From my travels in Europe I've got the sense that the arts- whether mainstream or fringe (however you want to define either)- have more presence in people's lives there than they do in Australia. Mind you, this is a perception, not any kind of evidence-based assessment and probably not grounded in reality.

I think there is still a strong anti-intellectualism in Australia, however when you get down to the grass-roots amazing things happen. Community arts organisations, small theatre companies touring to schools, regional galleries, photo biennales and such like all do amazing work, however the commentators who have power over the media and/or the budgets often dismiss these activities or ignore them. There is a belief that art=opera/ballet/oil-on-canvas still, but real creative activity is much wider and is more inclusive. I don't want to dismiss opera/ballet etc, in fact I worked for the Australian Ballet last year, but the message that art is wider and more interesting and less 'elitist' (I hate that word) isn't getting out there.

The way the arts are communicated and the way they actually exist in the real world are two different things. I think that's the core of it.