New data reveals how adults are engaging with the arts during COVID-19

People sitting in the theater are wearing masks

Masked spectators watch a performance at the Lied Center for the Performing Arts in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 2020.

Washington DC—How has COVID-19 impacted arts participation? New research released today by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) finds that more than half of adults created and/or performed the arts between July 2021 and July 2022—a change from 2017, the last time the survey was conducted similar. During the same period, less than half of adults attended live arts events, a significant drop from 2017. and additional findings on virtual arts engagement and adult reading habits can be found in two new NEA research publications: Art Participation Model in 2022: Key Points of Public Art Participation Survey and Online audiences for arts programming: A survey of virtual engagement during COVID-19.

NEA President Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson said, “The National Endowment for the Arts has a longstanding commitment to providing accurate and relevant research to the arts and culture sectors and the public. Taken together, these reports help shed light on the state of arts participation in our country and Become a great resource for understanding trends such as areas where interest is growing, areas where interest is declining, and demographic gaps in participation.

2022 Art Participation Model: Key Points of Public Art Participation Survey

Since 1982, the U.S. Census Bureau has conducted the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) approximately every five years. The report is the first to look at how adults are engaging in the arts one year into the pandemic through the lens of federal survey data: the 12 months from July 2021 to July 2022. and other fields. The 2022 comprehensive statistical report on SPPA data will be released next year.

Key findings of the report include:

Artistic creation:

  • In 2022, more than half (52%) of adults nationwide made some form of art.
  • For most art forms, the share of adults creating and/or performing in person has either increased slightly or stayed flat since 2017. products. and playing musical instruments. Other activities, such as working with textiles, taking artistic photos or doing creative writing, declined in 2020 but have since recovered to 2017 levels.
  • Social dancing is the most popular activity among all forms of personal artistic performance and creation, with 22% of adults participating.
  • The next most popular activity is singing, either alone or with a choir, although the share of adults singing fell by 5 percentage points from 2017 to 2022.
  • Other declines in personal creation and performance include performing or practicing dance; restoring, rebuilding, or customizing objects; and cooking as an artistic activity.
  • Most adults who study art subjects do so through friends or family or through self-study.

Personally participate in art activities:

  • Less than half (48%) of adults have attended at least one arts event in person. This is 6 percentage points lower than the figure reported in 2017.
  • Compared with 2017, there were fewer Attendance is down at performing arts festivals, opera, ballet and other dance forms, and films.
  • However, adult attendance in the “other” performing arts category rose 15% to 21%. This may include a variety of music, dance and theater activities not specified in the survey, such as rock or pop, rap or hip-hop, folk or country music, or music from other countries and cultural traditions, as well as comedy/improvisational performances, circus or Magic show.
  • As for participation in the visual arts, the only activity that did not see a serious decline was visiting a park, building, monument or community for historical or design purposes – where participation fell by just two percentage points.
  • In 2022, open-air facilities (e.g. parks, pavilions, amphitheaters) are among the most popular places to view live art.
  • Social media and peer-to-peer communication were the most frequently cited mechanisms for understanding the live arts events in which respondents participated.

Art consumption through media:

  • As in previous years, the largest proportion of adults involved in the arts consume art through electronic or digital media (75%).
  • The proportion of music listened to via electronic or digital media remained stable between 2017 and 2022, with the exception of jazz, classical music or opera, where listening rates declined.
  • Many other forms of arts consumption through media declined over the five-year period, including watching or listening to theater productions and dance performances, as well as programs, podcasts or other video or audio content about visual arts or books or authors.


