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Is there a Better Case for the Arts?
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March 08, 2005

Nice Thoughts...

Adrian is very smart and I agree with his point that the non-profit sector is important and big on its own, and also that it has perhaps grown bigger than its current justifications might allow, which has produced nervousness.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that the non-profit model has truly dominated the U.S. cultural enterprise only among organizations that present or preserve the European refined art forms; it has had some application but is by no means the primary business model in theater, jazz, and folk arts. The vast mainstream of cultural work, including things that arts people love, like independent film, literary publishing, and galleries in Lower Manhattan are organized for profit. Unfortunately, making the case for strengthening the cultural system by investing in nonprofits always always seems to get tangled with arguments encouraging citizens to "move on up" by coming to their senses and embracing the superiority of our refined arts. The resulting mixed message is not helpful.

I think the key to refreshing our argument is to link up research in art participation with research on happiness and lifelong quality of life. To me, somewhere in that constellation is the magic bullet (mixed metaphor!)that will allow us to make the big case and confidently package intrinsic value as a component of public policy.

Just left the dentist and feel the need for a beer...More in the morning.

Posted by bivey at March 8, 2005 02:47 PM


I don't know if it's entirely correct to say that "literary publishing [is] organized for profit." Literary publishers still adhere to all sorts of practices which don't lend themselves to making money: the most obvious being, allowing bookstores to return product they fail to sell. You won't catch manufacturers in other industries doing that.

(This isn't meant to detract from your main point, with which I agree; just an aside.)

Posted by: Joanne Merriam at March 8, 2005 03:14 PM

I think it's useful to point out that, and I'm speaking for Mr. Ivey here, that he means they are incorporated in a for profit model, rather than a non-profit one. An LLC rather than a 501c3.

It's also useful to point out that non-profits are not restricted from making profits, and in fact most will strive for a surplus, like any company. It's just not that easy to accomplish.

Posted by: David Pausch at March 8, 2005 04:13 PM

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

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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.

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