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The James Irvine Foundation, a California civic and cultural booster group, recently commissioned a study by Markusen Economic Research focusing on how (and how often) Californians took advantage of art and cultural opportunities.

The group finds that in 2008, the last year data is available on the subject, 52% of Californians attended at least one arts event. These could include visiting a museum, gallery, or historical site; watching a musical, ballet, or play; listening to a classical, jazz, or other non-pop/rock concert; or attending a craft fair or visual art festival. Numbers are down from the last study in 2002, when 58% of state residents participated in art, but the six percent drop is less than the nation as a whole, which saw its participation rate drop from 54% to 46% during the same period.

Participation across the state isn’t even, or even close. The study splits California into several regions, with the Bay Area doing a large part to bring up art appreciation across the state, with 66% of residents participating in some sort of qualifying activity. The San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire had the lowest participation rates in the state, falling far below even the federal average at 42% The South Coast and Border region, which includes San Diego and Imperial Counties, matched the state average, with 52% of residents taking in the arts.

Cultural participation (or lack thereof) is a result of cultural opportunities, the report reveals. Those living in the Bay Area boast 4.3 arts organizations per 10,000 residents, second only to the Sierra region in the state’s northeast with 5.6. By comparison, the region including San Diego has 2.5, the Inland Empire a palrty 1.3.

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