Arts benefits

Investment in the arts pays dividends primarily in the satisfaction and fulfillment of individuals who experience it, but also to the community as a whole, a new study says.

To maximize those benefits, public policy and government funding of the arts should focus on increasing involvement in the arts by making those experiences more enriching and accessible, says the study, commissioned by the Wallace Foundation and conducted by Rand Research.

“Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts,” canvassed existing theories, research and literature to better understand the effects of the arts and to more effectively inform public policy and debate.

The study analyzes the arts’ instrumental benefits, such as increased cognitive skills and improved health, and intrinsic benefits, such as pleasure and increased empathy, and explored whether they benefit the individual, the public or both.

The study found that many intrinsic benefits of the arts have societal payoffs as well as personal ones, including the creation of social bonds as people experience and discuss the arts, and expression of communal meanings that occurs when artworks convey the needs and desires of a community.

To enhance private and public benefits of the arts, the report recommends involving people in high-quality arts experiences that are challenging and engaging from a young age, efforts it says will create life-long arts lovers, providing benefits both to the individuals and society as a whole.

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