Public perceptions of the benefits of the arts and culture
Is there a wellbeing deficit related to arts and culture during the pandemic?
Throughout my 25 years as an arts researcher, a common theme has been a questioning of the benefits of the arts and culture for societal wellbeing and, to some extent, personal wellbeing. This questioning, and the arts community’s positioning, have taken on many labels over time. While the benefits / impacts / outcomes of the arts could (should?) be thought of holistically, they have often been expressed as a dichotomy, such as:
Economic impacts of culture vs. “arts for arts’ sake”.
Instrumental impacts vs. artistic goals.
“Intrinsic” vs. “extrinsic” benefits.
Recently, a major research project that I led – with a fantastic team – highlighted the stories of some artists and organizations who have tried new things during the pandemic, resulting in remarkable artistic and social contributions. (My thanks to the Creative City Network of Canada and its partners for conceiving of and finding funding for that study.)
Regarding personal wellbeing, Canadians who have continued to participate in arts and culture activities during the pandemic have perceived benefits such as learning and experiencing new things, improving their mental health, having fun, and feeling connected to other people. (See slide 23 in the pdf summary of the February 2022 Arts Response Tracking Study commissioned by Business/Arts and the National Arts Centre.)
This post explores survey data that can enlighten us about public perceptions of the personal and societal benefits of the arts and culture – including Canadians who may not have taken part during the pandemic.
Do more Canadians agree or disagree with statements regarding the value of the arts and culture for personal and social wellbeing?
You might be aware of the stats at the beginning of this post, but you won’t have seen the analysis in the second section.
In future posts, I will look at demographic and provincial differences in the perceptions of the benefits of the arts and culture.