The City of Jacksonville placed a picture of the The Florida Theatre and Jaxoscope, the 2019 public art installation by Shasti O'Leary-Soudant, on the front cover of their recent Capital Improvement Plan. Some may questions the choice of the image, donning the cover of such an important financial document. Some may just see it as a picture of an iconic location that represents downtown Jacksonville. Or, some may see it as a perfect representation of the link between the arts in Jacksonville and the future success of our city. I don’t know why the Mayor’s office chose this image, but I do know some things about the impact arts and culture has on community.
"The sign of a... great city is the strength of its cultural life," said J. Clayton Hering, president of Northwest Business for Culture and the Arts. "Our non-profit arts groups are a powerful economic force, and act as a magnet for tourism. Even more important, they help educate and inspire our citizens and stimulate creativity in the workplace and in our schools."
The impact of the arts is vital to a community. From education and academics, to healthcare and economics, its influence is ubiquitous.
This impact is often lost on businesses or city planners, when their bottom line is driven by money and numbers. What is sometimes overlooked, especially in these historic and chaotic times we are living in, is the intangible benefit of the arts and culture on a city’s citizens, which, ultimately translates to economic benefits.
This year’s Arts Awards theme is Bridges: Connecting Arts, Business and Community. We want to celebrate the interconnectivity of the arts and business and how it takes both, working together, to make a thriving city where tourists want to visit, people want to move, and businesses want to relocate.
Below is an article about the influence of art on a society. The statistics are fascinating and the benefits undeniable. Let’s look forward and continue make Jacksonville a destination known for successful businesses and rich in arts and culture.
The Influence of Art on Society - Historically
It’s been said that the arts are like a repository of a society’s history. It preserves what fact-based historical records cannot: how it felt to exist in a particular place at a particular time.
The role of art and culture in a society is not a new concept. In fact, it may very well be one of the oldest concepts in history, beginning with cave paintings over 50 thousand years ago. And, though we don’t know exactly why these prehistoric humans painted the images, it’s clear that it was some type of communication. Whether it was to invoke the blessing of a spiritual being, prior to a hunt, or to leave a message for others, to confirm their existence, the artwork remains for us today, as a pathway into the past, that we otherwise would not have.
In the same way, the artists and thinkers of the Renaissance looked to the artwork of the ancient Greece and Romans as a guide to the forward thinking era that they were entering in to. Prior to the Renaissance, in the medieval period, paintings were flat. One dimensional, with little creativity or imagination in subject matter. As the Renaissance unfolds, the art being created develops. It becomes more complex, interesting, realistic. The people have expressions, as if mimicking the fact that people are beginning to express themselves and learn about the world around them. As innovations in architecture and commerce begin to emerge, so do innovations in composition, light and color. As a result, we can look back and learn about the world during that time.
Throughout history, art has been used as a means of education by carrying on traditions and storytelling. When the majority of people weren’t able to read, stain glass, sculptures and paintings served as story tellers in religious buildings. In fact, according to Glenn Weiss, Director of Public Art for the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, until the late 19th century, art and culture was part of the fabric of life for everyone. “It encompassed everything,” he said. “Including social interaction and religion, and even medical meaning and use.” Weiss goes on to say it wasn’t until the late 19th century to mid- 20th century that art became a unique intellectual activity, separated from normal, everyday life. It was during this time that art and culture began to be relegated to the educated and upper class. Jumping forward to today, we continue to see the inequity of the presence of arts and cultural influences in the underserved communities in our nation.
The Influence of Art on Society - Socioeconomically
According to the University of Pennsylvania’s 2017 Social Impact of the Arts Project, cultural resources, like other dimensions of wellbeing, are distributed unequally across New York City’s neighborhoods. The most affluent neighborhoods in Manhattan and western Brooklyn have extremely high concentrations of nonprofits, for-profits, artists, and cultural participants, while vast areas of the other boroughs have very few cultural resources.
This is true throughout the country, not just New York city. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress study, there are disparities in access to music and visual arts experiences, both in and out of school, along lines of race, income, and location. (nations report card, 2016)
The Influence of Art on Society - Academically
One of the benefits of incorporating the arts and cultural experiences in education is in regards to its potential to close the achievement gap that is prevalent between low income and mid to high income backgrounds among students.
The results from a 2012 report from the National Endowment for the Arts showed that students from a low-socioeconomic (SES) background with a high-arts educational experience significantly outperformed peers from a low-arts, low-SES background, closing (and in some cases eliminating) the gap that often appears between low-SES students and their more advantaged peers. (James S. Catterall, 2012) Some of the specific finding were as follows:
To be more specific, in terms of different disciplines, according to a paper entitled, “Associations between music education, intelligence and spelling ability in elementary school”, students (3rd graders) who participate in high-quality music programs score higher on reading and spelling tests, regardless of socioeconomic status or school district. (Hille, Katrin, et al. Adv Cogn Psychol 7, 2011: 1–6. Web. Accessed February 24, 2015). The study went on to state, children who study music tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their peers who do not participate in music lessons (Arete Music Academy. "Statistical benefits of music in education." Arete Music Academy. Accessed July 17, 2014).
This translates throughout the school experience, as arts participation and SAT scores tend to be closely linked and increase linearly: the more arts classes, the higher the scores.
