Cultivating Demand for the Arts

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 Cultivating Demand for the Arts

In this chapter, we describe the institutional infrastructure that supports arts learning for adults (individuals 18 and older). As we did in the previous chapter for youth arts learning, we identify the kinds of organizations with which the infrastructure is populated and characterize them, as much as possible, in terms of their quantitative and qualitative dimensions. Our objective is to understand the extent of their reach into the adult population and the nature of the arts instruction they provide.

We begin by acknowledging two important points about adult versus youth arts learning. The first is that there is no formal, compulsory system of education for adults. In contrast to elementary school children, who are required to participate in arts education programs provided by their schools, adults participate in arts learning programs voluntarily. In fact, adults usually have to pay to participate. Consequently, these programs typically attract adults who are interested in learning more about a particular art form, and typically do not attract adults who have decided they are not interested—or who have never thought about the matter either way.1

A second, related point is that because adult education is not compulsory, adult arts learning is subject to far less government involvement and oversight than is youth arts learning.2 In fact, much arts learning for adults takes place informally, in organizations that do not see their role primarily as educators. As a result, adult arts learning is not tracked in any systematic way: Few data are collected on the number, type, content, and quality of the educational programs offered or the number of adults taking advantage of these programs. This lack of data makes it even more difficult to determine the extent to which arts learning programs are helping adult Americans better understand and appreciate the arts.

In the sections that follow, we use the available information to provide an overview of the primary institutions that educate adults in the arts. As Figure 5.1 shows, these can be grouped into three main categories: institutions of higher education, community-based providers, and arts journalists and critics operating through the media. The first category comprises two- and four-year colleges and universities that offer courses for academic credit in arts creation, performance, and appreciation. The second group consists of a wide variety of arts-producing and -presenting organizations, as well as community service organizations, such as YMCAs, libraries, municipal parks and recreation departments, and senior centers. The third category comprises individuals and organizations that offer professional reviews of art exhibits, performances, and books and provide forums for discussing them.

Higher Education

Structural Characteristics

According to the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2007), the United States has approximately 6,600 post-secondary institutions, of which 40 percent are four-year institutions, 34 percent are two-year institutions, and the remaining 26 percent are less-than-two-year institutions.3 Roughly 30 percent of them are public and subject to oversight by state government; these enroll almost 75 percent of college and university students.4 Thirty percent are private nonprofit institutions, typically governed by their own boards of trustees. For-profit institutions, which make up 40 percent of the total, represent the fastest-growing sector in higher education. They account for just 4 percent of total enrollment, however, and their primary offerings are vocational programs, typically regulated by the state (Eckel and King, 2006).


American higher education works differently than K–12 education. Because the subject matter is vast and there are myriad ways to approach it, and because of a long-standing belief in academic freedom, state governments have very minimal control over undergraduate general or advanced education.5 Higher education institutions are typically responsible for their own specific curriculum and other academic decisions. However, there are broad agreements among institutions and programs about the goals for general and advanced education. Formalized in accreditation standards and in the statements of disciplinary associations, these agreements provide common frameworks for institutional and faculty decisions about course work. Thus, curriculum development across institutions is based on common principles but is not coordinated in the sense that every institution does everything in the same way. Within college and university dance, music, theater, and visual arts departments, many factors can influence the decisions of individual faculty members, including the institution’s general requirements, the national consensus represented by the arts accreditation standards, reviews of course work developed at other institutions, and the availability of programming on campus or in the community. The landscape is characterized by consensus and similarity but not uniformity.6

Amount and Reach of Learning Programs

In fall 2005, higher education institutions enrolled approximately 17.5 million full- and part-time students, representing over 20 percent of the age 18 to 35 population (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 2006a). Almost one-quarter of the U.S. population age 25 and older held at least an associate’s degree; 18 percent had a bachelor’s or higher degree.7 Of course, simply attending college does not guarantee that an individual will actively study or even be exposed to the arts. But students at American colleges and universities have many opportunities to learn about the arts through class work or as participants in campus-related arts events and activities.

