Eugene's White Lotus Gallery

Eugene’s White Lotus Gallery

Oregon leads the nation in the percentage of its population who visit art museums and galleries.

That’s a tidbit of information buried in a massive new report that came out Monday from the National Endowment for the Arts. The information comes from the most recent Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, taken in 2012 by the US Census Bureau for the NEA.

It shows that 36.5 percent of Oregonians went to an art museum or gallery in 2012. That compares to roughly 28 percent in Minnesota, Maryland, and California, the runners-up. (It’s also close to the level of participation, 37 percent, measured in the San Francisco metro area for the same period.)

At the bottom of the barrel were Alabama and Georgia, with 8 percent.

Oregon is also near the top in the percentage of people who attend visual arts festivals or craft fairs, at 34 percent. (Colorado won that category, with 37 percent.)

More than a quarter of Oregonians – more than twice the national average of 12 percent – report taking photographs as an artistic activity. (All those selfies, no doubt.)

All in all, the numbers show that Oregonians are very attuned to the visual arts.

Attendance at arts events of all kinds, not surprisingly, is linked to childhood exposure to the arts, the report concludes. β€œThe pattern evident in state-level attendance at arts events … is likely related to access to the arts in childhood, as well as factors such as education and socio-economic conditions,” it says.

What the NEA report doesn’t address is this: If we’re tops in the nation for attendance at art museums and galleries, why are all our art galleries constantly struggling to stay alive?

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