Arts Council England have recently released a free and downloadable document tackling the difficult issue of the value of culture. (Follow link here to access). Entitled Understanding the Value and Impacts of Cultural Experiences, the helpful piece is a literature review that summarises key concepts, such as ‘benefits’, ‘impact’, ‘intrinsic’ and ‘value’, as well as existing ways of measuring individual impacts. It also includes sections on the value of arts and culture from a marketing perspective and suggestions for assessing the ‘creative capacity’ of organisations.
In the introduction, the authors highlight that ‘cultural value’ is challenging and problematic because it “cannot be expressed in the same units of measurement as ‘economic value’. Indeed, the cultural value of an experience may be lost if it is assessed in economic terms” (p.8). As such, we need to seek multiple and wide-ranging frameworks to be able to innovatively conceptualise, identify and analyse ‘value’.
The document is useful in trying to address the age old debates about whether cultural activities add to people’s lives in any way, and if so, how to measure it. This is very pertinent for 53 Million Artists, because although we don’t want to assert an instrumental perspective on art and culture, we do want to emphasise the value of creative practice in individual’s lives and society more broadly.