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Record Numbers Take Part in Arts

September 17, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bill Ivey, the new chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, said Thursday that half the adults in the United States took an active part in the arts last year _ a record number.

``Millions are singing in choirs, taking photographs, writing articles, performing in plays and playing jazz,″ he told the National Press Club, adding that the 50 percent figure was up from 41 percent in 1992.

Citing figures from the Commerce Department and from a survey commissioned by the endowment, he said 97 million Americans attended an arts activity in 1997.

He spoke of the crowd that applied in Washington for advance passes at the end of August for an exhibit of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, more than a month before it opened.

``The 2,600 die-hard arts aficionados, braving 97 degree heat, long lines, hours of waiting, no bathrooms _ sounds like flying in a Piper Cub to Virginia,″ he said. Ivey, former head of the Country Music Foundation In Nashville, is a pilot who flies his own Piper Cub.

The NEA noted Wednesday that according to the Commerce Department, Americans spent $10.4 billion on live shows, compared with $6.5 billion on going to films and $6.3 billion on spectator sports. That includes money spent at ``concessions″ on popcorn, frankfurters and T-shirts.

Between 1992 and 1997, the spending on live shows grew by $1.8 billion, taking inflation into account. That was an increase of nearly 25 percent. Top arts activity was going to arts museums _ more than one American in three reported at least one visit in the past year.

Tom Bradshaw, the NEA’s chief of research, pointed out that although an increasing number of museums now charge admission, the price is usually less than a seat at a play or a sports event.

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