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Report: Arts Groups Are Elitist

October 13, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal study concludes that the arts in America has grown faster than its sources of financial support partly because artists and art groups have not cultivated a broad public, The New York Times reported today.

The report, prepared by the National Endowment for the Arts, says many Americans do not recognize the relevance of art in their lives. Arts groups also often are elitist, racially segregated, class based and isolated from the ``communities they claim to serve, but don’t,″ it said.

The Times obtained a copy of the 193-page document, ``American Canvas,″ in advance of its scheduled Wednesday release.

The report was based in part on views of artists, arts officials, social critics and scholars.

Government, private and corporate support is down, the audience is aging and the arts is being ignored or neglected in public schools, the report said.

As examples of declining support, the report cites surveys showing museum expenses running 22 percent above income and the nation’s 65 largest dance companies spending 36 percent more than they take in.

Private support for the arts topped out at $10.23 billion in 1992 and had fallen below $10 billion by 1995, it said.

While support has dropped recently, the number of nonprofit arts groups has grown significantly in the three decades since the endowment was created in 1965.

Between 1965 and 1994, the number of professional orchestras in the United States grew from 100 to 230, professional opera companies from 27 to 120, dance companies from 37 to 400 and theater companies from 56 to 425, according to the report.

In the report, arts writer John Kreidler credits the federal government, which created the endowment, and the Ford Foundation, which made $400 million in arts grants between 1957 and 1976, with igniting the growth.

The report said artist and cultural groups are partly responsible for having neglected ``those aspects of participation, democratization and popularization that might have helped sustain the arts when the political climate turned sour.″

And support will remain limited and at the mercy of politics as long as the supporters are perceived as ``older, wealthier, better education and whiter than a typical cross-section of the American public,″ it said.

``Critics in Congress and elsewhere would never have been able to galvanize large segments of the public were it not for the vulnerability of the arts community brought on by its isolation and intransigence,″ Los Angeles lawyer and cultural activist Alberto Duron said in the report.

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