Interestingly, students who took four years of arts coursework outperformed their peers who had one half-year or less of arts coursework by 58 points on the verbal portion and 38 points on the math portion of the SAT. (Rupert, 2006)
In addition to better grades, increased graduation and engagement in school work, arts education permeates into almost every area of a student’s life, including, improvement of students’ abilities to critique themselves, experiment, reflect, learn from mistakes, manage behavior, make decisions, maintain a positive self-concept, maintain self-efficacy, maintain school engagement, have tolerance for others’ perspectives, and orient themselves toward academic goals, including college attendance and college graduation. (Rupert, 2006)
Conversely, the absence of the arts in a child’s life can have negative consequences. In a groundbreaking study by the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, it was found that in lower-income neighborhoods, cultural resources are “significantly” linked to better health, schooling, and security.
The research found the presence of cultural resources is directly associated with the following:
The benefits of the arts in our schools has been a hot topic in the past decade. As funding has been depleted in many areas, art and music classes are often the first programs to be cut from the curriculum. Why is this, when all research points to the obvious benefits?
Some government funding for schools is based on standardized test results, in subjects like math and English. “It is challenging to prove that an arts education is needed, as there aren’t standardized tests that can quantify its value,” said Carrie Birmingham, associate professor of teacher education at Pepperdine. “Art funding gets cut because standardized testing doesn’t test it,” Birmingham said. “In high stakes testing, if the kids don’t do well in math and English, then all kinds of bad things happen.”
As a result of these, “bad things,” the practice of teachers to “teach to the test” becomes tempting. Especially when not only government funding, but also teacher raises are sometimes tied to how well his or her students perform on the standardized testing. This obsession for students to score well on the standard tests has created several issues, one of which is the reduction of the curriculum taught that is not being tested. According to the Center on Education Policy, from 2001-2007, school districts in the United States reduced the amount of time spent on social studies, creative subjects, and science by over 40%. This results in the average student losing more than 2 hours of instruction time in these areas so that they can focus on subjects that are on standardized tests, such as reading and math. (Center on Education Policy, 2007) Clearly, when stakes are high in the race for better test scores, unmeasurable subjects, such as art, are the first to suffer.
The Influence of the Arts in Society – In the Workplace and Beyond
So we now understand the academic benefits of the inclusion of the arts in the k-12 curriculum, but how does that now translate to the society, as a whole? To begin with, our countries future obviously lies in the education of our children. As they graduate and enter the workplace, their level of success will directly impact the direction of our nation. Research has shown the fine arts develop valued higher order and creative thinking skills such as memory, various forms of communication, and the ability to compare and contrast, group and label, explain cause and effect, assess significance, make predictions, and frame and test hypotheses. (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies) All attributes that are needed in the workforce and for a growing economy to be inventive and cutting edge in all areas of production and growth.
The Influence of the Arts in Society - Civically
In addition, a study done by The Department of Public Administration found that common interest and passion for arts, and desire to sustain arts in the community motivate community members to learn how to engage with local government, community groups, businesses and funding agencies. As a result, individuals participating in community-based arts have higher rates of participation in civic activities that include advocating for arts and community causes, voting in elections and joining voluntary organizations. (Bernadska)
Furthermore, both audience-based participation in the arts and personal participation in creating art are linked to higher levels of civic engagement, higher levels of social tolerance on some dimensions of the measure, and higher levels of other-regarding behavior. These findings have important implications, in that they demonstrate a strong association between the arts and individual-level social outcomes that contribute to the health of civil society.
The Influence of Art in the Society – Emotionally
With the increase of loneliness, anxiety and mental illness in the world, we, as a society, must come up with solutions other than more medication. Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity each year and depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. (Mental Health by the Numbers, 2019)
A 2018 GMA survey asked how arts and culture affects their lives, respondents were most likely to report that it made them happy or brought them joy. These responses were somewhat expected. But, a second type of impact, slightly less common, comes from “arts giving individuals a sense of closeness to others they may not otherwise have. Many respondents cited arts’ ability to help them understand different perspectives and cultures, and to make people feel more connected to their community. These connections can help develop social cohesion, which in turn can lead to positive social impacts.”
The graph below clearly shows the results of the survey in terms of the art’s impact on the individual, the individual’s connection to the community and impacts to the community, as it relates to emotional wellbeing.
The Influence of the Arts in Society - Financially
The obvious place that people want to see results is in first is the numbers. There is a misconception that allocating money for the arts in a city is not a profitable endeavor. In fact, study after study shows quite the opposite.
The 2017 Americans for the Arts did the most comprehensive study ever done on the nonprofit arts and culture industry's impact on the economy. The results were impressive, showing that, nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion of economic activity during 2015—$63.8 billion in spending by arts and cultural organizations and an additional $102.5 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This activity supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments (a yield well beyond their collective $5 billion in arts allocations). (Arts and Economic Prosperity Report 5, 2017)
To understand these numbers on a local level, we can look at a subsequent Americans for the Art study, where they partnered with the Division of Cultural Affairs and Citizens for Florida Arts, Inc. to measure the economic impact of Florida's arts and culture industry. The results were equally as impressive:
These results clearly debunk any idea that communities support arts and culture at the expense of local economic development. In fact, according to the Economic Prosperity report, communities are investing in an industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism.
The Influence of Arts on Society - Conclusion
According to all these statistics, it’s clear that society, as a whole, does better when art and cultural influences are present. James Bartlett, executive director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts, says it perfectly. “The findings of this study prove what we’ve witnessed anecdotally for decades: the arts improve lives. It draws upon our most fundamentally human qualities such as creativity, discovery, and community.”
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Mental Health by the Numbers. (2019). Retrieved from National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. (n.d.). What the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities Says About Arts Education. Retrieved from www.emsisd.com
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(n.d.). What the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.