Recent research has found that across the US, arts audiences are declining, while arts participation is on the rise. How can both be true at the same time? This review of the literature on Public Engagement in the Arts explores this question. It also delves into the different ways in which “public engagement” can be defined and practiced, the purposes public engagement has been used for in the arts, and how the terms “audience” and “participant” have evolved and blurred over time. It also places public engagement in the context of one of the most urgent conversations taking place in the arts and culture field today, that of cultural equity and inclusion. How can we ensure that everyone in our community has access to the opportunities and benefits provided by the arts? As this review discusses, public engagement is one tool available to artists, arts organizations and arts educators to help them work toward that goal.

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