U.S./world – Arts hurdle – Raising awareness

A new study says medium-sized performing arts groups in the U.S. face financial stress and even a quick death if they don’t find ways to attract paying customers, The New York Times reported July 23.

The year-long study, prepared by the RAND Corp. for the Pew Charitable Trusts, says midsized groups outside big cities with annual budgets of $650,000 to $9 million “are facing the greatest difficulty in attracting enough of the public to cover their costs,” the Times said.

The challenge for those groups is “what they’re going to give their audience, given that earnings are an important part of their budget and funding at the corporate level is increasingly” tied up in special projects, Kevin F. McCarthy, the study’s lead author, told the Times.

“You face a choice,” he said. “Do you focus on art, and the audience be damned? Or do we focus on how we make arts more important in people’s lives?”

The study suggests that arts groups focus more on arts education and develop “greater crossover between the public’s interests and involvement in the popular arts and the high arts.”

According to recent surveys, the study says, 40 percent of Americans attend about five performances a year in the arts, including classical music, opera, jazz, ballet, dance and theater – compared to 35 percent who visit a museum about three times a year and 96 percent who want TV three hours a day, the Times said.

Participation is highest for theater and musicals and lowest for opera and ballet, with classical music in the middle, the Times said.

Attendance has grown slightly every year, as has increasing segregation of arts groups into three categories – big well-heeled institutions in big cities, grass-roots volunteer groups and regional groups.

For full story, go to The New York Times.

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