More Australians recognise the positive impact the arts has on society

Setting up for the MTV Beats and Eats at Stuart Park in North Wollongong, 2016. Picture: Adam McLean
Setting up for the MTV Beats and Eats at Stuart Park in North Wollongong, 2016. Picture: Adam McLean

A new survey has revealed 98 per cent of Australians engage with the arts but many don’t realise how much they do, while more people recognise the positive impact the arts has on society.

The National Arts Participation Survey revealed an increase in people taking part in the arts though many had a narrow view of what it means and dismissed things like listening to music, reading or going to a festival.

Merrigong theatre company artistic director Simon Hinton found the results “fascinating” and in line with other studies he’d read showing healthy communities are those that participate in the arts.

“The arts is very much about shaping identity, not just for a community or a society but it also plays a role in individuals thinking through what they believe and ... what their cultural values are and their aesthetic values,” Mr Hinton said.

He attested to significant increases in Wollongong’s “cultural life” over the last five to seven years, with the introduction of the Spiegeltent season this year a great example.

“We had an additional 15,000 [audience members] on top of our normal operations … and fascinatingly 38 per cent who attended Spiegeltent Wollongong were not in our database and hadn’t bought a ticket to events in our venues before,” he said.

PUBLIC ART: The path from Wollongong Station was transformed for the Wonderwalls festival in 2016. Picture: Adam McLean

PUBLIC ART: The path from Wollongong Station was transformed for the Wonderwalls festival in 2016. Picture: Adam McLean

The Arts Participation Survey also showed an increase in online arts engagement (music streaming the biggest contributor) to 81 per cent up from 70 per cent in 2013; young people aged 15 to 24 create and experience the arts at the highest rates (especially online); while nine million Australians attended an arts festival in 2016.

The Australia Council for the Arts chief executive Tony Grybowski said this research highlights what an essential role the arts play in daily life, and in building social cohesion which promotes a healthy and inclusive public life for all.

In the past 12 months the Illawarra has hosted a range of festivals from community-based (Viva La Gong, Thirroul Seaside Festival, Spring Into Corrimal) to music (Yours and Owls, MTV Beats and Eats, Folk By The Sea) and arts (Wonderwalls, Comic Gong, KISS Arts Festival).

Source: Australia Council for the Arts, National Arts Participation Survey

Source: Australia Council for the Arts, National Arts Participation Survey

OTHER INTERESTING FINDINGS:

  • 98 % of Australians engage with the arts – 97% listen to music, 81 % engage online, 72% attend live, 79% read books, 46% creatively participate, 35% engage with the arts of their cultural background, 14% are involved with community arts and cultural development.
  • Online and live arts experiences are both important to Australians.
  • Music is the most popular art form, with 97% of Australians listening to recorded music and more than half attending live music.
  • Younger Australians (aged 15-24 years) create and experience the arts at the highest rates.
  • One in four Australians give time or money to the arts, reflecting their value in our lives.
  • 7 million Australians experienced First Nations arts last year – double the number in 2009
  • The arts have an increasingly powerful role to play in promoting social cohesion.
This story Most Illawarra residents engage in the arts but many don’t realise first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.