The Value of Arts and Culture

City Scribe: Leeds 1 & 2, 2012, Sarah Spanton

Published: 29 April 2016

Of late there has been increased pressure to demonstrate the value of the arts. Often the arts plays the game - attempting to show a return on investment by highlighting how the art makes a place more economically viable and attractive to live or how many bed nights have been sold or even how many people have been fixed.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council this week (Wednesday 27 April 2016) published a report ‘Understanding the value of arts & culture’. It states the report is one of the most in-depth attempts yet made to understand the value of the arts and culture and the difference that they make to individuals and society.


“Far too often the way people experience culture takes second place to its impact on phenomena such as the economy, cities or health. “

Understanding the value of arts & culture
The AHRC Cultural Value Project
Geoffrey Crossick & Patrycja Kaszynska

It’s 200 pages and takes time to digest, let alone reflect. We are still digesting.

It does make question if we try to measure things that don’t need measuring? The problem with measurement and evaluation is it can so easily be designed to reflect back the answers required of it. Once we have the measurement - so what? Does that make us feel better has it captured the real narrative and context or are we missing something?

Is the arts about conforming with the norm, ticking boxes, delivering outcomes and fixing stuff? Or is it the place that challenges conventions, gives space to reflect and breaks things?

Perhaps we need to rethink and broaden our approach. Is value the right way to describe what art and culture has to offer? We have to accept we live in a world that is accelerating change like nothing experienced before.  Let’s stop for a moment and reconsider if the shift we take is towards a more qualitative life or one of outputs.

Perhaps this is the moment for art?  What do you think?


Read the full report here>

Mark Smith Mark Smith

Executive Director of Axisweb

[email protected]

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