To improve the perceived public value of the arts, we must connect into the places where people find value. To get members of our community to stand up and say, “We want more,” we have to tell them why “more” matters. The closer to the main hopes, dreams, and concerns of a community we can thread the benefits of arts and culture, the more likely members of that community are to stand up when arts and culture is threatened.
If we’re trying to create advocates for arts and culture among the members of communities, we need to increase the occasions where thinking about the arts makes sense. Because the truth is, the arts make more things possible, from better education to greater health outcomes to a more civically-engaged citizenry—it’s just that people don’t always see the connection to the arts when change happens.
Knowing people prioritize core issue areas like education, job security, housing, public safety, and health and wellness, how do we show the important ways the arts intersect with their day-to-day lives? At Americans for the Arts, our answer is the Arts + Social Impact Explorer.
This online tool draws together over 1,000 data points on how the arts integrate into—and impact—community life: top-line research, example projects, core research papers, and service and partner organizations from 26 different sectors, ranging from tourism to health and wellness, immigration to innovation, faith to environment.
The Explorer is designed as an entry point to the large and growing body of research, projects, and support organizations that exist at the intersection of the Arts and various parts of our community. It creates an experience that can scale from casual surfing to deep exploration of a topic—you can glean a starting set of information in five minutes, or can follow the embedded hyperlinks (up to 20 per subject area) to visit the websites of all the example projects, access the research referenced, and engage directly with the other partners doing this work around the country.
Let’s say you want to find ways to engage veterans in your community. Visit the Arts + Social Impact Explorer and click to spin the wheel to Military. First, you’ll get a micro-summary on the intersection of arts and the military, to set out terminology and a bit of context. Click Learn More to expand the discussion of the intersection and download a 4-page, printable PDF Fact Sheet on arts and the military to share with a decisionmaker near you.
Back in the center of the circle, you can click to navigate left or right and explore more resources, including Impact Points: five crucial, data-backed ways the arts impact each intersection with sources and links for back-up. In the Military Impact Points section, you’ll see that 2 out of 3 soldiers say art therapy improved their depression, patients with Traumatic Brain Injury saw an 83% decline in stress levels, art therapy saves billions of dollars in treatment costs, and veterans themselves rank it in the top five treatments most helpful to their recovery.
But that’s not all! You’ll also find up to five Examples of Practice from across the country and the world, complete with an image, description, website, and e-mail address to learn more about each project. There is also a Reading List of up to five core reports and a list of Core Organizations supporting the work at each intersection.
The goal? To make it easier to see the ways that the arts can—and do—permeate community life, and to provide advocates and leaders with the information and research they need to make that impact visible and encourage deeper investment in the arts through pro-arts policy and pro-arts funding.
Over the next few months, we’ll be drawing on the Arts + Social Impact Explorer to share some of the great stories, data points, and connections that are inside it. We want you to use it—often, and well, and in ways that surprise and excite those who make up your community.
The social impact body of work is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. We thank them for making it possible. The Explorer contains over 1,000 independent data points, examples, and links, and images all of which were compiled and transformed into this interactive tool by a core team including authors Rebecca Novick, Mark Valdez, Devra Thomas, and Jason Tseng, editors Anne Canzonetti and Elizabeth Sweeney, Americans for the Arts staff members Graham Dunstan, Kim Hedges, and Mara Walker, and the teams at the design firm Machinery and development firm New Target. On behalf of all of them, I hope this tool is as valuable as we have hoped, and that it powers great new dialogues in your communities going forward.