The Arts Participation Divide


The Washington Post recently published an article indicating a “Great Creative Divide” in the United States: people living in the Southern portion of the country were less likely to be involved in the arts than those living in the Northern portion. While we see creativity as encompassing much more than just the arts, it’s interesting to dig a little deeper into the data behind the WAPO article to get a snapshot of Georgians’ arts participation. Although the data doesn’t present a complete picture, it can point us in new directions as we consider children’s creative lives—or perhaps recommit us to paths we are already on.

Here are the numbers for Georgia:

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Attend Visual or Performing Arts Events or Go to the Movies by State in 2015

  • Georgia: 57.6% (statistically less than U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Attend Live Music, Theater, or Dance Performances by State in 2015

  • Georgia: 20.8% (statistically less than U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S Adults Who Attend Art Exhibits by State in 2015

  • Georgia: 9.5% (statistically less than U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Go to Movies by State in 2015

  • Georgia: 53.3% (not statistically different from U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Visit Buildings, Neighborhoods, Parks, and Other Sites for Their Historic or Design Value by States in 2015

  • Georgia: 20.3% (statistically less than U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Read Literature (Poetry, Plays, Short Stories, or Novels) by State in 2015

  • Georgia: 36.8% (not statistically different from U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Personally Perform of Create Artworks by State in 2014

  • Georgia: 34.2% (statistically less than U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S Adults Who Use TV, Radio, and /or Internet to Consume Art or Arts Programming by State in 2012

  • Georgia: 50% (statistically less than U.S. average)

Why are there variations in arts participation across states? The answer, of course, isn’t simple, but the National Endowment for the Arts, which published the data, links participation in the arts to education and poverty, as well as availability and access to arts organizations. The NEA also draws “strong association” between adults’ likelihood of attending arts events and their experiences with the arts as children. “Adults who visited an art museum as a child were 4.8 times more likely to visit an art museum or gallery as an adult,” the report states.

While creativity isn’t limited to the arts, the arts certainly are crucial components of a creative and innovative education. Perhaps the first step in providing children with more experiences with creativity in general and the arts in particular is to work together as adults to begin that cultivation.


How do we define American Education?

MACIE from College of Education & Human Dev on Vimeo.

According to its mission statement, the U.S. Department of Education seeks “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” This statement is punctuated with powerful actions like preparation, achievement, global competition, excellence and equality–actions we hope all students have opportunities to experience.

But, in the midst of a growing technological and creative revolution, are there more actions students should experience in order to develop the skills they need to thrive in a global creative economy?

Creativity and innovation require different actions: making, tinkering, doing, practicing, searching, exploring, and diversifying. In addition to achievement, preparation, and excellence, how can we also make space for creative and innovative thinking?

Our program is designed to create new learning spaces where people who are passionate about cultivating children’s creative lives can come to find inspiration, information, and connection. Will you join us?

La Gioiosa: The University As A Joyful Space



Creativity. Innovation. These are current buzzwords in both business and education. As economies strive to compete in a global, digitalized world, the call for creative thinkers and innovative makers has become part of our collective thinking about what we want for our children. Ken Robinson, in his famous TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” (40 million views and counting), urgently argues “that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” In other words, creativity and innovation are now considered a necessary part of every child’s upbringing.

But what does that mean, exactly? What does it look like when we take Robinson’s call seriously, when we—grown-ups charged with supporting children in their learning and living—treat creativity with as much commitment as we do reading and writing, as well as math and science and other knowledges that we consider vital to the human experience? What kinds of spaces will we create for children, and what do we hope children will do when we invite them there?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist best known for developing the concept of “flow,” writes of Vittorino da Feltre, an educator living in 15th century Italy. As a condition of becoming a tutor for a politically influential family, Vittorino opened a school for other children of the Lombardy region. According to Csikszentmihalyi, Vittorino saw connections between creativity and enjoyment and sought to instill those qualities in the learning experiences that took place in his school, which he named La Gioiosa—The Joyful Place.

But Csikszentmihalyi doesn’t leave Vittorino’s story lodged in the history of Italy. Instead, he challenges educators to bring such thinking into 21st century places of higher education.

“But how can the joy of learning be instilled in modern universities?…First, making sure that teachers are selected in part because they model the joy of learning themselves, and are able to spark it in students; second, that the curriculum takes into account the students’ desire for joyful learning; third, that the pedagogy is focused on awakening the imagination and engagement of students; and finally that the institution rewards and facilitates the love of learning among faculty and students alike” (Csikszentmihalyi, 2006, p. xx).

The question of how to cultivate children’s creative and innovative thinking is at the heart of the MACIE program. Also at its heart is a belief in joyful learning and the stance that for adults to awaken the imagination of students, their own imaginations have to be awakened as well. That includes faculty who are immersed in the joy of learning and who strive to design spaces for adults that can lead to creativity, innovation and, yes, enjoyment. In this way, we are here to support adults who want to do the fulfilling and necessary work of helping children grow to lead joyful and creative lives.



Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2006). Foreword: Developing creativity. In N. Jackson, M. Oliver, M. Shaw, & J. Wisdom (Eds.), Developing creativity in higher education: An imaginative curriculum (pp. xiii-xx). New York, NY: Routledge.