Transformative: impacts of culture and creativity

Arts citizen participation Community engagement Social wellbeing Culture Australia

Individuals, communities, businesses, philanthropists and governments invest in and engage with arts and culture.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that almost all of us (82.4%) are attending cultural venues and events, and households are spending more than $25 billion a year on cultural goods and services. What are the impacts of this participation and investment? What benefits do they generate? What do we need to do to ensure these investments of time and money are sustained, relevant and effective into the future?

As part of our work to explore these questions, A New Approach (ANA) is releasing a series of reports focused on:

  • investment
  • impacts
  • changes in production, consumption and distribution
  • attitudes
  • ensuring Australia’s creative and cultural future.

This is our second report. It recognises some of the challenges Australia faces as a nation and asks, ‘what if creative and cultural activity could make a transformative contribution towards solving them?’ In exploring this question, we ask:

  • What are impacts of cultural and creative activity and participation?
  • What are some examples of impacts from around the world?
  • What is Australia already doing and what could we do better?

The report provides a snapshot of current research and findings about the positive impacts of artistic, creative and cultural activity on different parts of our lives. Participation takes many different forms, and we take a broad definition of culture, one which includes but is not limited to, galleries, libraries, archives and museums, music, screen, radio, video gaming and digital arts, performance, literature, visual art, community-engaged practice, hybrid and experimental artforms, language, festivals, craft, heritage, design, and live art.

We have reviewed a range of evidence on the most commonly researched impacts in the fields of:

1. Society and place

2. Economy

3. Innovation

4. Health and wellbeing

5. Education and learning

6. International engagement

7. Culture.

The research paints a very clear picture: a rich cultural life delivers significant economic and social benefits to the Australian community. Opportunities to be involved in arts and culture can be, and often are, transformative in both general and specific ways. Arts and culture inspire and enable meaningful change across our diverse communities and within individual lives, including in the areas of some of Australia’s biggest public policy challenges.

We also found evidence that participation in creative endeavours contributes to:

  • a strong cultural life
  • a resilient and innovation-driven national economy
  • advancing Australia’s position on the global stage.

In developing this snapshot, the report draws on material from Australia and around the world. This report prioritises studies that employ robust methodologies, as well as drawing on relevant policy literature.

The evidence presented in this report shows that Australians’ high rate of participation in creative and cultural activities helps us develop a sense of belonging, forges social cohesion, stimulates curiosity and the ability to engage with different perspectives, and can have a range of beneficial effects on health, wellbeing, economic, employment and educational outcomes.

In sharing the strong evidence of these impacts, our aim is to better inform contemporary discussions about the value that is being generated, and could be intensified, through more effective policy settings, strategic investment and stimulus.

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Insight research series, report two