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Major research on public attitudes to the arts

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2 September 1998


Public libraries and art galleries 'have rated massive support from the Australian community, while artforms such as photography, craft, architecture and design struggled for recognition in national resitrch just released today.

The report, Public Attitudes to the. Arts, a joint publication of die Australian Bureau of Statistics and the ^Australia Council, contains data about the population’s understanding of the term “the arts”, the importance of cultural venues and support for arts funding, as well as where people get their information about arts activities.

Australia Council Chair, Dr Margaret Scares, welcomed the report as ground breaking, being the fust time the Bureau of Statistics had published an altitudinal report on the arts.

’This report is significant not ju s ; to the arts community but to the wider community given the anticipated expansion in economic activity for the arts over the next decade," said Dr Scares.

“Already the arts and related indm tries are worth more than $19 billion annually to Australia and this huge growth is likely to contii lue, particularly with the increased international interest in our films, books, performing arts and i ndigenous arts."

Dr Scares said while some revela ions about public support for the arts contained in the report were heartening, other result^ hardened the Council’s resolve to pursue its recently announced national arts awareness strategy.

“Nearly a quarter of the population felt they were not adequately informed about arts events compared to about 7 per cent of people who indicated they were not sufficiently informed about sport”

“These facts about how Australian really feel should be noted particularly by those involved in marketing sponsorships, television and radio networks, newspapers and magazines and others whose role is to engage with the interests of the Australian community."

Dr Scares said a concerning feature of the research was the relatively narrow definition of the arts held by many people. The report Showed 80% of people included plays, ballet and opera in their definition of the arts, while much lower numbers included photography and craft

“Many people simply do not equate their children’s arts lessons, the artistic hobbies they pursue, buying a book, going to a movie οέ a concert as part of our creative arts environment" she said.

The research also canvassed the opinions of people in regional Australia, where travelling time to arts venues is a major consideration. The Council will be using results in the report to help develop a targeted national arts awareness strategy to increase public understanding and support for the valuable economic and social role of the arts in modem Australia.

The report is available from ABS bookshops in every capital city. Some highlights of the report are attached.

CONTACT: Lanciaj Jordana, Public Affairs Manager (02)99509013


PUBLIC ATTITUDES TO THE ARTS - HIGHLIGHTS Australian Bureau of Statistics/Australia Council Report - November 1997

• Australians highly value cultural venues and institutions: 97% rated libraries as Important or very Important, 77% said museums were very Important/important, 76% said the same for performing arts venues and 72% for a rt galleries.

• This strong endorsement came from people whether or not they had attended these facilities. For example, amongst those people who did not go to an art gallery over the past 12 months, 65% still rated them as very Important or Important to their community. These results were consistent across Australia.

• A majority of Australians support public funding of the arts and cultural Institutions such as live theatre, libraries, art galleries and orchestras.

• Support for public funding was strongest for public libraries (91%), then a rt galleries (63%) live theatre (57%) and orchestras (54%). Only 4% In the 1997 survey opposed this type of government funding. Another 4 % said they didn’t know or had no opinion.

• Majority support for funding of arts activities/instititions was consistent across ail States and Territories and by both men and women.

• Many people feel they’re not as well informed about the arts as about sports. About 57% say they’re sufficiently Informed about the arts compared to 78% for sports, while 25% say they’re not sufficiently Informed about arts activities/events compared to 7% with not enough information about sports.

• Newspapers are the main source Information about the arts for 69% of the population compared to 63% for television and 35% for radio. The internet was a source of arts information for only 4% at the end of 1997.

• Travelling time Is an important factor affecting attendances arts events. About 91% of metropolitan respondents can get to a cinema within half an hour; the equivalent figures for rural dwellers is 74%.

• Understanding what the term «the arts’ means varied widely. About 8 out of every 10 respondents included plays, ballet, opera, music, concerts, orchestras and singing. About three quarters Included painting, sculpture and drawing, while 62% mentioned literature, books and poetry. Just over half of those surveyed included craft, pottery, weaving and photography. Only a third Included architecture and design. Nine per

cent counted sport!