A significant proportion of college students become arts majors. In 2003–2004, for example, approximately 5.5 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded by four-year institutions were in the visual and performing arts, and another 4 percent were in English language and literature.8 At two-year, or community, colleges, 2.4 percent of associate’s degrees in 2003–2004 were in the visual and performing arts.9

Additionally, large numbers of students who are not literature or fine arts majors participate in courses offered by college and university departments of English, visual arts, and performing arts departments. A national study of post-secondary transcripts found that three arts courses made it into the top 30 (in terms of percentage of earned academic credits): music performance (ranked 19th), introductory literature (21st), and American literature (22nd). Art history (the history of the visual arts) was one of the 30 most popular courses in the 1970s and 1980s but fell out of favor in the 1990s.10 Data collected by the National Association of Schools of Music indicate that only about one in five students taking courses in music in 2006–2007 were pursuing degrees in music.11 In dance and theater, the ratio of majors to non-majors taking classes was similarly skewed, at one in seven for dance and one in five for theater; in visual arts and design, it was less pronounced: approximately one-and-one-half times as many non-majors as majors.12

Although many non-majors take courses in the literary, visual, and performing arts purely out of interest, others do so as part of their college or university’s general education requirements.13 According to the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Network for Education Information (n.d.), “nearly every U.S. institution” of higher education has formulated general education requirements designed “to ensure that the student has an introductory understanding and basic competencies in some aspect of each broad academic area—the arts, humanities, social and behavioral sciences, physical sciences, languages, and mathematics and philosophy.” Ratliffe et al. (2001, p. 6) comment that “general education is regarded as a central feature of preparation for professions as diverse as business, education, engineering, and nursing.”

But general education requirements apparently are not what they once were. In a study of course catalogs from 50 “highly selective” four-year colleges and universities for the years 1914, 1939, 1964, and 1993, researchers at the National Association of Scholars concluded that “general education has become substantially devalued as an institutional objective” (1996, p. 61).14 According to these researchers, general education requirements at top-ranked institutions became progressively less restrictive in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, with a particularly marked diminution in the requirement for basic survey courses of history, literature, philosophy, etc. At the community-college level, Zeszotarski (1999) also found that just 68 percent of schools required that their non-transfer students—the students most likely to be pursuing occupational degrees—take courses in the arts and humanities. As Zeszotarski put it (p. 4), “This inconsistency, in conjunction with the emphasis on skills over knowledge, represents a degraded vision of general education for occupational degree students.”

Nevertheless, it is at the college level that the general student has the opportunity— if not the requirement—to take broad-based courses on such topics as the history of film, traditional Asian art and aesthetics, cognitive science and the arts, and 20th century music—courses that offer an aesthetic and historical rather than production perspective on the arts. And it is not only traditional full-time students who can benefit from these types of offerings. In 2001, approximately half of all Americans age 16 and older participated in some type of formal learning activity, with roughly one-fifth doing so for personal development and enrichment (Kim et al., 2004).15 The American Association of Community Colleges estimates that noncredit enrollment at community colleges may be as high as 5 million learners, on a par with 5.5 million enrollments in credit programs (Voorhees and Milam, 2005). However, the “hidden college” of noncredit extension and continuing education programs offered by higher education institutions is largely unmeasured, so it is impossible to know how many of its students are enrolled in courses in the arts.16

Outside of course work, colleges and universities offer their students many opportunities to experience the arts through performances, exhibits, discussions, and events that take place on and around campus. In fact, as presenters and interpreters of the arts, higher education institutions provide an important public benefit that accrues from their role as sources of formal instruction. In rural areas, they often provide the only performance and exhibit venues for members of surrounding communities (Association of Performing Arts Presenters, 1995).17

Content of Learning Programs

Arts instruction in higher education serves the primary purpose of educating and training arts professionals—creators, performers, teachers, scholars, and administrators. For example, Higher Education Arts Data Services statistics show that of all undergraduates majoring in music in fall 2006, about one-third were enrolled in professional degree programs in performance and composition; one-third in professional degree programs in K–12 teacher preparation; and one-third in other programs, including history, theory, music therapy, music industry, sacred music, and liberal arts degrees in music.18 In the preparation of professionals—especially professional artists and arts specialists—the elements of arts study associated with comprehensive education are all present, but instruction is usually weighted toward performance. In arts courses for non-majors, who (as described above) outnumber majors by large margins, the performance element is often omitted.

