The report, which Orzell describes with cutting precision as “hand-wringing”, describes a steep decline in US attendance figures for a range of NEA-supported artforms such as ballet, classical music, opera and jazz. In this, it merely confirms a number of other studies in the field internationally for these particular artforms.
Orzell points out what many in the industry have long understood:
Perhaps because I share Chad’s background in the natural sciences, I too find this “decline” unsurprising. Measuring artforms that are demonstrably less popular than they used to be is likely to find that they are … less popular than they used to be.
Orzell has put his finger on an endemic problem in cultural research: the tendency of public arts funding agencies to define “the arts” as the things that they have historically funded.