Over the next few weeks, you’ll start to see a new feature at Createquity: the Arts Policy Library. The germ of this idea came to me while I was reviewing studies on the social and economic benefits of the arts last summer while working for the Hewlett Foundation. As I said at the time, “It…strikes me that these…studies often represent months or years of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of investment, yet even I–pretty much the target audience defined for many of these projects–didn’t know about them before last week.” Indeed, if only a few dozen or hundred specialists ever actually end up reading these works from start to finish, what is the impact? Most people don’t have time to make it all the way through even one of these documents, much less evaluate their methodology and put them into context with other research.
The Arts Policy Library will therefore have two important goals: first, to bring greater attention to the important ongoing work in the field of arts research; and second, to synthesize (not just summarize) it for a lay audience.
To do this, each text will be analyzed in three parts: first, a summary of what it says, boiled down into no more than a few paragraphs; second, an analysis of the strength of its arguments, looking at everything from statistical sampling methods to the relevance of the questions it seeks to answer; and finally, an attempt to deduce what new information the text gives us in light of the other work we’ve already read, picking out broad themes or trends that may be of interest.
So is this supposed to be the last word on arts policy research? Absolutely not. Nothing would make me happier than if people would take the time to read the studies on their own and come to their own conclusions – that would, after all, fulfill goal #1 of this enterprise. However, realistically I understand that few are going to have the time to do that. And for them, I think that a consistent, knowledgeable, agenda-free voice to filter and explain this content would be of tremendous benefit. You can think of this as an experiment in arts research journalism – essentially, we’re reviewing studies and books just like as if they were CDs or new plays. Hopefully, though, the subjects of this inquiry will be a little – if only a little – less subjective.
For the full list of entries in the Arts Policy Library series, see the Arts Policy Library page.