LA Times Article on Attendance Should Make Us All Sit up and Take Note

by Allyson Lazar (with hat tip to Ted Greenberg for pointing out the LA Times article)

The new "Survey of Public Participation in the Arts" was released on Thursday by the NEA.

According to a newly released NEA study, museum attendance is down. This may not seem news-worthy--we are in the middle of a recession for heaven's sake! But this December 14 article by Gregory Rodriguez from the LA Times indicates that the study reveals a deeper and more problematic trend: museum attendance is down because museums aren't keeping up with the changing demographics of the American public.

The NEA findings corroborate the findings in a report published by AAM's Center for the Future of Museums, which found that "only one in 10 'core museum visitors' today is non-Anglo" despite the fact that "nonwhites are projected to make up roughly half of the national population by mid-century." That means that unless museums start becoming more relevant to people of color, more and more museums will be shutting their doors.

The LA Times article specifically identifies the underserved educated, middle-class Latino demographic as the potential saviors of the museum world. But don't take my word for it; read the article. Read the NEA study (pdf). Read the CFM study. And then act.




Gregory Rodriguez gave a dynamic lecture on this topic for CFM in DC on December 9th. The lecture, "Towards a New Mainstream?" will be webcast on January 27th at 2 pm EST, along with commentary from some invited experts, chat rooms for participants, and online Q&A with Mr. Rodriguez. Keep an eye on the AAM and CFM websites for registration information.

This is a great posting. And I think one unexpressed piece of the story is that museums and historic sites which have narrow themes---not related to non-Anglo stories in any obvious way--have an even greater struggle to stay with their mission but also to broaden how they frame that.

Not an easy challenge to overcome.

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Just want to see if you are a robot.