Arts Research Monitor articles, category = Social benefits of the arts

An In-Depth Look at Perceptions and Attitudes about the Arts in America

Based on an online survey of 3,020 American adults in December 2015, this report summarizes responses to a series of questions about arts engagement, education, government funding, and the benefits to individuals and communities.

(Les arts et la culture au Québec : Portrait de la perception des Québécois)

Based on an online survey of 1,410 Quebec residents (18 and older) in September 2015, this report highlights the public’s perceptions of artists, their role in society, impacts of the cultural sector, and the governmental role in supporting culture. In general, 77% of respondents believe that the arts and culture are important to them. Annual arts participation rates are 78% for cinemas, 71% for the performing arts, and 49% for museums.

This report presents the results of a random telephone survey of 1,004 Ontario residents (18 and older) in early March 2017, bearing a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked a series of questions about their perceptions of the arts in Ontario, with specific questions regarding the quality of life, well-being, identity, belonging, and public arts funding. A vast majority of Ontarians believe that the arts are somewhat or very important to their own lives (85%) and to life in their community (90%).

This report examines “the relationship between cultural engagement and momentary wellbeing” using a United Kingdom dataset called Mappiness, which collects information from a mobile app that captures people’s ratings of their happiness and relaxation as well as their activities at the time (including certain cultural activities). The authors caution that the dataset “is not fully representative of the UK” and that “causation cannot be directly inferred”.

Quality Metrics National Test

The Quality Metrics National Test attempted to measure the value and impact of 374 events, exhibitions, or performances produced by 150 arts and culture organizations in England between November 2015 and May 2016. The National Test used ratings from surveys of three groups of respondents: 1,358 self-assessments by cultural organization representatives, 921 peer assessments, and 19,800 public responses. Given that public respondents self-selected whether to participate in the survey, there is uncertainty as to whether the respondents provide a representative sample of the overall population of arts-goers in England.

This report, “developed by artists with ally evaluators and funders”, identifies and examines 11 characteristics of excellence in artistic work that aims to achieve social goals. “Arts for Change” projects exist “at the intersection of artistic creation and civic engagement, community development, and justice”. The report was prepared to help counter the “assumption that artistic quality is compromised by social intent”.

Summarizing existing research studies and incorporating new analyses of existing statistical sources, the core argument of this report is that arts “participation builds belonging”, which can be defined as how people connect with others and engage with their communities. The report attempts to provide “compelling data and stories that demonstrate the power of the arts to build a greater sense of belonging to our communities, to our country, and to each other”.

Based on a survey of over 14,000 attendees at performances by 23 choirs (including the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and 22 American choruses), this report examines the experiences of audiences at live choral concerts. The goal of the research was to spur “critical reflection on how audiences construct meaning and memory from concerts of choral music, and how choruses can curate impacts through thoughtful program design”.

This review article, a work in progress from an American cultural research group, evaluates and summarizes evidence regarding the benefits of the arts for individuals. The researchers examine research evidence in four categories: physical and mental health; education and personal development; economic vitality; and social cohesion. While the researchers recognize that existing research is not definitive, they do conclude that “arts participation really does improve lives”.

Summarizing secondary research into the value of the arts and arts education, this report from the United Kingdom finds that “arts and culture are a life-enhancing and essential part of our existence". An accompanying report (Key Research Findings: The Case for Cultural Learning) provides further details about the research highlighted in ImagineNation.