Benefits of the Arts Follow-Up

Half-BakedA commenter on Benefits of the Arts asked a great question: observing the similarities between the Rand Corporation’s Gifts of the Muse intrinsic/instrumental categories, wasn’t my core/ancillary division simply a re-naming? (And Ian David Moss’s later comment was in a similar vein.) Here was  my semi-immediate response:

While the whole concept is still baking, I’d say no on two grounds. First, the rationale for the core/ancillary distinction is the impact on individuals and relationships rather than on the arts themselves. Even if the subsets were identical or nearly so, that to me is a significant distinction. Beyond that, though, some of the instrumental benefits the Rand report highlights (“social” in particular) would in my view be core rather than ancillary. But your point is well taken. I’m not sure yet what I think about the Rand classification of cognitive, behavioral, and health impacts as instrumental benefits.

I still believe that, but the question did force me to address several issues that had given me pause, at least subconsciously.  The Gifts‘ instrumental benefits are identified as economic, cognitive. behavioral and attitudinal, health, and social. The Gifts’ intrinsic benefits are identified as immediate benefits, such as pleasure and captivation, growth in individual [social] capacities, and benefits that accrue largely to the public.

I’ve always been clear that “economic” does not fit in my understanding of core benefits, those that I had described as impact on people. But I know that economic benefits impact people, so my original explanation was just plain faulty. And the social benefit was one I had specifically identified as core (fostering social capital)–although this is one with which Gifts struggled as well since it included social capital in both intrinsic and instrumental benefits. Then what do I do with cognitive, behavioral, and health? I think the arts support efforts to improve our thinking, behavior, and physical well-being, but they are not core benefits.

As a reminder, I had said that the core benefits were these:

  • For individuals the arts provide (or enhance) internal congruence . . . .
  • Between individuals, the arts aid relational alignment . . . .
  • In the community/society context, the arts foster social capital.

Upon reflection, I think I need to amend my overall label for core benefits of the arts to be something along the lines of enhancing the human spirit and improving social relationships. This is not an elegant solution, but it’s getting closer.

The baking continues.



Image:AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Krissy.Venosdale

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditEmail this to someone