Other observers note, however, that college and university arts departments tend to focus their resources on the minority of students who have the potential to become professional artists (Detels, 1999; Johnson, 1997; RAND interviews). The non-majors who take the large introductory courses are not their first priority.19 Detels (1999) argues, for example, that courses in college music departments rapidly become highly specialized, leaving only a few beyond the basic introductory level that emphasize aesthetics or historical context.20 Johnson (1997, p. 6) states that “[m]any music departments have virtually abandoned, or never really developed, their roles in the general studies/liberal arts curriculum.” To the extent this is true, music and other fine arts departments within institutions of higher education more properly belong on the supply rather than the demand side of the framework (see Chapter Two).

Hagood (2000) describes this phenomenon in the context of university dance departments. He points to a transition from “aesthetic” to “professional” values in the teaching of dance in the 1960s and early 1970s, a time when independent dance departments were being established at higher education institutions around the country. 21 By the 1980s, Hagood argues, some university dance departments were questioning whether they had gone too far in their focus on training professional dancers. One concern was that the narrowness of the dance curriculum made it inadequate for preparing future teachers.

There are signs, however, of a revived interest in boosting the general education requirements that encourage students to take courses in the humanities and the arts (Gaff, 2006; Ratliffe et al., 2001). For example, a survey of chief academic officers at four-year institutions revealed that almost two-thirds of them considered stronger general education programs a growing priority for their institutions (Ratliffe et al., 2001). If these thoughts are translated into action, we can expect to see more young adults signing up for courses in arts appreciation, thereby increasing the already significant importance of colleges and universities as venues for developing the capacity of young adults to engage with the arts.

Arts Learning in the Community

Structural Characteristics

Here, we look at the education programs offered by nonprofit arts-performing and -presenting organizations, community service organizations, and private instructors. Beyond the college or university campus, opportunities for adult arts learning in the community appear to be plentiful but fragmented and diverse. Information about these components of the demand infrastructure is sketchy and anecdotal, and there is no evidence of systematic cooperation among players, even within individual classes of arts education providers. Many arts organizations, for example, appear to develop their adult education programs in house, with little reference to the efforts of others within their discipline or within their geographic community.22

Amount and Reach of Learning Programs

Arts Organizations. Most of what we know about the adult learning opportunities provided by arts nonprofits comes from their national service organizations. Data collected by these organizations suggest that the education programs of arts nonprofits are primarily aimed at children, not adults. For example, in a 2005 survey of 107 theaters conducted by the Theatre Communications Group (the national service organization representing nonprofit theaters), roughly 80 percent of the education programs being offered targeted persons under age 18 (Renner, 2006). Similarly, a 2005 survey of 121 orchestras conducted by the American Symphony Orchestra League (2006) revealed that almost 75 percent of symphony orchestras’ education programs were aimed at young people. Even in museums, which have a long history of adult education, “adult audiences are often given second priority, relative to children, in sharing the limited resources of museum education departments (Storr, 1995, p. 9).23

Nevertheless, most symphony orchestras, theater groups, dance troupes, opera companies, and art museums do offer some form of educational programming for adults.24 In the performing arts, these typically consist of pre- and post-performance talks, membership newsletters, program notes, and the occasional lecture series and cooperative program with an educational institution. Some modern dance companies show videos before the performance and point to noteworthy details for spectators to attend to (Kriegsman, 1998). Museum offerings tend to be more extensive, including interpretive labels, lecture series, gallery talks, studio courses, film series, newsletters, detailed information sheets, and a variety of audiovisual aids (Pankratz, 1988). 25

According to OPERA America, roughly 95 percent of opera companies offer pre- or post-performance lectures for their patrons, and OPERA America itself offers online courses on the historical background, musical style, literary source, and dramatic structure of selected operas. 26 The American Symphony Orchestra League estimates that more than 80 percent of symphony orchestras offer pre-concert programs to patrons. Hager and Pollak (2002) found that about half of all organizations that present performing arts conduct some form of adult education and outreach, and 40 percent offer study guides and materials associated with the works they present. Dance companies may provide the least in the way of adult learning opportunities. Summarizing the findings of the 1996 National Task Force on Dance Audiences, Levine (1997, p. 32) reported: “More often than not the curtain goes up at show time, the performance unfolds, and the curtain goes down. Little personal contact transpires between artists and audience before or after the performance.”

