Cover: Cultivating Demand for the Arts

Cultivating Demand for the Arts

Arts Learning, Arts Engagement, and State Arts Policy

Published Jun 9, 2008

by Laura Zakaras, Julia F. Lowell


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To shed light on the decline in demand for the nonprofit arts, the authors describe what it means to cultivate demand for the arts, examine how well U.S. institutions are serving this function, and discuss whether it is in the public interest to make such cultivation a higher priority than it has been in the past. The authors propose that a strong cultural sector is characterized by three conditions: adequate amounts of high-quality artworks (supply), ample opportunities for people to encounter those works (access), and sufficient numbers of individuals with an interest in experiencing those works (demand). They argue that arts policies have long focused on supporting supply and expanding access while neglecting demand, which calls for cultivating the capacity of individuals to have engaging experiences with the arts. With this policy framework, the authors address three topics. First, they identify the knowledge and skills that enable people to have rich experiences with works of art, encounters so engaging that they will seek out more of them. They synthesize a body of arts education research that supports a comprehensive, standards-based approach to arts education as the best way to enable such experiences and stimulate long-term arts involvement. Second, they describe the infrastructure for arts learning in terms of the amount and type of learning available to youth and adults through public schools, universities, and community organizations. Third, they examine how state arts agencies (SAAs) allocate their resources in support of supply, access, and demand. The authors conclude that greater investment in comprehensive arts learning, particularly for the young, is the most effective strategy for building demand. Such an investment is not likely to be made, however, unless the arts community, including the National Endowment for the Arts, SAAs, and the leaders of arts organizations, join with arts educators to persuade the general education community — and the American public — that improved arts learning is necessary to expand and diversify public engagement in the arts.

The research in this report was produced within RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation. The research was commissioned by The Wallace Foundation as part of its State Arts Partnerships for Cultural Participation (START) initiative.

This report is part of the RAND monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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