canadians, Canadians with a disability, and those between 65 and 74 years of age”.
  • Classical music concerts have significantly higher attendance by immigrant Canadians and those between 65 and 74 years of age but significantly lower attendance by youth.
  • Cultural festivals have significantly higher attendance by youth and visible minority Canadians but “significantly lower attendance by Canadians with a disability as well as those between 65 and 74 years of age”. 

The report notes that, other than these few differences, diverse Canadians attended at similar rates to other Canadians. Based on these findings, the report concludes that “the range of arts offerings in Canada – from art galleries, classical concerts, and theatre performances to pop concerts and cultural festivals – manages to attract most Canadians to at least one type of activity." 


Participation in sports and cultural activities among Aboriginal children and youth

Statistics Canada, Canadian Social Trends no. 90, July 13, 2010
Authors: Kristina Smith, Leanne Findlay, and Susan Crompton

This study, published in 2010 in the now-discontinued Canadian Social Trends, examines cultural and sports participation by off-reserve Aboriginal children between 6 and 14 years of age, based on the 2006 Aboriginal Peoples Survey (a survey with 11,940 respondents). As reported by parents, the survey found that 40% of Aboriginal children participated at least occasionally “in culturally related activities” (no specific definition provided), while 69% participated at least once a week in sports-related activities.

Compared with the cultural participation rate of 40% for all Aboriginal children, some groups of Aboriginal children were significantly more likely to participate:

  • Children who understand and/or speak an Aboriginal language (51% participation rate for those who understand an Aboriginal language and 63% for those who both understand and speak the language).
  • Children who have contact with Elders at least once a week (50%).
  • Children with four or more siblings (48%).
  • Children where the parent responding to the survey has a university degree (46%).
  • Children who participate in other extra-curricular activities at least weekly (46%) or play sports at least once a week (42%). 

In addition, Inuit children (56%) and First Nations children (43%) are more likely than Métis children (33%) to participate in cultural activities.

Unlike many other reports that have shown a connection between income and cultural participation, the study found almost no difference in cultural participation by household income. The age of the child, his or her health, the number of parents in the household, and the amount of “screen time” per day also did not have a strong connection with cultural participation.


How a Nation Engages with Art: Highlights from the 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts

National Endowment for the Arts, NEA Research Report #57, September 2013

The National Endowment for the Arts' 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts collected data about the arts activities of more than 37,000 Americans 18 years of age and older. Some key participation figures in the report include:

  • 71% of Americans consumed the arts via electronic media (including 61% using TV, radio, or the Internet to access the arts and 38% using a handheld or mobile device to access art).
  • 59% went to a movie.
  • 54% read “voluntarily” (including 54% who read books outside of requirements for work or school and 47% who read novels, short stories, plays, or poetry).
  • 50% created or performed art (including 32% participating in “social dancing”, the most popular activity in this group).
  • 49% attended a visual or performing arts activity.
  •  7% learned about the arts through classes or lessons. 

The overall attendance rate at visual and performing arts activities (49%) includes:

  • The 39% of Americans who attended a visual arts event, including touring a park, monument, building, or neighborhood for historic or design purposes (24%), attending a visual arts festival or a crafts fair (22%), and visiting an art gallery (21%).
  • The 37% who attended a live performing arts event, including outdoor performing arts festivals (21%), musical or non-musical plays (18%), classical music, jazz, Latin, Spanish, or salsa music (17%), dance events of any kind (7%), and opera (2%). 

The most common venues for performing arts attendance were parks or open-air facilities (15% of visual and performing arts attendees), followed by theatres, concert halls, and auditoriums (12%), restaurants, bars, nightclubs, or coffee shops (12%), elementary, middle, or high schools (10%), churches, synagogues, or other places of worship (9%), and art galleries (9%). 

Between 2008 and 2012, there were decreases in Americans’ attendance rates at theatre performances, art galleries, and craft fairs or visual arts festivals. For many other performing arts activities, attendance rates were essentially unchanged between 2008 and 2012 (although many activities had experienced decreases between 2002 and 2008). Over a longer timeframe, the “trend” attendance rate for visual and performing arts events decreased from 39% in 1982 to 33% in 2012.


Canadians Reading Canadians: How interested are Canadians in reading Canadian content?

BookNet Canada, 2013

Based on a survey of 1,005 English-speaking Canadians 18 years of age or older who had bought a book during the month prior to the survey (which was conducted between July and September of 2012), this report finds that only 24% knew that they had read a book by a Canadian author in the past year. In total, 43% of English-speaking Canadian book buyers were unsure whether they had read a book by a Canadian author, while 34% indicated that they knew that they had not done so during the past year. 

Compared with findings from a nearly-identical survey conducted in 2002, there was a substantial decrease in the percentage of respondents knowing that they had read a Canadian-authored book. (The text of the report indicates that the 2002 percentage was 41%, but charts provided in the report appear to show a rate of about 48%. Both percentages are significantly higher than the rate of 24% in 2012.) In contrast, there was a large increase between the two survey years in respondents not knowing whether they had read a Canadian book in the past year (19% in 2002 and 43% in 2012). 

The survey also asked about reading a book about a Canadian subject during the past year:

  • Approximately 22% of English-speaking book buyers knew that they had read a book about a Canadian subject in the past year, down from about 45% in 2002.
  • About 51% knew that they had not read a book about a Canadian subject in the past year, roughly similar to the rate of about 46% in 2002.
  • Approximately 27% were unsure whether they had read a book about a Canadian subject, a substantial increase from about 9% in 2002. 

The report indicates that “education and income correlate highly with whether or not someone has read a book with a Canadian author or subject in the past year”. There were almost no differences in the results by region of the country.

Despite the relatively low levels of readership of Canadian works, 70% of survey respondents indicated that they are at least moderately impressed with Canadian authors. However, when asked to name a Canadian author, 69% of respondents could not do so (up from 52% in 2002). Those who did name a Canadian author most frequently indicated Margaret Atwood (21%) and Farley Mowat (about 6%). Other authors that were mentioned by between 1% and 3% of respondents include Pierre Berton, Robert Munsch, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Alice Munro, and Linwood Barclay.

The report also indicates that interest in Canadian books is quite high: “76% of respondents said that they are somewhat or very interested in reading Canadian-authored books, and 75% said that they were somewhat or very interested in Canadian subject matter.” The report points to challenges with discovery and knowledge of Canadian books, indicating that there appears to be “a lack of awareness of who Canadian authors are, and perhaps a shortage of identifying information on products or retail displays (physical and online) that indicates Canadian authors”.

A brief summary is available at http://www.booknetcanada.ca/blog/2013/4/4/what-canadians-think-about-canadian-books.html, while the study is available for purchase ($19.95) on the same site. The report is a part of a larger initiative by BookNet Canada: The Canadian Book Consumer 2012.


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