Arts attendance in U.S. continues to slide: NEA report

Arts attendance in U.S. continues to slide: NEA report
The Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles. (Center Theatre Group)

The number of people who attended an art show or a performing arts event in the U.S. continues to slide, according to a report released this week by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Theater took the biggest hit among the cultural categories, with attendance for musicals and plays off significantly.


In 2012, approximately 33% of U.S. adults, or 78 million individuals, visited an art museum or gallery, or attended at least one performing arts event, according to the report. That's down from the last time the NEA conducted its survey in 2008, when 34.6% adults attended arts events.

In contrast, moviegoing by the American public rose during the same period. The NEA said that 59.3% of U.S. adults went out to see a movie in 2012, versus 53.3% in 2008.

Arts attendance in the U.S. has been on a steady decline at least since 1992. The NEA began conducting its semi-regular survey of arts attendance beginning in 1982.

The NEA said that straight (non-musical) plays have seen attendance drop by 12% between 2008 and 2012, and by 33% in the last decade. Attendance for musicals was off 9% from 2008 to 2012.

The number of adults who visited an art museum or gallery dropped 8% since 2008. Attendance held more or less steady for classical music, opera and ballet.

The last time the NEA conducted its Survey of Public Participation in the Arts was 2008.

The NEA's report comes on the heels of a similar report by Americans for the Arts, an advocacy group.