A UIC study has found that low-income minorities, particularly blacks, are less likely to participate in culturally-based activities and programs at large institutions, such as the Art Institute of Chicago, and instead are more inclined to engage with organizations within their own communities.

The landmark study “Mapping Cultural Participation in Chicago,” done by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, found that socioeconomic factors contributed to ethnic group’s participation with cultural institutions more so than race.

Researchers compiled data from 12 of the city’s large cultural organizations, and from 49 smaller institutions. Researchers examined ticket sales, subscriptions and donor lists of the organizations, which included the DuSable Museum of African American History on the South Side and the Field Museum downtown.

Researchers found that blacks, in particular are virtually unengaged with such large Chicago institutions such as the Art Institute and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Though minorities, including Hispanics were less inclined to visit larger cultural institutions, they were more prone to visit culturally-based institutions in their own communities. Financial issues were possible inhibiting factors for going outside the community. Race and ethnicity, though not the most prominent, were also factors.

“Some people are more comfortable with smaller organizations than with larger organizations, said Colm O’Muircheartaigh, a UIC professor and one of the researchers. “The smaller organizations do tap into a different group. They are able to target people who may not participate in the larger institutions perhaps at any point in their lives.”

O’Muircheartaigh, along with UIC professor and fellow researcher Robert LaLonde, both of the Harris School, did not look at transportation specifically as an inhibiting factor.

“There’s a lot in the transportation issue and ease of transportation that hasn’t been looked at in this study that could be a factor,” O’Muircheartaigh said. “That’s clearly going to be a constraint. It’s not unexpected that there would be an association with income.”

O’Muircheartaigh said they asked more than 100 institutions to participate but only got roughly 60 to participate. He said their research showed that even in some higher income communities, minority participation at outside cultural institutions was low. He said some of the institutions who did not participate didn’t because they didn’t keep adequate records on booking and ticket sales.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com