Measuring Cultural Vibrancy
by Craige Hoover
There is an excellent, lengthy post over at Createquity and Ian David Moss about the problem of reliable metrics to determine the actual effect of “arts as place making.” Essentially he claims that with so many variables in play, no one has been able to convincingly separate causality from correlation while measuring the impact of the infusion of arts, artists, and arts organizations in a community. While there has been loads of research on the subject, and there is little doubt that some causality exists, without a proper control group for the experiment, the scientific method fails to provide enough concrete proof for the likes of economists and academics alike.
To further the problem, the burden of such proof lies with those who are asking for the money. So the arts world has been fighting an uphill battle trying to make the economic case for their funding. Developers (with their money on the line) and public officials (with their jobs on the line) are pretty risk averse and are therefore more likely to invest in more clearly proven community investment strategies.
It will take longitudinal studies of arts initiatives to determine their actual effects on communities, but the historical record is pretty difficult to refute. Too many examples exist that show that real estate value and other vibrancy indicators correlate with the migration patterns of artists and arts organizations, and that is the best case we can make.
Head over there and read the whole thing if you have time, including the comments. He’s got a great dialogue happening.