Arts Research Monitor articles, category = Benefits & Impacts

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”.

This Statistics Canada report examines the direct economic impact of the arts, culture, and heritage in Canada, using methodology that is comparable to other sectors of the economy. Statistics Canada estimates that the direct economic impact of cultural goods and services was $47.8 billion in 2010, or 3.1% of Canada's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2010, there were 647,300 jobs directly related to cultural products, or 3.7% of total employment. The direct economic impact of culture ($47.8 billion) is about 10 times larger than the sports estimate ($4.5 billion).

This brief Scottish report highlighted the statistical relationship between cultural attendance, active participation in culture or sports, and health and life satisfaction based on findings from the 2010/11 Scottish Household Survey, which interviewed nearly 10,000 Scottish adults. The report found that, even after controlling for demographic and other factors, “participation in culture and sport are independently and significantly associated with good health and high life satisfaction”.

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 Three Year Exploration of the Relationship between Arts and Health

Based on qualitative and quantitative evaluations, this report examined the relationship between the arts and well-being among 51 Vancouver seniors who participated in the arts in four community centres. The long-term goal of the project was to “contribute to the development of strong, healthy communities that engage seniors as full and active participants and that value the arts as a key contributor to health”.

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.