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How the Arts Impact Communities: An introduction to the literature on arts impact studies


  • Joshua Guetzkow

    (Princeton University)


As private and public agencies seek innovative ways to employ the arts to improve and strengthen communities, they have become increasingly interested in assessing the impact of their investments. In this context, arts advocates and researchers have made a variety of ambitious claims about how the arts impact communities. These claims, however, are made problematic by the many complications involved in studying the arts. Just consider the possible definitions of the phrase, -- the arts impact communities.-- When speaking of "the arts", do we refer to individual participation (as audience member or direct involvement?), to the presence of arts organizations (non-profit and for-profit?) or to art/cultural districts, festivals or community arts? When speaking of "impact", do we refer to economic, cultural or social impact; do we refer exclusively to direct community-level effects or do we also include individual- and organizational-level ones? By "communities", do we mean regions, cities, neighborhoods, schools or ethnic groups? Of course, there are no authoritative answers to these questions, since different research questions require different definitions. And as one might expect, arts impact studies employ these heterogeneous definitions in a variety of combinations. Given this array of definitions, how would we go about measuring the impact of the arts on communities? One problem is that researchers and arts advocates rarely seem to consider such complications when making claims about the broader impact of the arts, and seldom discuss the implications of making particular theoretical and methodological choices. In this paper, I will lay out some of the issues that need to be addressed when thinking about and studying how the arts impact communities, in addition to providing an introduction to the literature on arts impact studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua Guetzkow, 2002. "How the Arts Impact Communities: An introduction to the literature on arts impact studies," Working Papers 44, Princeton University, School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:cpanda:20

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Karin Sable & Robert Kling, 2001. "The Double Public Good: A Conceptual Framework for ``Shared Experience'' Values Associated with Heritage Conservation," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 25(2), pages 77-89, May.
    2. Bruno Frey, 1998. "Superstar Museums: An Economic Analysis," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 22(2), pages 113-125, June.
    3. Ricardo Gazel & R. Schwer, 1997. "Beyond Rock and Roll: The Economic Impact of the Grateful Dead on a Local Economy," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 21(1), pages 41-55, March.
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    2. A. E. Asante & K. Opoku-Bonsu & A. K. Ebehiakeh, 2020. "Corporate Aesthetics and Communication in the Urban Arts and Visual Culture of Kumasi," Studies in Media and Communication, Redfame publishing, vol. 8(2), pages 21-33, December.
    3. David John Curtis, 2011. "Towards A Culture Of Landcare: The Arts In Community Capacity Building For Natural Resources Management," Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management (JEAPM), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 13(04), pages 673-696.
    4. Moira Scerri & Deborah Edwards & Carmel Foley, 2019. "Design, architecture and the value to tourism," Tourism Economics, , vol. 25(5), pages 695-710, August.
    5. Vecvagars, Kaspars, 2006. "Valuing damage and losses in cultural assets after a disaster: concept paper and research options," Estudios y Perspectivas – Sede Subregional de la CEPAL en México 4979, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    6. McDonald, Robert E. & Masselli, John J. & Chanda, Bob, 2021. "Nonprofit business model innovation as a response to existential environmental threats: Performing arts in the United States," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 750-761.
    7. Hsin-Chang Tsai & Ruo-Lan Liu, 2020. "Action Study of Community-Based Aesthetic Education Course Design and Practice for Senior Citizens," Systemic Practice and Action Research, Springer, vol. 33(2), pages 137-147, April.

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    JEL classification:

    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature


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