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Home is Where the Heart is (and Where Cultural Participation Begins)

Taking Part is an ongoing longitudinal survey of cultural participation in England, commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Arts Council England. Every year it asks residents across the country (age 16+) about their attendance at art museums and galleries, art events, historic sites, and library use. The survey also asks about frequency of participation in arts and culture activities such as ‘writing poetry’ and ‘playing a musical instrument for an audience,’ overall barriers to participation, and the frequency and degree of childhood encouragement and exposure to arts and culture. It is the last set of questions about childhood experience that shows how encouragement and exposure early in one’s life significantly increases the probability of engaging with the arts (e.g., attending museums and art events) as an adult, even when a range of other socio-economic factors have been taken into account. The findings hint at the importance of settings for arts activities outside of the traditional classroom environment, and how one’s home and parents may be as important as the education system in determining whether a child grows up to be interested in the arts. The importance of the home for education generally has been documented in Paul E. Barton and Richard Coley’s The Family: America’s Smallest School from Educational Testing Service, while WolfBrown’s research in cultural participation, such as the Irvine study referred to above and the Richmond Region Cultural Action Plan, has repeatedly found the over-riding importance of the home as a setting for creative activities.

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