6. Cultural participation and consumption
Last update: May, 2016
Since the mid 1990s, several initiatives have been undertaken to foster participation, although mainly on the supply side: reopening of closed museums, prolonging opening hours of museums and other heritage sites, and improving equipment along with general modernisation of museum services. The huge success of new, architecturally bold and appealing cultural infrastructures – such as the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, or several museums of contemporary arts (e.g. the MAXXI in Rome, the MART in Rovereto…) – in attracting and blending different and unconventional types of audiences should be underlined.
Furthermore, special events of international significance like the White Nights, the Museum Night, the Heritage Weeks, the Feasts of Music, strategically aimed at involving citizenship and tourists alike, have by now become very popular in Italy, where they appeal to more and more huge crowds.
On the demand side, the frequent adoption of measures mainly targeted at attracting new and younger audiences, like the introduction of innovative, more flexible types of theatre subscriptions, of lower prices for cinema attendance in the afternoon, for access to opera rehearsals, etc…, as well as, more recently, for museums (see further), should also be mentioned. Much use has actually been made also of advertising campaigns and other popular techniques, like those aimed at multiplying promotional opportunities for free access.
Besides Istat's yearly Multipurpose survey (see chapter 6.2), audience studies or detailed research on the needs and expectations of those who do not visit museums / heritage institutions or do not participate in music, opera and theatre events are not regularly carried out in Italy. In comparison with other countries, where the use of marketing and access development strategies to increase cultural participation are by far more advanced and spread out, at the national as well as at regional and local level, there is still much space, in Italy, for more strategic actions to ensure that participation in cultural life is an opportunity for everyone.
With exactly this aim in mind, in 2012 MiBACT launched a call for proposals addressed to national museums, archaeological areas and historical sites to encourage and support them in the development of programmes and projects aimed at promoting cultural inclusion through innovative forms of participation. 17 projects were selected, funded and implemented with a grant of 900 000 EUR; they ranged from agreements with nearby commercial centres in order to attract new audiences, to re-designed visitor trails and mediation devices (see for example the project "At the museum with ...", promoted by the National Prehistoric Ethnographic Museum "Pigorini" and the National Museum of Eastern Art "Tucci", http://www.beniculturali.it/mibac/export/MiBAC/index.html), to the improvement of services and communication tools.
A new strategy for museum audience development – closely inspired by the French example – has been envisaged by recent measures taken by Minister Franceschini.From July 2014, access to all national museums and monuments is free of charge every first Sunday of the month (the Museum Sunday); at least two Museum Nights (instead of one) will take place every year, with an entrance fee of 1 EUR; every Friday, all major national museums and sites, including the Uffizi, Pompeii and the Coliseum, will extend their opening hours to 10 p.m. On the other hand, pricing policies have been changed so as "to harmonise them", as Minister Franceschini declared, "with those currently enforced in other European countries": while free access is still guaranteed for those under 18 (and concessions are granted to those under 25), senior citizens and tourists (over 65) will have to pay the full price.
In Franceschini's view, these measures on opening hours and entrance fees will complement other efforts to "valorize" the Italian museum system (see chapter 3.1).
Last update: May, 2016
In Italy there are two different sets of data regarding cultural demand:
- attendance data, measuring cultural consumption through the number of theatre tickets sold, the number of visitors to museums, etc, by collecting statistics and carrying out audience surveys. The main source of data for the performing arts is SIAE, the copyright society, whereas heritage data is regularly collected by the Heritage Ministry for national museums and sites; and
- participation data, which is obtained through sample surveys, by singling out population rates involved in the various cultural activities: visiting museums and exhibitions, attending musical and theatrical performances, reading books and newspapers, etc. This data is mainly collected by ISTAT – Italy's national statistical institute – in the framework of its Multipurpose Survey, in line with those carried out in other European countries.
Both types of data are important, and needed. Attendance data – where upward trends can be determined by higher frequency by the same persons – are indicators of artistic and economic success, but they cannot be considered as social indicators of achievements in outreach to wider audiences. The latter can be measured through participation sample surveys, well correlated to socio demographic features (age, gender, profession, etc).
Attendance figures for the performing arts are collected on a yearly basis by SIAE. Whereas until 2010 the trend had not been too negative, the slowdown caused by the economic downturn since 2011 is still progressing, with a 6.1% decrease in 2014 compared with the previous year.
Table 8: Attendance figures for the performing arts, broken down by discipline, 2013 and 2014 (number of tickets sold, in thousands)
|Field||2013||2014||% Var. (2013-2014)|
|Theatre||14 029||13 747||-1.1|
|Musical comedy||1 355||1 255||-7.4|
|Opera||2 046||2 001||-2.2|
|Dance||1 976||2 048||+3.6|
|Classical music concerts||3 096||3 111||+0.5|
|Cinema||105 740||98 252||-7.8|
|Total||128 242||120 414||-6.1|
Source: Siae, Annuario dello spettacolo 2014.
The worst trend has been registered for cinema, following a quite significant, if anomalous, growth in attendance in the previous year. But the trend has been negative - or stagnant - for the performing arts disciplines as well, where dance has been the only positive exception.