It needs to be noted, however, that most arts organizations that provide opportunities for adults to learn more about their art forms reach fairly few people with their programs. Whereas their youth arts learning programs frequently involve visits to schools (in the form of sponsored artists in residence or special performances at assemblies), their adult learning programs typically take place on their own premises and are centered on whatever performance or exhibit is ongoing (Storr, 1995). Accordingly, they tend to attract people who have already decided to attend the performance or exhibit and typically do not reach those not already interested in or familiar with the art form.27

In other words, arts organizations focus—perhaps appropriately—on deepening the experiences of their audiences. They cannot be expected to attract and educate those who have no inclination to seek the arts experiences they offer. Research suggests that traditional approaches to audience development—that is, efforts to reduce practical barriers to arts participation—will not be successful when perceptual barriers to participation exist (McCarthy and Jinnett, 2001). Strategies such as high-profile marketing campaigns, free performances, extended operating hours, and the establishment of satellite venues may increase the participation of people already inclined to participate— by promoting access—but they will not entice those not already inclined. It is unreasonable to expect arts organizations to undertake the financial and administrative burden associated with reaching members of the public who are not interested in their programs. For one thing, in contrast to children, adults have no places where they gather to be educated. But more important, the extent to which organizations whose mission is to perform and present the arts should also educate in the arts is not clear.

Community Service Organizations. A lack of comprehensive data means even less is known about the adult arts learning opportunities offered by community service organizations than by arts organizations. Nevertheless, there are scattered indications that these types of programs are expanding. According to the YMCA of the USA, for example, the nation’s 2,617 YMCAs represent the largest nonprofit community service organization in America, and arts and humanities programs are among the fastest-growing programs they offer. In 1998, the arts and humanities became a YMCA “core program area,” and the YMCA of the USA “expects it will soon be one of the leading and most influential, if not largest, arts provider in the country for kids and adults” (YMCA of the USA, n.d.). Senior centers are another growing source of arts learning.28 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging estimates that there are between 10,000 and 16,000 senior centers in the United States, serving over 10 million older Americans. Many if not most of these offer programs in the arts, and their numbers are expanding (Barret, 1993; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging, 2004). Community schools of the arts have also recently expanded their outreach to older adults.29

Content of Learning Programs

Arts Organizations. As noted above, most arts organizations design their adult learning programs around current performances and exhibits: They do not have the resources to provide their patrons with generic, introductory information about their art forms, and basic arts education is in any case not their mission. But adult learners’ widely disparate backgrounds in the arts can create difficulties for organizations that simply wish to enhance their audiences’ experiences of a particular performance or exhibit. Education staff risk alienating one set of patrons when appealing to another.

For example, Hood (1983) argues that the qualities of a museum most highly valued by frequent visitors are not the same ones most highly valued by occasional or infrequent visitors. But because the interests of museum professionals tend to correspond to those of frequent visitors, museums tend to emphasize those qualities in their exhibits, thereby deterring occasional and infrequent visitors from visiting more often. Similarly, in a long-term study of the potential audiences for 15 symphony orchestras, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (2002) found that less-sophisticated listeners “want to be able to appreciate the music a little more and want help negotiating other aspects of the concert experience” (p. 15). But while these audience members thus would appreciate certain enhancements to program content and a less formal concert ambience, “some audience members would abhor such informalities” (p. 15).

