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Information: Sarah Sidman | 206-788-3051 | sarahsidman@artsfund.org
ArtsFund, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Communications

For Immediate Release
October 25, 2018

ArtsFund Releases a Social Impact of the Arts Study

Seattle, WA – We know the arts can change our lives, but can they change our communities? Today ArtsFund announces the release of a new research study on the Social Impacts of the Arts in King County. According to the study’s findings, arts are a viable and proven—yet often underutilized and unacknowledged—strategy to positively transform and benefit our communities.

In this report, “social impact” is defined as the advancement of community priorities. There are three primary focus areas: youth development & education, health & wellness, and neighborhood vitality. Intersecting these themes are additional focus areas including business and environment. In each, the report probes the potential for arts to influence more equitable outcomes, exploring how arts affect not only whether social impacts happen, but with attention to how, and for whom.

Mari Horita, ArtsFund President & CEO, stated, “We offer this report to frame a new way of understanding arts’ public value in the evolving community. How are arts advancing community priorities and positive outcomes for participants and non-participants alike? What are the public benefits of the arts?”

This work identifies where arts intersect with salient social issues such as:

  • positive civic and educational outcomes for vulnerable youth;
  • social cohesion in an increasingly diverse and disconnected population;
  • an aging population living longer with disease;
  • a state of emergency on homelessness;
  • workforce readiness and the future of work;
  • safe, vibrant, and inclusive neighborhoods;
  • and inequitable access to opportunity.

The ArtsFund study is one of the early publications in the nation—and the first in our region—synthesizing arts’ impacts across multiple social themes.

King County Executive Dow Constantine stated, “The Arts are critical to ensuring positive and equitable outcomes in King County – providing growth opportunities for youth development, contributing to individual and community health and wellness, and fostering community identity and vitality. For more than two decades, ArtsFund has been a respected voice, working to quantify the economic impacts of the arts, and to inform decisions and spur investment throughout our region. King County is proud to partner with ArtsFund on the Social Impact of the Arts study, a new initiative demonstrating how the arts help strategically advance community priorities.”

The report combines a county-wide public poll (conducted by GMA Research Corporation); a landscape scan surveying nearly 200 King County arts, cultural, and heritage nonprofits; a substantive lit review of more than 150 national research resources; and in-depth case studies of ten regional arts organizations to identify and examine the unique role that arts play in confronting regional challenges and improving outcomes.

The report also includes three original artworks offering an artistic narrative for each of the main theme areas. In Summer 2018, ArtsFund hosted an open call for artists and residents in King County to submit original artworks showing why arts and culture matter. Complementing the works displayed throughout the study, additional artworks will be available for viewing in an online gallery.

Full downloads of the report and collateral, additional appendices, and access to the online gallery are available at www.artsfund.org/socialimpact.

Key Findings:

The study uncovers a misperception in the value of arts in King County. According to a 2018 survey of King County residents conducted as part of the study, 79% of people believe arts benefit their personal wellbeing, and cite them as a key factor in their decision to locate in the area, but only 28% think arts and culture promote social change at a community-level. This finding does not align with a growing body of national and international research and data on arts impact, or with the inventory of examples of arts advancing social change in King County.

A review of over 150 cross-sector national research resources shows:

  • involvement in arts can improve academic and social outcomes for youth across socioeconomic status;
  • in and out of medical settings, arts have direct impact on individual and community health, leading to longer lives, better lived;
  • and the presence of arts in neighborhoods is linked to positive social determinants and community cohesion.

Surveying nearly 200 arts, cultural, and heritage nonprofits in King County, we found over 140 arts programs for youth and education, with 70% of those running for over eight years. Arts organizations are not working in isolation. Over 4 in 5 report some type of partnership outside the arts sector. They partner with schools, community-based cultural groups, city departments, refugee and immigrant organizations, environmental organizations, hospitals and clinics, and many other types of organizations on social and community issues, spurring successful new cross-sector approaches and programs.

Common across the demonstrated social impacts of the ten profiled case studies are two elements: how arts make other interventions more relevant and effective; and how arts are a universal language, transcending socially constructed difference. The case studies also highlight challenges to delivering impact at greater scale, including public perception, measurement, transportation issues, and income pressures.

Study Partners

Funding support for the 2018 Social Impact Study was provided by: The Boeing Company, Seattle Foundation, 4Culture, the Glenn H. Kawasaki Foundation, King County, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Swedish, Peter and Susan Davis, Peter Horvitz, the Nesholm Family Foundation, Carlo and Lalie Scandiuzzi, Starbucks Coffee Company, the Tagney Jones Family Fund, and an anonymous donor.

Funding Support for the Social Impact Study Community Conversations is provided by: The Boeing Company, and Sound.

The study was guided by a cross-sector Advisory Committee including: Jane Broom, Microsoft Philanthropies; Michael Brown, Seattle Foundation; Brian Carter, 4Culture; Dawn Chirwa, The Giving Practice with Philanthropy Northwest; Randy Engstrom, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture; Jennifer Meisner, King County; Jon Scholes, Downtown Seattle Association; Lisa Smith, Starbucks; Bill Vesneski, University of Washington School of Social Work; and Kim Vu, Bank of America.

The study is authored by BERK Consulting and designed by Dapper + Associates.

For additional information, visit www.artsfund.org/socialimpact.

About ArtsFund:

ArtsFund is a Seattle-based nonprofit that strengthens the Puget Sound region by supporting the arts. Thanks to the annual support of thousands of individuals and hundreds of businesses, ArtsFund has provided grants, capacity-building programs and services to strengthen the region’s cultural organizations for nearly 50 years. In addition, ArtsFund champions the critical role arts play in a healthy community, and is a respected voice and central advocate for the arts. For over 20 years, ArtsFund has been documenting the economic impacts of the arts, with the most recent report released in 2015. Building upon ArtsFund’s solid foundation in arts impact research, the 2018 Social Impact Study captures a fuller picture of the ways arts impact lives and communities.

ArtsFund Social Media Handles:

Hashtag: #ArtsSocialImpact

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Instagram: @ArtsFundSeattle

LinkedIn: @ArtsFund

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ArtsFund’s Mission: ArtsFund strengthens the community by supporting the arts through leadership, advocacy and grant making.

ArtsFund’s Vision: A community with a dynamic and world-class arts and cultural sector where the arts are accessible to all and valued as a central and critical component to a healthy society.