Study Finds Growth in Art Events, Drop in Fiction and Movies

WASHINGTON (CN) – Americans are increasingly turning to festivals, musicals and other venues for entertainment, and while large swathes of adults still read fiction or go to the movies, a new study found interest in those art forms is in decline.

Those were some of the findings in a study released Wednesday by the National Endowment of the Arts, or NEA, that identifies trends in the arts and the literary world over 15 years.

Titled “U.S. Trends in Arts Attendance and Literary Reading: 2002-2017,” the survey found that in 2017, 132.3 million Americans, or 54 percent of the adult population, attended performing arts events including dance or theater performances, or visited an art museum, gallery or craft festival. That’s an increase of 3.6 percent since 2012.

Poets will be heartened to learn that over the same five-year period, the share of poetry readers increased by 76 percent, and the percentage of readers aged between 18 and 24 who read poetry has more than doubled.

While more Americans are also reading plays, the survey recorded declines in the number of adults who are reading novels, short stories and going to movies, with 45.3 percent of adults reading fiction in 2012 compared to 41.8 percent last year. In 2002, 60 percent of adults went to the movies, compared to 59.4 percent in 2012, and 58.6 percent last year.

The gains for poetry and plays come with caveats, however. More than 41 percent of the population, or 99.6 million adult Americans, still picked up a work of fiction in 2017, while only 27.9 million read poetry. Fewer than 9 million adults say they read plays.

Meanwhile, 137.8 million people, more than half of the adult U.S. population, went to the movies in 2017, the survey found.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump homed in on the NEA, encouraging Congress to slash funding for the organization. Lawmakers resisted the president’s request, however, and in a $1.3 trillion spending bill, they committed $153 million to the endowment, a $3 million increase.

Acting NEA Chair Mary Anne Carter said the results of the survey reflect the value of the arts to the public.

“From poetry reading to visiting a museum or attending a jazz performance, the arts are not only part of our lives, but also assets in our communities and fuel for our nation’s economy,” Carter said.

The NEA is expected to publish a more exhaustive report in 2019.

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