A related issue is visitor familiarity with a particular exhibition or performance. With respect to museums, Storr (1995) comments on the fact that most adults visit any particular exhibit just once. Sequential education programs are difficult for museums to maintain because of the constant turnover of visitors. As a result, “many museum educators feel circumscribed in program planning by how little information can be shared, or how few concepts can be developed, within a single talk, tour, workshop, or activity” (p. 4). This problem is exacerbated for performing arts organizations because audience turnover is almost complete for every performance.

Finally, an important consideration for arts organizations seeking to enrich the arts experiences of their audiences is to understand what tools are necessary “for including the audience more effectively in the total arts experience” (Conner, 2004, p.15). One of the most effective ways to engage members of the public in observation and interpretation is conversation: In the case of museums, for example, educators who invite comments and questions from visitors as a way to engage them in participatory analysis and interpretation of a work of art will help create meaningful learning encounters. The current trend in museum education is toward such interactive participation (Lankford and Scheffer, 2004). This more interactive engagement is more likely to develop individual capacity for arts engagement than is a one-way transfer of information.

Community Service Organizations. Simple observation suggests that the arts programs offered by such organizations as YMCAs and senior centers are heavily weighted toward doing and making art rather than appreciating it. For example, the YMCA of the USA claims that its new arts and humanities initiative is turning local YMCAs into “places where kids and adults learn to paint, write, sing or act” (YMCA of the USA, n.d.). An examination of the Web sites for 20 YMCAs that have arts programs reveals that this description is largely correct: Of 47 different arts classes on offer, 44 involved instruction in dance, the visual arts and crafts, playing a musical instrument, acting, or writing. There were two book clubs and just one music appreciation course.30 An examination of the Web sites for 20 senior centers in Los Angeles County indicated that they, too, mostly focus on creative expression: Of 45 different types of classes, just seven emphasized appreciation, this time of music, “American culture,” and literature.

In those cases where community service organizations provide comprehensive arts learning opportunities to adults—that is, where programming contains all four elements of a comprehensive arts education, as defined in Chapter Three—they often do so in association with local universities or arts organizations. Perhaps the best example of this is Elderhostel, the nonprofit organization that provides travel and learning opportunities to older adults. In 2006, Elderhostel’s arts-related programming entailed collaborations with art museums, university extension programs, folk festivals, opera companies, jazz bands, and other such entities.

Arts Journalism

Structural Characteristics

The key sources of public discourse about the arts are arts journalists, who provide adult arts learning through various media outlets, such as newspapers, radio, and the Internet. They inform the public by providing previews of arts events; news stories about arts institutions, artists, and the local arts scene; features on specific artists; think pieces on aspects of the arts; and reviews and criticism. Their commentary stimulates access to the arts by identifying what is worthy of attention, helping to get the right consumers and the right artworks together, and drawing the public’s attention to emerging artists or little-known arts venues. It also supports local artists and arts institutions by recognizing their achievements and attracting the public to their performances, exhibitions, films, and books. And it stimulates demand through reviews and criticism that help readers appreciate what particular works of art have to offer.

Arts criticism elucidates works of art in a number of ways. First, arts critics describe the work in some detail, often articulating what is difficult to capture in words, such as the expressive effects of dance or music. Second, they analyze how the work fits together and achieves its effects. Third, they interpret what the work means, in a broad sense of the word: “[A] critic must often explain what’s really going on in a new musical composition, what is meant by a new play, what a painter is implicitly saying in his new concatenation of images” (Beardsley, 1982, p. 152). Finally, critics often evaluate the work’s merits, backed up with detailed observations, drawing on their understanding of other works and the genre as a whole and challenging informed readers to judge for themselves. In this way, criticism deepens appreciation of the best of the arts and manages to “do something against the merchants of the mediocre” (Ciment and Kardish, 2003, p. 15).

Amount and Reach of Arts Journalism

Despite dynamic growth in the supply of the arts in recent decades and what some observers see as an increased need for informed commentary, news on and critical coverage of the arts have been in decline for years. Newspapers, once the bastion of criticism and commentary related to local arts scenes, have been losing readers since the 1980s. In response, the industry has been consolidating, and newspapers have increasingly reduced their services, including their coverage of the arts. According to an analysis of 15 newspapers across the country, arts coverage declined significantly between 1998 and 2003 (National Arts Journalism Program, 2004). The number of articles about the arts is declining, the stories are getting shorter, and the space given over to listings is expanding. In short, “most papers dedicate less newsprint to the arts at a time when there is more art to write about” (p. 11).

