Despite economy, Philadelphians are watching and making more art

Philadelphians are attending more cultural events, according to a report from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance measuring the “Cultural Engagement Index” of the region.

The easiest way to determine how engaged a population is in the arts is to track ticket sales. The Cultural Engagement Index is a bit more complicated. It takes into consideration volunteer participation, visits to historical sites, and even surveys of at-home activities like knitting and writing.

The research was conducted by San Francisco-based consultant Alan Brown, who says people’s creative practices changing more quickly and quickly than cultural institutions can keep up.

“We’ll never know what creative activities are meaningful to people,” said Brown, who designed the index. “Quilting, making dolls. Over-decorating your home for Christmas is my favorite. What explains that?”

Brown’s results show an 11 percent increase in cultural engagement in Philadelphia since 2008. Those numbers are shrinking in most other regions.

“The Growth in index during the depth of recession is remarkable,” said Tom Kaiden, director of the Cultural Alliance. “That 11 percent growth really stood out and tells about people’s deep connection to arts and culture at a time of stress. We find that arts and culture gives people a way to understand change happening around them, to be creative how they adapt to it.”

The study also shows African-American and Hispanic audiences are the most involved demographic groups.

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance will be using the results to lobby Harrisburg against slashing arts funding in the proposed state budget.

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