Date of Award

Summer 1998

Document Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Garner, Ana C.

Second Advisor

O'Neill, Patrick

Third Advisor

Krajec, Debra


This thesis examines the way in which members of Generation X (those born between 1966 and 1976) and Generation Next (those born after 1976) talk about their experiences of the performing arts. I became interested in this topic after reading a recent National Endowment for the Arts study which revealed that members of these age "cohorts" attend the arts less frequently than any previous generation. This study called for more qualitative research, at the community level, on why young people do or do not attend the performing arts. While reviewing previous arts attendance research, it became apparent to me that the methods utilized in past studies, quantitative demographic surveys, have revealed little information about what motivates individuals to patronize the arts. The one exception to these demographic surveys was a qualitative study, conducted in Australia by Susan Kippax, which utilized in depth interviews to explore how arts attendance shapes the identities of regular patrons. This thesis examines how college students in an arts survey course feel about their experiences at nine different performing arts events through an analysis of their class journals. The study is framed by Pierre Bourdieu's theory of cultural capital, and examines how the students prior arts experiences (as determined by a questionnaire), and their knowledge of the set of codes and competences that are unique to each individual art form, impacted their appreciation of the events they attended. It is my hope that this thesis will generate interest in more qualitative studies of why people do or do not attend the arts, and will provide some insight for those who work in the arts on how to attract and retain young audiences.



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