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How the Arts Impact Communities: An introduction to the literature on arts impact studies

Joshua Guetzkow
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Joshua Guetzkow: Princeton University

No 44, Working Papers from Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies.

Abstract: As private and public agencies seek innovative ways to employ the arts to improve and strengthen communities, they have become increasingly interested in assessing the impact of their investments. In this context, arts advocates and researchers have made a variety of ambitious claims about how the arts impact communities. These claims, however, are made problematic by the many complications involved in studying the arts. Just consider the possible definitions of the phrase, -- the arts impact communities.-- When speaking of "the arts", do we refer to individual participation (as audience member or direct involvement?), to the presence of arts organizations (non-profit and for-profit?) or to art/cultural districts, festivals or community arts? When speaking of "impact", do we refer to economic, cultural or social impact; do we refer exclusively to direct community-level effects or do we also include individual- and organizational-level ones? By "communities", do we mean regions, cities, neighborhoods, schools or ethnic groups? Of course, there are no authoritative answers to these questions, since different research questions require different definitions. And as one might expect, arts impact studies employ these heterogeneous definitions in a variety of combinations. Given this array of definitions, how would we go about measuring the impact of the arts on communities? One problem is that researchers and arts advocates rarely seem to consider such complications when making claims about the broader impact of the arts, and seldom discuss the implications of making particular theoretical and methodological choices. In this paper, I will lay out some of the issues that need to be addressed when thinking about and studying how the arts impact communities, in addition to providing an introduction to the literature on arts impact studies.

JEL-codes: Z11 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2002-06
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