NEA Study Says Fewer Blacks and Latinos in Arts Classes and Events

Of course, they're not counting the sort of underground art many communities of color support.

By Thoai Lu Mar 14, 2011

According to Los Angeles Times, the National Endowment for the Arts has been compiling data since 1982 that suggests black and Latino young adult rates of arts attendance, for both art classes and art events, have declined far more than for whites. 

An education study found that the percentage of blacks ages 18 to 24 who have taken at least one arts class during their life dropped from 51 percent in 1982 to 26 percent in 2008, while it went from 47 percent to 28 percent for Latinos. Whites experienced only a 2 percent drop, to 58 percent.  

The study found that declines began with the generation that entered school in 1972, which coincides with reductions in school budgets. 

The study’s findings also suggest arts education is another form of hereditary wealth. Among children of college graduates, the percentage that have taken at least one art class dropped from 88 percent in 1982 to 73 percent in 2008. For children of high school graduates, however, that figure dropped from 54 percent to 13 percent.

Another study on age and art-events attendance found the percentage of 18- to 29-year-olds in arts audiences fell from 33 percent in 1982 to 21 percent in 2008. But that change may be more about generational size than interests–the population of young folks today is comparatively smaller than their baby boomer parents. Mike Boehm of the LA Times explained that "using mathematical adjustments that accounted for the difference in size between the generations, Stern found that the decline was just 3% rather than 12%–a difference that’s ‘extremely modest.’"

Still, the percentage of nonwhites, aged 18-24 who have attended at least one arts event fell from 38 percent to 25 percent during the 26 year period, while whites dropped 2 percent, from 44 percent to 42 percent.  Examples of art events are "jazz, classical music, opera, musical or non-musical plays, dance or art museums."

Of coures, communities of color do consume much art that is underground and not counted in studies like these. The legendary but soon-to-be-demolished Five Pointz street art cite in New York City, for instance, didn’t likely make the survey.