If you take a minute to reach out and feel the pulse of the arts education landscape around the country, I’m willing to bet you’ll hear the phrase “Community Engagement” a lot more than you’d expect: cultural institutions in every state provide education programs that engage the community through the arts; schools across the nation fight for arts programs that engage their students both in and out of the school day – and don’t expect to receive any money from the philanthropic sector unless “community engagement” is at the center of your argument. And it should be. In the arts (and even more in the world of arts education) we are in the business of engaging audiences (and students), so we need to constantly be in-tune with what makes them tick.
But do we often stop to talk about demographics? No. So let’s…
One of the highlights of my year (so far) was listening to Manuel Pastor discuss the demographic shift in communities around the US and how they will inherently affect those of us who claim to work to serve community needs. In my opinion, some of the most important facts to come out of his research are:
- In the last decade, the number of Latinos in the US has grown by 43%, whereas the number of African Americans has grown by 12%, and the number of Non-Hispanic Whites by 1%.
- Statistics show that in 2010, the number of Non-Hispanic Whites dying was greater than the number being born.
- Studies indicate that the “net migration” from Mexico is “0” – almost at a standstill. Which indicates that the growth of the Latino community is a result, in large part, of family planning: the average Mexican family is 3-5 times larger than the average American family.
Pastor’s findings indicate that the largest demographic shift in the US today is affecting the youth population: there are currently 4.3 million less Non-Hispanic White people under the age of 18 than there were 10 years ago; and there are 4.7 million more Latinos under the age of 18 than there were 10 years ago. By the year 2020, the majority of people under the age of 18 will be people of color.
So what are we doing as a field to engage the ‘new’ American community?