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Is there a Better Case for the Arts?
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March 06, 2005

Creating Value

I was delighted to see that Kevin McCarthy and his co-authors have once again got all of us talking and sometimes arguing about what we care about the most -- the meaning and value of the arts.

It is right to say that works of genius create their own audiences, but not without help in many cases. In an era when investment in long term benefits for the public good is unfashionable, such as research that may not commercially pay off for 20 years and so must be funded by government, or education programs that help children who will not be able to vote for some time, trying to push the intrinsic benefits of the arts is a tough job. And this is the reason that we should all be doing it.

The economic arguments alone simply do not hold up. If they are a useful starting point for conversation, by all means we should use them. But they should never be the reason that we give for doing the work that we do -- as the report acknowledges, some of these benefits could be achieved by a more direct route. In addition, being prepared to discuss why the arts improve the quality of lives, why they create societal value, should not be a matter of whining or banging the drum. It should be part of the lexicon of every arts leader who wants to have a place at the civic table.

Posted by rtaylor at March 6, 2005 08:48 PM


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Ben Cameron
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Bill Ivey
Director of the Curb Center, Former Chair, NEA more

Joli Jensen
Professor, University of Tulsa, Author: "Is Art Good for Us?" more

Jim Kelly
Director, 4Culture, Seattle, WA more

Phil Kennicott
Culture critic, Washington Post more

Glenn Lowry
Director, Museum of Modern Art more

Robert L. Lynch
President, Americans for the Arts more

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Director, Bolz Center, University of Wisconsin more

Russell Willis Taylor
President, National Arts Strategies more

Doug McLennan
Editor, ArtsJournal.com

Gifts of the MuseGifts of the Muse
Free access to the full RAND study at the core of this conversation, funded by the Wallace Foundation. An executive summary is also available. Other Wallace Foundation publications and reports are available through its Knowledge Center.

Top arts researchers will come together to present and dissect the latest data at Measuring the Muse, an unprecedented National Arts Journalism Program-Alliance for the Arts conference at Columbia University.

The Values Study
A collaborative effort of 20 Connecticut arts organizations, the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, and facilitator/author Alan S. Brown. The effort trained arts leaders to interview key members of their constituency, to discover what they valued about the creative experience -- in their own words. The process was sponsored by The Wallace Foundation's State Arts Partnerships for Cultural Participation (START) Program.

Valuing Culture
An initiative of London-based think tank, Demos. This effort brought cultural and policy leaders together to discuss the public value of culture in the UK. Resources include (with a downloadable briefing report by Adrian Ellis), a collection of speeches from the event in June 2003, and a summary report by John Holden called Capturing Cultural Value.

The Arts and Economic Prosperity
The 2002 report and related resources assessing the economic impact of America's nonprofit arts industry, based on surveys of 3,000 nonprofit arts organizations and more than 40,000 attendees at arts events in 91 cities in 33 states, plus the District of Columbia.

The Value of the Performing Arts in Ten Communities
A project of the Performing Arts Research Coalition, researched by the Urban Institute, exploring measures of value in specific cities across the United States. Reports are available for download.

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