  • In 2022, 53% of U.S. adults read literature and/or some kind of book (up from 57.1% in 2017).
  • Data shows a sharp decline in reading over the past decade. The proportion of U.S. adults who read at least one book (print or electronic version) in 2022 is 48.5, a decrease of 6.1 percentage points from 2012.
  • In 2022, a smaller percentage of U.S. adults read literature (novels or short stories, poetry, and plays) than in 2017. In 2012, this proportion will increase from 37.6% in 2012 to 37.6%, which is the lowest proportion since the survey began.
  • The proportion of U.S. adults who read poetry dropped from 11.7% in 2017 to 9.2% in 2022, but is still higher than the 2012 level of 6.7%. A new 2022 survey question asked about poetry listening, with 4.8% of adults (11.8 million) reporting having listened to poetry on the radio, on a recording, or online. (For more information, see the April 2023 NEA blog post: New Survey Reports Poetry Audience Size—Including Streaming Media)

Demographic differences:

  • The accompanying table to this report examines arts participation by different demographic groups. For most activity/event types, the decline in arts attendance is borne by both gender groups (whites, older adults, and those with higher education). Exceptions include:
  • Musicals; classical music; outdoor performing arts festivals and craft fairs — Hispanic attendance also declined
  • Non-Musical Theater and Latin Music – Also Declined Among Younger Groups
  • Non-ballet dance forms—African-American, Hispanic participants, and young adults also saw declines
  • Art Museums and Galleries—African American and Asian Visitor Numbers Also Declined

The complete source material for the 2022 Public Art Participation Survey will be available at the NEA National Archives of Arts and Cultural Materials later this year.

Online audiences for arts programming: A survey of virtual engagement during COVID-19

The 2022 General Social Survey (GSS), administered by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, is another tool for understanding arts participation. With support from the NEA and the National Science Foundation, the 2022 GSS Arts Module asks respondents to reflect on their arts experiences during the first year of the pandemic (March 2020 to March 2021) and to report on their experiences in the arts during the last 12 years Is there a one-month period in which their participation rate was higher, lower, or the same. The report also examines how responses differ among different population subgroups.

Key findings of the report include:

  • 82% of respondents have participated in some type of digital art activities between 2021 and 2022, such as: watching or listening to archived and live online performing arts events; listening to art-related podcasts; viewing or listening to archived and live broadcasts online reading activities; participate in online art courses; participate in online art exhibitions or tours. (This is roughly in line with the 75% of adults participating in digital arts activities in the 2022 SPPA survey, which used different question items and methodology.)
  • The largest proportion of adults (70%) attended online archived performing arts events, followed by 43% of adults who attended live streaming performing arts events. (70% is 69% updated using the GSS 2022 cross-sectional data version 2 released in November 2023.)
  • About 30% of the respondents said they were engaging in one or more digital art activities more frequently than in the first year of the epidemic.
  • Higher proportions of women; 18- to 24-year-olds; African-American, Hispanic, and non-white, non-Hispanic adults reported participating in virtual arts events and doing so more frequently than in the first year of the pandemic.
    • Overall, a slightly higher proportion of women than men are involved in any type of digital art activity. In addition to watching or listening to live performing arts events, this trend is consistent across many digital event types.
    • Compared to the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, more women than men are participating in one or more digital arts activities.
    • Adults ages 18-24 participate in digital arts activities at higher rates than older age groups and are also more likely than other age groups to say they engage in these activities more frequently now than in the first year of the pandemic.
    • Nearly all Black/African American and other non-Hispanic and non-White respondents, as well as the vast majority of Hispanic respondents, reported being exposed to at least one type of digital arts content in the last 12 months.
    • About half of Black/African American and other non-Hispanic and non-white respondents and more than a third of Hispanic respondents reported doing one or more numbers more often than in the first year of the pandemic activity, compared with 24%.
    • Respondents from a variety of educational backgrounds reported high levels of participation in digital arts activities, with the highest levels of participation among respondents with graduate degrees and the lowest levels among those with less than a high school diploma. Still, 42% of adults without a high school diploma say they are participating in one or more digital arts activities more frequently now than in the first year of the pandemic, the highest share of any education group. (42% is the 41% updated using the GSS 2022 cross-sectional data version 2 released in November 2023.)

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