Impact of arts and culture

You explain the importance and the value of arts and culture by making the impact thereof visible. You do this by approaching the impact from various perspectives: in addition to personal value, everything that is created also has artistic, economic and social value. With the aid of these perspectives, you can effectively convey and substantiate the importance and value of your work. That is arts advocacy in practice.

Artistic value

If you enter into discussion about the quality of a work it often concerns (visible or measurable) craftsmanship, cultural and historical value and artistic value. There is, of course, a subjective side to the latter: one person may love work that occupies a small niche, while the other person may love more famous, perhaps more commercial, work. Describe what effect the work has on you. You can also include objective observations about style and form in your discussion and indicate the place of the work in the artistic landscape. In this way, you avoid a violin concert for beginners at a music school being assessed in the same way as the work of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and you go beyond exchanging opinions about whether it is beautiful or ugly.

Moreover, a work that does not stimulate you (or your discussion partner) may, however, have an impact on another person. You should also be aware that the individual assessment process is influenced by expectations; the predicted quality assessment. Your own frame of reference, norms and values, (temporary) needs and situational factors also play a role in the personal experience. Add to that the fact that art often refers to that which is ‘intangible’, which we can’t put into words. That is also an important quality of the arts: your arts experience is a personal journey and you can never put that experience into words precisely.

Contribution to the field
In addition to naming the artistic value of your own work, you may also name the contribution to the field. Whether you are a professional, amateur or somewhere in-between: professional artists ensure there is a constant artistic development in their own discipline and amateur artists draw inspiration from that. Amateur artists can inspire the professional sector with their work too. Nobody starts as a professional: a broad layer of amateur artists is also essential to the development of a field.

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Arts advocacy

Social value

Arts and culture are important to society. Examples include the significance of creativity in education, the healthcare sector and the contribution to social cohesion. There is also social value in fostering a sustainable society that improves quality of life, combats mechanisms of exclusion and stimulates the participation of citizens in social processes. In short, it leads to a society that functions better.

Art also has a proven impact on individual well-being. When creating art – also at amateur level – you experience value in terms of well-being, for example, due to the social cohesion and your own creative input. When experiencing professional art, you primarily experience the impact of the artwork itself: it can, for example, touch you, inspire you or provide you with insight. Research what your work or field triggers in this regard and if possible use these research results to substantiate the importance of your work/field.

Other sectors may not make such an argument, because they are more likely not to provide any added value to society. Or they cannot substantiate this with figures. Arts and culture can do this, however, so be sure to mention this.

Measuring social value through research
The social value of the arts is a frequent subject of research. The well-being value – both mentally and physically –  has been confirmed time and time again. In 2019, for example, the World Health Organization (WHO) wrote – following analysis of more than 3,000 pieces of research – that the arts has a major influence on the prevention of illness, the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, and the management and treatment of illness. For example, research from University College London (UCL) shows that regularly visiting a museum leads to less chance of dementia. The publication ‘Daag mij maar uit’ (Just challenge me) explains how it’s possible that new stimuli – where different senses are stimulated – paired with movement and lots of enjoyment, are extremely enriching for vulnerable senior citizens.

Economic value

The value of the arts is given an economic and business angle if we talk about employment or, for example, if we start counting visitor numbers, turnover, your own revenues and sales prices. These provide a picture of the demand for your service or product and what people are willing to pay for that. You should, however, put these figures in the right perspective, because economic success is partly dependent on the choice of whether you can and want to work in a commercial or more commercial way.

For example: a show with an accessible and well-known story and star actors will attract visitors more easily than a show with a director making his or her debut, with a new dramatic script and actors-in-training. One show may not require a grant, while the other does. One show may have greater commercial value and reach, even though both may be able to provide added value to the sector in different ways through the use of craftsmanship and innovation. Both may have equal impact on a visitor, but occupy different places in the cultural landscape. Both are important for the field. Therefore, as with the artistic value, the place in the cultural landscape matters in the case of economic value. Moreover, being commercially and artistically relevant does not have to be a contradiction. Accessibility to a large group can play a role in terms of the extent to which something is commercially successful.

Your work and your field have economic value, large or small. Look up data on your field, or place figures related to your work in perspective. Compare them with those of colleagues or with other projects. As a result of this, you can indicate the value and growth of your work and field.

Effect on the economy
Arts and culture have an effect on the Dutch economy, as the national, cultural infrastructure is responsible for well-being, tourism and pleasurable living conditions. In addition, a cultural visit often includes a bite to eat and drinks, use of public transport and shopping. How much ultimately flows back to the economy? Research by the Boekman Foundation entitled ‘Cultuur doet ertoe’ (Culture Matters) shows that you can multiply each euro that is spent, on admission for example, by 2.5. Furthermore, it is well known that creative thinking is needed to achieve innovations, also in the business sector. Although this is more difficult to measure, the arts and culture sector does play a role herein.

The creative industry as a whole has a great, measurable economic value, also internationally speaking. Below you will find a list of several important figures. You should also research what the economic value of your specific field is if you want to enter into discussion about this.

  • Approximately 410,000 people work in culture and media in the Netherlands. The domains which fall under that, in order from the large to smaller sources of employment are: advertising, media, literature, architecture and design, performing arts, education, audiovisual, visual arts, heritage, interdisciplinary and other. The share of cultural and media positions in the total jobs in the Netherlands is 4.3%. By comparison, that figure is 6.2% in the United Kingdom, 3.5% in Germany and 3.4% in the United States.
  • The added value of culture and media in the Netherlands is 26 billion euros. That is 3.4% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and thus about as large as the importance of tourism.
    (Source: Culture and Media Satellite Account 2018, Statistics Netherlands 2021)

Substantiation

It is useful to know where you can find quantitative data on the arts and culture sector. In this way, you can make your personal story more convincing by placing it in a broader framework. Your story will not just be a personal opinion then, but you will also be able to substantiate it with concrete points.

In the Cultuurmonitor (Cultural Monitor) of the Boekman Foundation, you will find quantitative data and qualitative and thematic analyses. The Dutch Chamber of Commerce provides statistical data, such as the number of employees, self-employed professionals and institutions in the various occupational groups, including the ‘culture and sport’ industry. Statistics Netherlands (CBS), municipalities and various national professional associations present statistical data.

Always pay careful attention to the context when using statistical data. For example, look at the scale: are you talking about impact at the level of a neighbourhood, town or city, region, nationally or internationally?