Content of Cultural Coverage

The content of cultural coverage is becoming increasingly heterogeneous, with stories on television, movies, rock music, lifestyle, fashion, and design consuming greater space while coverage of the nonprofit fine arts and literature shrinks. Listings of arts and entertainment events now consume close to 50 percent of all coverage, squeezing the space for all arts journalism. Preview pieces (advance stories to arouse public interest in coming events), human interest features, and celebrity interviews are becoming more common (National Arts Journalism Program, 2004). The declining space for book reviews in major metropolitan newspapers has been spotlighted recently, and more book columnists are choosing voluntary buyouts (Nawotka, 2006).

Taken together, these trends reflect not only cutbacks caused by declining readership and advertising resources, but a shift in the targeted audience in response to the trends. Traditionally, arts coverage was for those readers who cared about the arts, a devoted niche audience. Often, there were separate critics for music, theater, dance, film, literature, and the visual arts. For example, for nearly 60 years (until 1993), the San Francisco Chronicle’s music and dance department had one dance and two music critics on staff. They put out a full-page think piece on Sundays, and a page-length music column and six or more other reviews of music and dance throughout the week. Besides these reviews, there were regular news stories, interviews, and other features about the arts. Today, the Chronicle’s single music critic has little to do: The paper has “not carried a classical music piece in many months, perhaps a year” (Commanday, 2006).

Other newspapers appear to have adopted a different model. Instead of appealing to multiple niche audiences, they are targeting more content to the mass audience, which is more interested in entertainment than the arts (Barringer, 1999; RAND interviews). “The reader that does not know anything is more valuable than the one that does,” said one of our respondents. The result is a “Consumer Reports” approach to cultural topics rather than cultivation of intelligent discourse on the arts.31

This shift in editorial policy has led to many experienced journalists—film critics, theater critics, dance critics, visual art critics, and the like—retiring or moving to part-time status. Newspapers are turning increasingly to freelance contributors or wire-service stories for arts reporting (National Arts Journalism Program, 2004; Appelo, 2005). Most visual arts critics from the top 200 daily papers across the country receive less than half their income from their activity as critics, and nearly half of those still working full time suspect that their newspapers would not replace them if they left their jobs (National Arts Journalism Program, 2002).

There is evidence, however, that while the traditional outlets for arts journalism are closing, new programs are emerging to educate the next generation of arts writers. The Goldring Arts Journalism Program at Syracuse University is one of the nation’s first graduate programs for arts critics. A one-year program that integrates journalism courses with studies in an artistic discipline, it is designed to help aspiring journalists develop the knowledge and analytic skills they need to make the arts more relevant, more compelling, and more accessible to their readers (Winzenried, 2005, p. 41). Programs are also opening at the City University of New York and at Columbia University, offering mid-career arts writers and editors a chance to improve their knowledge and skills. At the University of Southern California, the Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program has been offering an annual three-week program for selected Fellows since 2002. And the NEA has sponsored a series of institutes in which arts critics from smaller papers are immersed in a comprehensive program of arts education.

The proliferation on the Web of arts blogs and literary blogs within the past two years suggests that the public discourse on the arts may be migrating to the Internet, but there is debate about whether the Web will serve as the voice for cultural communities— and whether the quality of the commentary can meet the standards of the best print journalism. Arts blogs often express bloggers’ enthusiasms or disappointments and offer largely descriptive rather than critical writing (Appelo, 2005). According to Doug McLennan, editor of, however, the distributed model and global reach of online discourse will reinvigorate the entire cultural sector (RAND interview; Appelo, 2005). Columbia’s National Arts Journalism Program, which no longer offers year-long fellowships to arts journalists, is going virtual: It is now in the process of reconstituting itself as a virtual home for arts journalists, where they can create their own pages, share their work with other professionals, find information on best practices, and collectively build supports for the field.

