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Lifting Up the Social Value of the Arts

Last October ArtsFund released a new Social Impact of the Arts Study, which frames a new way of understanding the public value of the arts in King County. Subsequent media coverage and community conversations are amplifying the findings and empowering advocates with new framing.

Often the arts are seen as nice to have, but inessential. In fact according to our 2018 survey of King County residents, 79% of people believe arts benefit their personal well being, but only 28% think arts and culture promote social change at a community-level. Using a research based approach, the study finds that the opposite is true. The arts can be an effective tool for improving the lives of our most vulnerable citizens and elevating our community as a whole.

In fact, in King County, they already are! 84% of King County arts nonprofits report partnerships outside the sector. Complementing traditional approaches to social issues, when art is integrated with another intervention it makes people more successful. These creative collaborations are helping solve the 21st century challenges we face.

The Social Impact of the Arts Study shows that the arts are a viable and proven strategy advancing positive and equitable outcomes across a variety of impact areas including youth development and education, health and wellness, and neighborhood vitality. Examining the social impacts of the arts brings attention to an aspect of solving community challenges that isn’t currently acknowledged in our region: the public benefits and value of arts and arts-based strategies.

Here’s what people around town have been saying:

“For me this study is a confirmation of what I’ve seen, that the arts groups are increasingly focused not only on making art, but informing long term partnerships and programs that really meets the community where it is.”
-Marcie Sillman, KUOW

“This study proves the arts can help solve serious problems facing this region in particular, including homelessness, inequitable and inadequate education, and general divisiveness.”
-Rich Smith, The Stranger

“ArtsFund … has released a new research study — Social Impact of the Arts in King County — showing that the arts, though often underutilized and unacknowledged, can positively transform and benefit communities in such areas as youth development and education, health and wellness and neighborhood vitality.” 
-John Levesque, Seattle Business Magazine

Help us keep the conversation going! Join us on May 17 at Town Hall Seattle for a public event focused on the Social Impact of the Arts. Mark your calendar now—tickets will be on sale soon!

And remember, you can have an impact right now by leveraging and scaling what is proven to work – by investing in arts organizations and arts-based strategies, partnering across sectors and inviting arts voices to planning tables, we can bring the social impact of the arts to its full potential to address community priorities.

Photo: Urban ArtWorks, artist and child, photo by Austin Wilson.