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

Results of Business for the Arts’ 2014 Research Initiative

As the report’s title indicates, one of the key findings of this presentation of ongoing research is that many Canadians look favourably on companies that support the arts. A public survey found that 52% of respondents “feel more favourably towards businesses that support arts and culture”.

Volume 7, Issue 2, November 2010

Based on in-depth interviews with marketing managers from four Australian performing arts organizations, this article proposes four key indicators of the quality of audience experience in the performing arts: knowledge transfer or learning, risk management, authenticity, and collective engagement.

This English report attempts to provide a conceptualization of the quality of arts experiences that is flexible (i.e., relevant to various contexts, art forms, and levels of audience familiarity with the arts) and “meaningful in the context of Arts Council England’s role and philosophy”. The authors argue that, alongside an emphasis on accountability, a structure for learning could be an important component of an arts council’s activities. In addition to quality of experience, a learning evaluation system could include value for money, organizational strength and resilience, as well as artist development.

This English review of “academically-robust research and influential policy papers from the past twenty years” examines two streams of research about the value and impact of cultural experiences: “1) how individuals benefit from attending and participating in cultural programmes and activities; and 2) the creative capacities of arts and cultural organisations to bring forth impactful programmes”. The report concludes that “while individual experiences are the building blocks of the value system, the literature agrees that cumulative impacts – the effects of a lifetime of involvement in arts and culture – are the fuel for larger societal outcomes”.

This English literature review was intended as a summary of “the strength of the evidence base between 2010–13 about the economic, social, health and wellbeing, education, lifelong learning and environmental impacts and outcomes of arts and culture in England”. Based on the 90 reports examined, the literature review found that the “arts and culture play an important role in promoting social and economic goals through local regeneration, attracting tourists, the development of talent and innovation, improving health and wellbeing, and delivering essential services”.

Canadian Evidence regarding the Relationship between the Arts and the Quality of Life, Well-being, Health, Education, Society, and the Economy

This literature review, conducted in May 2014, synthesized the findings of 46 Canadian research articles regarding the “holistic case for the arts, i.e., outcomes of the arts related to the quality of life, well-being, health, society, education, and the economy”. The report concluded that “there are a myriad of potential benefits of the arts”. That being said, the report cautions that “studies of causal links (rather than statistical associations) are very challenging to conduct”.

Based on five case studies of Canadian and American documentary films, this report argued that documentaries, “coupled with a well-executed social impact strategy, can have substantial impact on social change”. However, the report also acknowledged that “social change involves good luck, good timing, traction of ideas in the broader culture and more than a little magic and zeitgeist.”

A Study of Three Toronto Neighbourhoods

Based on a two-year research process, this study attempted to “gain a better understanding of how residents engage with the arts at a community level, explore barriers to arts access, and identify ways to strengthen local arts engagement”. The study’s 17 researchers made “300 connections” including interviews, focus groups, and surveys with 191 “residents, artists, arts groups and social service organizations” in three Toronto neighbourhoods: Malvern, St. James Town, and Weston Mount Dennis.

Measuring Cultural Engagement amid Confounding Variables

Beyond simple attendance rates, what can be said of the outcomes of cultural participation? Are there relationships and connections that have broader social impacts? One participant noted that a recent Italian study found a direct correlation between cultural consumption and individual wellbeing. A symposium speaker indicated that Canadian research has shown strong correlations between arts participation and positive social outcomes. The key question of outcomes research, as phrased by one speaker, is “How do we think about healthy places?”

This paper, based on two discussion sessions in the summer of 2013 with a total of 36 participants, argues that culture must be included “as an essential fourth dimension of resilience and livability”, in addition to environmental, social, and economic dimensions.