Summary: Performance of the Infrastructure for Adult Arts Learning

Of all the institutions delivering arts instruction to learners of any age, colleges and universities are by far the most important source of comprehensive arts education—despite the fact that their resources are predominantly devoted to educating performing and visual artists and teachers. In contrast to most high schools, institutions of higher education offer a wide variety of arts courses designed to provide historical and cultural context for artworks as well as develop skills of aesthetic perception and interpretation of exemplary works of art. Trends over the past few decades, however, have deemphasized the arts and humanities as core courses required for a liberal arts degree. Given the importance of the college experience in generating demand for the arts, that single trend may be contributing to declines in demand. University extension programs—the “hidden college”—are an important, largely untapped, potential source for comprehensive arts education as a lifelong enterprise.

Viewed within the context of the larger infrastructure for arts learning, arts organizations have a limited reach and insufficient resources for taking on much of the responsibility for comprehensive arts education. Museums have the clearest mandate to help their visitors place the artworks they encounter into a context and appreciate their characteristics, and museums offer a wealth of information to the avid arts consumer. Performing arts organizations have stepped up to the task of offering educational programs in connection with their performances to satisfy their audience members’ desire for deeper understanding of the artworks they encounter. These programs offer important single experiences for the consumer. They cannot, however, fill the need for ongoing skill development, and they cannot reach those who do not choose to come to their performances.

Public discourse about the arts has been contracting and has likely led to suppressed demand for the arts. If this discourse can be reconstituted on the Web, the effects of the transition will be temporary. But until there is a Web-based infrastructure that can offer careers to arts critics—and until the American public develops the habit of seeking its arts commentary from online sources—the breakdown in the traditional transmission of arts news and criticism is likely to weaken the entire cultural cycle.

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1. College and university arts learning programs may be the exception to this pattern in that they frequently expose students to new and unfamiliar art forms.

2. For example, Jefferson (1987) claims that in the late 1980s, most states had no licensing or certification requirements for adult educators in the visual arts, and no standards for evaluating either the quantity or quality of adult visual arts learning programs. As far as we know, no state requires certification of adult educators in the visual arts, music, theater, and dance. A number of private organizations do offer certification, however. See, for example, Music Teachers National Association, n.d.

3. A number of other institutions offer post-secondary instruction of some type but do not choose to participate in federal student aid programs. The U.S. Department of Education does not collect data on these institutions.

4. Forty-eight states have higher education boards (also called commissions or councils) responsible for governing or coordinating public four-year institutions. In some cases, these boards govern the entire public higher education sector (Berdahl, 2004).

5. State governments are, however, actively involved in determining the curriculum for post-secondary vocational education programs.

6. Many thanks to Samuel Hope for providing this account of curriculum development within higher education— almost verbatim.

7. Authors’ calculations based on data published in Current Population Survey: 2006 Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 2006a).

8. By way of comparison, the discipline boasting the largest number of bachelor’s degrees was business, with 22 percent of the total. (Authors’ calculations based on data published by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2006.) Literature is included in the arts (but not the fine arts) for the purposes of this discussion.

9. The most popular associate’s degrees were in “liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities” (34 percent), followed by business (16 percent), and health professions (16 percent) (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2006).

10. This statement is based on surveys of transcripts of seniors in the high school classes of 1972, 1982, and 1992 who went on to earn bachelor’s degrees. The 30 course categories that produced the highest percentage of earned credits accounted for roughly one-third of all credits earned; the top five courses taken by college students in the mid-1990s were English composition, general psychology, calculus, general chemistry, and general biology (Adelman, 2004).

11. The data were collected from 589 members of the National Association of Schools of Music in fall 2006 and spring 2007. Note that “music majors” include students with various career objectives in music, including teaching, as well as students with non-music career objectives. We thank Samuel Hope for these data and this observation.

12. The data for dance were collected by the National Association of Schools of Dance (61 institutions participating); for theater, the National Association of Schools of Theatre (160 institutions participating); for art and design, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (274 institutions participating).

