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Understanding the value of arts and culture

The ‘Understanding the value of arts and culture’ report represents the culmination of the AHRC’s three-year Cultural Value Project.


The debate over the value and impact of arts and culture has occupied some of the world’s greatest minds.

Now a comprehensive new report brings a fresh perspective to the issue.

The ‘Understanding the value of arts and culture’ report represents the culmination of the AHRC’s three-year Cultural Value Project.

Involving 70 original pieces of research, the project provides the most in-depth attempt to understand the difference made by arts and culture.

So what has the project discovered?

To fully appreciate the impact of arts and culture on our economy, on our communities and cities or on our health we must start with understanding individual experience.

Because so many of the societal benefits to be gained through arts and culture flow from the benefits experienced by individuals - in the way it affects us,  how we see ourselves and each other, and the contribution we go on to make.

To this end, the Cultural Value Project broadens the scope of the traditional debate beyond subsidised cultural sectors, to include cultural experiences through the commercial sector as well as amateur and participatory arts because this is how most of us engage.

The report sheds new light on neglected areas where research shows arts and culture make a difference, such as prompting personal reflectiveness and empathy, enabling engaged citizens and thriving communities, and the imagination and creativity that underpins innovation.

This new perspective quickly gives rise to the need for a wider and more subtle toolbox of methodologies to talk about – and evaluate - the concept of cultural value:

More effective use of evaluation - not just for satisfying funders but for cultural organisations to understand the responses of their audiences.

A broader range of methodologies that value qualitative methods as much as quantitative ones, drawing more on methods that come from the arts and humanities.

Further development of the project’s economic evaluation methodologies – which are already being used by the Treasury

We also need a better understanding of the ways in which digital engagement is affecting people’s experience, both the way we consume and the way we’re creative.

The cultural and creative industries are growing, and the way we access culture is changing at a rapid pace. Academics, researchers – and the whole cultural sector - must work together to ensure we are, not only ready for that expansion, but can support and sustain it.

To find out more about the ‘Understanding the value of arts and culture’ report visit www.ahrc.ac.uk/cvp

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