Arts Research Monitor articles, category = Benefits & Impacts

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.

Based on interviews with 14 technology professionals as well as a literature review of evidence related to music and skills development, this report (supported by Music Canada) contends that rich music environments help attract high-technology jobs to local areas. According to the study, music helps develop many skills that are critical for high-tech workers.

Based largely on a 2011 survey of 502 music company representatives and 1,094 artists in Canada’s independent music industry, this report attempts to “determine the breadth and scope of the Canadian-owned, independent music industry as a whole and to measure its importance to both national and provincial economies”. The survey results show that total revenues of independent music companies were $292 million in 2011. More than one-half of independent music companies (60%) have less than $50,000 in revenues, and almost one-half are sole proprietorships (46%).

Also: Music Matters: How Music Education Helps Students Learn, Achieve, and Succeed

With 40 citations from a range of sources, this brief bulletin provides a useful summary of research findings regarding the benefits of arts education. Indicating that arts education is key “to ensuring students’ success in school, work, and life”, the research bulletin concludes that “every young person in America deserves a complete and competitive education that includes the arts”. With evidence from 23 music education research projects, a similar fact sheet indicates that “music education equips students with the foundational abilities to learn, to achieve in other core academic subjects, and to develop the capacities, skills and knowledge essential for lifelong success”.

This study examines “whether music training is associated with higher-level reading abilities such as reading comprehension” in 46 “normal-achieving” children between six and nine years of age. The study finds that “length of music training predicted reading comprehension performance even after controlling for age, socioeconomic status, auditory perception, full scale IQ, the number of hours that children spent reading per week, and word decoding skills”. Unlike previous research, the study did not find a correlation between music training and word decoding skills.

This comparative international report attempts to contribute to a fuller understanding of social and economic development by “measuring the things that really matter to people – their basic needs, their food, shelter and security; their access to healthcare, education, and a healthy environment; their opportunity to improve their lives”. The Social Progress Index includes 12 equally-weighted components within three key dimensions: “basic human needs”, “foundations of wellbeing”, and “opportunity”. The Index captures a total of 52 non-economic indicators but none related to the arts and culture.

Arguing that key economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product have “failed to capture many of the factors that influence people's lives”, this comparative international report attempts to provide “a better understanding of what drives the well-being of people and nations and what needs to be done to achieve greater progress for all”. The index is comprised of 24 indicators within 11 dimensions. Only one of the indicators includes cultural elements.

A component of the Canada Dance Mapping Study – which seeks to provide a comprehensive profile of the breadth and dance activity across Canada – this literature review examines a number of research sources regarding the state of dance in Canada, including professional, non-professional, and social dance. The literature review is organized around six key themes: dance policy, economics, ecology, social aspects, digital technologies, and artistic expression.

University of Waterloo, October 2012

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) aims to deliver “a measure that provides a broader depth of understanding that, when partnered with [Gross Domestic Product], gives citizens and decision-makers a more comprehensive package of information they need to assess our progress as a society and make decisions based on evidence for a fair and sustainable future”. The CIW tracks sixty-four indicators related to eight domains, including “leisure and culture”.