13. General education requirements may be structured, going from most to least restrictive, as follows: individual courses that are mandatory for every student; single-subject clusters in which students may choose from a small number of courses within a given subject area; multisubject clusters in which students may choose from a small number of courses representing several different subject areas; and broad distribution requirements in which students must take at least one course within a specific subject area (National Association of Scholars, 1996).

14. According to one of our respondents, these findings may be biased because of the source’s political nature.

15. This figure does not include persons over 16 whose only participation was full-time enrollment in an academic or vocational degree program, and formal activities are defined as those with an instructor. See Kim et al., 2004.

16. University extension schools, like all university departments, collect data on courses and numbers of participants. As far as we know, however, these data have not been aggregated to the national level.

17. At 36 percent of the total, colleges and universities are the most common type of presenter within the membership of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. An informal Web survey we conducted suggests that the majority of university extension programs also offer online programs of instruction.

18. This distribution is not transferable to dance and theater, because most states do not offer separate certification of dance and theater arts specialists. Art is similar to music in that large numbers of undergraduates are in teacher preparation or art history. These differences arise from the varying natures of the art forms and the varied ways and places in which people work in the art forms. At some point in their lives, almost all arts professionals teach.

19. This is true for most if not all academic departments. As stated by one of our respondents, “The institution that did not focus on majors would soon have no majors. Students would go elsewhere.”

20. Detels refers to upper-level music theory and composition courses as well as courses in performance. Of course, increased specialization within the major has also taken place in non-arts disciplines. See, for example, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1984; and National Association of Scholars, 1996.

21. Hagood also reports (2000, p. 223) that this was less true in the case of ballet, for which talented artists were often sent to professional schools at an early age, than it was in the case of modern dance, for which “the opportunity for students to refine their skills in performance, choreography, and teaching in a quality college dance program helped develop their survival skills outside the university.”

22. The approach to program development varies greatly by arts discipline. Art museums, for instance, have a long tradition of partnering with other organizations to provide arts learning opportunities to people of all ages, whereas linkages of this kind are much less commonly used by dance companies. See, for example, Wetterlund and Sayre, 2003; Levine, 1994.

23. The emphasis on youth is also indicated by the fact that many arts nonprofits have separate administrative budgets and staffs for their youth arts learning programs but lump together adult learning, audience development, community outreach, and, occasionally, marketing. It is thus difficult to tell how much arts organizations spend on educating their audiences versus simply trying to sell them tickets.

24. Our statement is based on published surveys of and email correspondence with the American Symphony Orchestra League, Dance/USA, OPERA America, TCG, and the Association of Art Museum Directors. We did not collect information on possible educational programs offered by organizations that produce and present other art forms, such as film and literature.

25. Obviously, this source is dated. But we have no reason to believe that these offerings have changed all that much—with the exception of online educational offerings, which no doubt have increased considerably. See, for example, the short discussion of OPERA America’s online offerings that follows in the text.

26. OPERA America also offers online synopses, composer biographies, and audio clips for the top 20 operas most frequently performed by its members (OPERA America, n.d.).

27. For example, a 10-year study of symphony orchestras funded by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation found that “[t]raditional audience education efforts, designed to serve the uninitiated, are used primarily by those who are most knowledgeable and most involved with orchestras” (Wolf, 2006, p. 6). In the 15 communities surveyed in the study, those who regularly attended orchestras made up just 4 percent of the adult population.

28. Senior centers are places where older adults can come together for nutrition, recreation, social and educational services, and comprehensive information on topics related to aging. Most senior centers are heavily subsidized by government and local nonprofit organizations (National Council on Aging, 2005).

29. Correspondence with Jonathan Herman, Executive Director, National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts.

30. The 20 YMCAs were chosen by randomly selecting 20 zip codes and then determining the YMCAs closest to those zip codes that had arts programs.

31. These trends do not appear to be caused by declining arts participation. In North Carolina, for example, the growth in almost every area of the arts from the early 1980s to the late 1990s was extraordinary, and surveys demonstrated that newspaper subscribers spent as much money on arts and entertainment as they did on sporting events. Yet the arts staff at The Charlotte Observer did not increase between 1993 and 1998 (National Arts Journalism Program, 1998).