Hill Strategies Research on Dance / Arts Participation and Engagement

In this issue of Hill Strategies' Arts Research Monitor: Summaries of a major Canadian report on active participation in dance, American reports on arts participation and local arts vibrancy, and a report from the United Kingdom on arts participation. 

Findings from Yes I Dance: A Survey of who Dances in Canada
Canada Dance Mapping Study

Canada Council for the Arts (with the Ontario Arts Council), July 2014
Author: Ekos Research Associates Inc.
This large-scale survey, completed by 8,124 Canadians 16 or older, aimed to develop “a better understanding of who dances in Canada, where they dance, and why”. Despite the large sample size, the report cautions that it “is considered to be a non-representative sample of those involved in dance in Canada and results have been analyzed with this limitation in mind”. Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents were female.
Respondents identified 190 different dance forms in which they participate. The researchers grouped these dance forms into categories, the most common of which were contemporary and modern (mentioned by 34% of respondents), ballroom and social (26%), European traditional and folk (22%), ballet (19%), and “country dance and Canadian” (16%). (An “interactive guide to the 100 most popular dance forms in Canada” is available at www.dancewheel.ca.)
The majority of survey respondents were identified as “leisure dance participants” (5,948, or 73%), with the remaining 2,176 respondents (or 27%) being dance professionals. Leisure dance participants indicated that they dance for enjoyment (94%), exercise and fitness (81%), and social connection (72%). Artistic expression was the fourth most commonly mentioned reason (42%). The vast majority of leisure dance participants take dance classes (83%) and dance with a group (81%). One-half (51%) perform for an audience or compete. On average, leisure dancers participate in dance for 6.5 hours per week, typically through community groups or associations (72%), and have been dancing for almost 17 years.
For dance professionals, almost one-half indicated that teaching was the role in dance with which they identify the most (47%), followed by performing (32%), and choreographing (16%). Dance professionals indicated that they dance for artistic expression (78%), enjoyment (76%), employment (61%), and performing (57%). Among those dance professionals who had trained at a dance school or program, the average number of years of training prior to starting their dance career was 9.5. On average, dance professionals had been earning some dance-related income for nearly 12 years.
The average income of dance professionals is $32,000, including 54% from dance-related activities and 46% from activities outside of dance. The average work week of dance professionals includes 48.5 total hours, of which 40.6 hours are paid time. All 7.9 hours of unpaid time fall within dance activities, rather than non-dance roles. Unpaid time represents 29% of all of the time spent on dance activities by dance professionals.

Culture Track 2014

LaPlaca Cohen, April 2014
Based on a survey of 4,026 Americans 18 years of age or over, Culture Track 2014 examines cultural attendance as well as the attitudes, motivations, and behaviours of “culturally-active audiences” in an attempt to “understand what’s really driving or discouraging cultural participation”. The sample size has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Between a similar 2011 survey and the 2014 iteration, there was an increase in the percentage of Americans participating at least once a year in many art forms (including four types of museums, musical theatre, and classical music), but there were some decreases (including drama, classical dance, modern dance, and opera).
The survey found that the frequency of participation has decreased over time, which the survey attributes to a lingering “effect of the economic downturn”: many respondents indicated that they were “reducing expenses across the board”, “cutting back on leisure activities”, or “reprioritizing time / money spent on leisure”.
Respondents held fairly broad views regarding what activities might be considered “cultural activities”:

  • 79% would include national, state, or municipal parks
  • 66% would include a broadcast of a live performance at a movie theatre
  • 64% would include street art
  • 64% would include food and drink experiences
  • 56% would include an independent film at a movie theatre
  • 51% would include non-commercial television 

The report indicates that “cultural audiences are seeking both entertainment and enlightenment”. The most common reasons for making culture a part of one’s life include:

  • Entertainment and enjoyment (93%)
  • Time with friends / family (83%)
  • Expanding one’s perspective (79%)
  • An interest in the subject matter (77%)
  • Learning about other cultures (76%)
  • An introduction to new things (73%) 