Interestingly, on the other hand the trend for museum visits - notwithstanding the protracted economic recession - seems presently to oppose the current downward trend. As far as visitors to the 405 national museums and sites are concerned, the present positive trend started in 2010, first thanks to active promotional campaigns by MiBACT's former DG for the Valorisation of Cultural Heritage, and later on thanks to the audience development strategies devised by minister Franceschini (see chapter 6.1). As a matter of fact, the number of visitors actually increased by +15% in the last six years: from 37.3 million in 2010 to 42.9 million in 2015. Less recent data for all 4 740 Italian museums (public, local or private) elaborated by Istat's Special surveys on Italian museums, 2011 (https://www.istat.it/en/archivio/167568) show an even higher increase in attendance, compared with a previous similar survey carried out in 2006: +65% over six years, that is from 63 million visits in 2006 to 104 million in 2011.
Participation trends in cultural activities (the ratio of the adult population involved in different types of activities) have been monitored by ISTAT on a yearly basis since 1993 in the framework of the Multipurpose survey. The last published data for "going out" activities, referring to 2014, take fully into account to which degree these activities have been negatively affected by the present economic downturn.
Table 9: Participation in cultural activities and entertainment, in %, 2000-2014
|Year||Theatre||Cinema||Museums and exhibitions||Classical music concerts (incl. opera)||Other concerts|
ISTAT, Indagine multiscopo: Aspetti della vita quotidiana, 2015.
Data refer to those aged over 6 years having attended the above mentioned activities at least once during the previous year.
As Table 9 shows, the highest peak in participation in cultural events was reached in 2010 – in 2011 for cinema - i.e. at the beginning of the financial downturn. Since then, participation has been more or less slowing down for all kinds of events and artistic disciplines - including museums, notwithstanding the high increase in visitors - with a slightly positive reversal, though, starting for all disciplines in 2014.
It should be thus noted that the divergences between museum attendance and participation show how trends in the former – dealing with the number of visits - are not necessarily parallel with trends in the participation rate, dealing with the rate of the population actually involved!
Participation in the media is far higher than for museums and the performing arts.
Last update: May, 2016
Table 10: Individuals watching television, listening to radio, reading newspapers and books, in %, 2000-2014
|Year||TV (a)||Radio (a)||Newspapers (b) (c)||Books (b) (d)|
Istat, Indagine multiscopo: Aspetti della vita quotidiana.
Data refer to: (a) over 3-year olds, (b) over 6-year olds; (c) individuals reading a newspaper at least once a week; (d) individuals reading at least one book a year.
Surprisingly enough – considering the financial constraints faced by many Italian families – participation rates for cheap home-based activities like radio and TV watching are also altogether continuing to slow down, along with the more expensive going-out activities. In particular, as far as reading habits are concerned, the marked decrease in reading newspapers had been initially counterbalanced by a quite significant dynamic in book reading, with a reading index increasing from 38.6% in 2000 to a peak of nearly 47% in 2010, to fall back again to 41.4% in 2014 - a quite disappointing downward trend, considering that Italy's reading index remains outrageously low, compared with most other European countries (Eurostat, Cultural Statistics in the EU Pocketbook 2012).
Last update: May, 2016
Amateur arts and folk culture
Amateur activities in the creative and cultural field have been surveyed by Istat since 2000 by means of special "Leisure time surveys" carried out periodically (about every six years) in the framework of the Multipurpose sample survey. The last available data refers to 2006: the subsequent survey took place in 2015, with related data not available yet.
In 2006, 28 million persons – 50.8% of the interviewed sample of people aged over 6 years – have been practising amateur activities in one or more of the following ten fields: 1) photography, 2) dancing, 3) creative use of the computer, 4) drawing, painting and other kinds of visual arts activity, 5) video and film making, 6) writing poems, diaries, novels, 7) singing, 8) playing a musical instrument, 9) composing music, 10) acting.
The participation share for the various activities is shown in the bar chart below.
Figure 5: People over 6 years old by amateur arts practised (every hundred persons), 2006
Source: Elaborations by Associazione per l' Economia della Cultura on ISTAT, Spettacoli, musica e altre attività del tempo libero. Indagine multiscopo sulle famiglie "I cittadini e il tempo libero" - Anno 2006.
Compared with the survey carried out in 2000, the rate of participants in the various activities is nearly the same, with the only exceptions of photography – by far the most dynamic type of activity – as well as of video / film making and the creative use of computers, where the increase has been substantial. This may be explained by the continuous progress of the digital revolution, and therefore by the much easier and cheaper access throughout the years to these types of activity.
Coming to the socio-demographic variables, as far as gender is concerned the rate is higher for men than for women (altogether 54.4% against 47.4%), mainly due to the sudden decline of female participation over 35 years of age, which may be ascribed to growing family engagements. By age, the highest peak of participation is reached by young people less than 25 years, by educational level, among students and people with higher education degrees. Finally, from a geographical point of view, the gap in participation rates between Northern and Southern Italy is very significant (55.9% against 43.8%), similar to all other cultural indicators.
There is no active encouragement or any incentive by our national cultural administration for citizens to be involved in amateur artistic activities; on the other hand, there are many public and private schools training people in the different types of activities. It should be added that for most people (82%) participation in amateur artistic activities is free.
Cultural houses and community cultural clubs
Information on cultural houses is not available.