Use or ornament? The social impact of participation in the arts

January 1st, 1997 | RESEARCH

This report offers an account of the evidence we have found of social impacts arising from participation in the arts, and of some of the methods used in the research. It is the first large-scale attempt, in the UK at least, to come to grips with these issues, and our intention has not been to give definitive answers but, as Brian Eno put it in a similar context, to ask the questions more clearly (Eno 1996: 14). If others, and especially those who work in the field, are encouraged to take forward this general study into more specific areas, it will have succeeded in its purpose. The study is primarily targeted at policy makers in the arts and social fields, though we hope that arts practitioners and the academic community will also find it useful. We have focused on areas of impact which relate to broad public policy objectives, and methods which are workable in everyday use. It was felt by members of the advisory group and by those involved in the arts projects that the outcomes of the study should include practical mechanisms through which the social impact of arts work could be assessed. We have therefore leaned towards simple evaluation models, and forms of evidence which provide acceptable guidance for public policy development and planning. The study also reflects the perspectives and experiences of those involved: recognising the elusiveness of objectivity, it aspires to accuracy, balance and questioning. It has pursued understanding rather than ‘the truth’, and uncovered more questions for each one it has answered. Equally, each reader will bring his or her own values to bear on it: for one concerned for the integrity of the artist will be another who questions the value of art in addressing social problems.


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Team Members

Francois Matarasso, Author, Robert Gordon University


Identifier Type: isbn
Identifier: 1 873667 57 4

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Discipline: Art | music | theater | Education and learning science | Social science and psychology
Resource Type: Reference Materials | Report
Environment Type: Public Programs