While Portland rated highly in a new NEA survey of arts participation, Maine as a whole ranked in the middle of the pack.

Key findings from Maine, the nation and other northern New England states:

• 57.9 percent of adults in Maine attended a visual or performance art event in 2017, slightly higher than the national average of 54.3 percent. But Maine’s figure is more than 10 percentage points lower than both New Hampshire’s at 69.2 percent and Vermont’s at 68.3 percent. For the national survey, visual and performance art events included fairs or festivals that featured crafts, visual arts or performing artists such as musicians, singers, dancers or actors; an art exhibition of paintings, sculpture, pottery, photography or digital art; a live music performance; a live play or musical; a live dance performance; an event featuring a poet or writer; and other performance, including improv, comedy and the circus arts.
• 46.1 percent of Maine adults read novels, short stories, poems, or plays, compared to 44.2 percent nationally. Maine fared slightly higher than New Hampshire (44.6 percent) and slightly lower than Vermont (49.7 percent).
• 38.6 percent of Maine adults performed or created art. The national average was 33.4 percent. Both Vermont at 50.4 percent and New Hampshire at 43.2 percent rated higher.
• 81 percent of adults Mainers consumed their art on TV, radio or the internet, including streaming music and TV. The number for the country is 73.1 percent. In New Hampshire, the percentage was 82 and in Vermont it was 69.2.

The report offers a statistical measurement of arts participation, while also providing leaders and policy makers data to inform their decisions. Maine Arts Commission Chairman David Greenham shared a summary of the report with Gov. Janet Mills last week at the Blaine House. He said the report would be useful in helping the commission do its job supporting Maine artists and arts organizations. “It will be interesting to dig into these numbers a little bit further and see what we can learn,” Greenham said. “This is an opportunity for us to learn about other places that are doing well. Beyond critical mass, it’s about connection and relevancy.

“Maine is doing OK, but we’re a little behind the rest of New England. We have some work to do.”

Mills, who had not read the report, voiced support for the arts, calling them “important not only to Maine’s economy but to who we are as a people.”

Other notable findings in the national survey:

• Among adults attending an artistic, creative or cultural activity, 42 percent attended a live music performance; 40 percent attended a fair or festival; 24 percent attended a play or musical; 23 percent attended an art show; 15 percent attended a dance event; 11 percent attend another kind of performance, and 6 percent attended an event involving a poet or writer.
• Among adults who participated in the performing arts, either as creators or performers, 62 percent did so to spend time with family and friends. By contrast, most adults who created visual artworks reported doing so because they felt “creative or creatively inspired” (61 percent).
• More than half of adults who attended artistic, creative, or cultural activities did so more than twice a year.
• Among adults who sang, made music, danced, or acted, 63 percent did so in the home, while 40 percent did so in a place of worship.

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