Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America's Cultural Life

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Engaging Art explores what it means to participate in the arts in contemporary society – from museum attendance to music downloading.  Drawing on the perspectives of experts from diverse fields (including Princeton scholars Robert Wuthnow and Paul DiMaggio; Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice; and MIT scholars Henry Jenkins and Mark Schuster), this volume analyzes key trends involving technology, audience demographics, religion, and the rise of "do-it-yourself" participatory culture.  Commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and independently carried out by the Curb Center at Vanderbilt University, Engaging Art offers a new framework for understanding the momentous changes impacting America’s cultural life over the past fifty years.

This volume offers suggestive glimpses into the character and consequence of a new engagement with old-fashioned participation in the arts. The authors in this volume hint at a bright future for art and citizen art making. They argue that if we center a new commitment to arts participation in everyday art making, creativity, and quality of life, we will not only restore the lifelong pleasure of homemade art, but will likely seed a new generation of enthusiasts who will support America’s signature nonprofit cultural institutions well into the future.

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About the Author:

Bill Ivey is Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University. From May 1998 through September 2001, Ivey served as the seventh Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Steven J. Tepper is Associate Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Vanderbilt University.


"Arts participation has long been treated by arts policymakers as a black box with meters reading ‘number of eyeballs’ or ‘number of derrieres in seats.’ Engaging Art peeks inside the box, showing the complexity, multi-facetedness, and variety of forms that engaging with the arts takes in America today."―Larry Rothfield, Faculty Director, Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago.

"For anyone who wants to come to grips with the shape and trajectory of contemporary cultural life, Engaging Art will be indispensable. ...  Tepper and Ivey have set a new agenda for cultural analysis."―Wendy Griswold, Northwestern University and the University of Oslo

 "Engaging Art is a superb, thoroughgoing survey of the rapidly changing nature of American cultural activities at the turn of the millennium.  Forty years after the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts, the editors and contributors make a conclusive case for democratizing and diversifying our policy concept of ‘public arts participation.’"―Douglas Dempster, Marie and Joseph D. Jamail Senior Regents Professor in Fine Arts, Interim Dean of the College of Fine Arts, University of Texas at Austin

"Just the book I've been waiting for: a serious inquiry into the ways that participatory media practices, intercultural diversity and upper end occupational demands are reshaping how we engage in and value the arts. Engaging Art identifies challenges that all of us involved in educating artists or producing and presenting the arts will need to face, and the sooner, the better."―Steven D. Lavine, President, California Institute of the Arts 

"The splendid group of authors collected in Engaging Art sheds new light on what it means for citizens to engage with the broadest range of art forms and activities. The issue addressed is whether popular engagement with art matters in a democracy –and the answer is that it does, though not perhaps in ways that readers will expect. This is one of the most important books ever written on the significance of arts participation."―Stanley N. Katz, Director, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at the Woodrow Wilson, Princeton University

"Engaging Art addresses two fundamental questions: "1) What is the state of cultural participation and engagement in the United States; and 2) How is participation changing?" ... The contributors provide an extensive historical overview of arts participation in the United States; employ quantitative and qualitative resources to illustrate growth and decline in major arts disciplines; and introduce discussions about art making, art consumption, and choice." Lisa L. Higgins and Teresa Hollingsworth, Western Folklore, volume 69-2

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