Regarding attendance drivers, the report finds that “content, value and being social” are key. The most common barriers to attendance include cost, unappealing topics, and the hassle of getting to a cultural activity.
While advance planning appears to be on the rise, “loyalty continues to decline for both visual and performing arts”. In the visual arts, the percentage of respondents holding memberships decreased from 26% in 2011 to 15% in 2014. In the performing arts, the percentage of respondents with subscriptions decreased from 23% in 2011 to 10% in 2014.
The report also provides survey results concerning information sources used to find out about cultural activities, the use of technology to enhance cultural experiences, charitable donations, perceptions of sponsorship, as well as a breakdown of some differences in responses by age.
The report concludes that audiences are “anything but passive”, “open-minded”, and “actively seeking new experiences”. For cultural organizations, the key recommendation in the report is to “listen to what audiences have to say”.

NCAR Arts Vibrancy Index: Hotbeds of America’s Arts and Culture

National Center for Arts Research, December 2014
Authors: Glenn Voss, Zannie Giraud Voss, Rick Briesch, with Marla Teyolia
The Arts Vibrancy Index attempts to identify cities that possess artistic vibrancy, which is defined to include per-capita measures of:

Arts supply, including “the number of arts and entertainment employees, arts-related organizations and independent artists in the community”. Arts supply received a 45% weighting in the final index.

Arts providers, including not-for-profit arts organizations’ program revenues, contributed revenues, total expenses, and total compensation. Arts providers (also referred to as arts dollars) also received a 45% weighting in the final index.
Government grant activity in the arts, including the number and value of grants from the state and federal levels. (Information is not consistently available for local arts grants.) Government support received a 10% weighting in the final index. 

The authors recognize that a lack of data availability limited the measures included in the study. In fact, their “measures of vibrancy say nothing about the quality of the art itself, or the multitude of community conditions that make a place ripe for creative activity, or data on who participates in the arts, or the revenues and expenses of commercial arts entities”.
The findings from the index measurements include the fact that “cities large and small from every region appear in the top 40 cities”. That being said, cities in certain population ranges do tend to have higher arts vibrancy scores, including cities with a population under 300,000 or those between 1 and 3 million residents.
The highest rankings among the largest cities (population of 1 million or more) went to the metropolitan areas of Washington (D.C.), Nashville, New York, Boston, and San Francisco. Among cities with a population under 1 million, three of the top five cities were in Colorado: Glenwood Springs (#1), Breckenridge (#4), and Edwards (#5). Rounding out the top five were Santa Fe (New Mexico) and Jackson (Wyoming, including parts of Idaho).

Culture and Major Events Tracking Study

King’s College London, November 2014
Based on a “nationally representative” online survey of just over 2,000 United Kingdom residents 16 or older, this report attempts to provide “detailed insights into the behaviour of arts and culture fans, their participation and attendance and how they consume content”. The report also provides similar information about sports.
Overall, 89% of U.K. residents indicated that they have some interest in the arts, compared with 83% with some interest in sports. The 89% who are interested in the arts includes 10% who are extremely interested, 22% very interested, 30% somewhat interested, and 26% slightly interested.
When asked whether they consider themselves an “arty person” or a “sporty person”, more U.K. residents chose arty (43%) than sporty (38%). The difference is particularly high among women (47% arty vs. 25% sporty). More men consider themselves sporty (51%) than arty (38%).
Nearly one-half of U.K. residents indicated that “arts and culture are important in helping them to understand the world around them” (44%). Similarly, 47% agreed that “the arts make a positive difference to the area where I live”. In comparison, 62% of respondents agreed that “sport plays an important role in bringing communities together”.
Regarding arts attendance, the report found that men and women “attend in approximately equal proportions”, but “younger people attend more regularly than older age groups”. The survey found that the most commonly mentioned barriers to attendance include the arts being too expensive (43%) or taking place too far from home (33%) as well as respondents not having enough free time (25%).

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