The following end notes accompany our article, “Part of Your World: On the Arts and Wellbeing,” published on August 31, 2015:

[1] For his part, Sen has written a stirring defense of incorporating cultural considerations into international development policy, although his essay does not dwell on explicit connections to the capability approach.

[2] Createquity is by no means the first entity in the arts to attempt a reckoning with wellbeing or the capability approach. Starting with the Urban Institute’s Arts and Culture Indicators in Community Building Project(ACIP) in 1996, a number of scholars and arts organizations have examined the connection from various angles, though more often from the perspective of applying wellbeing concepts to arts and culture policy and practice rather than seeking to understand how arts and culture fit into wellbeing.

Encounters between the arts and the capability approach have been both more recent and rare. The two examples we know of are Samuel Jones’s 2010 monograph Culture Shock for the British think tank Demos, which draws on the capability approach to reframe public policy goals relating to culture in England; and a more quantitative application of the capability approach to the arts undertaken by Mark Stern and Susan Seifert of the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project. Stern and Seifert used a modified version of the capability approach as defined in the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission as a starting point for their investigation of cultural activity and social wellbeing in Philadelphia and other cities. Their analysis reveals some interesting–if not entirely conclusive–patterns of wellbeing and cultural participation in different parts of Philadelphia. They identify areas of concentrated disadvantage in multiple categories of wellbeing which coincide with racial and socioeconomic divides, and point to an increasing correlation over time between neighborhood economic prosperity and cultural access. Nevertheless, Stern and Seifert leave some of the most exciting theoretical implications of the capability approach for the arts unexplored. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, their analysis routinely measures the relationship between cultural activity and wellbeing as if they were separate concepts. This is partly explained by Stern and Seifert’s adaptation of the wellbeing domains from the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission, which do not include culture explicitly. By contrast, at Createquity we feel that there is greater potential to be drawn from Martha Nussbaum’s central human capabilities for reasons discussed in the main article.

[3] In our original definition of a healthy arts ecosystem, we had been drawn to the concept of as popularized by psychologist Abraham Maslow in his famous Hierarchy of Needs to serve this purpose. Our subsequent research, however, leads us to believe that while self-actualization still enjoys currency in American popular culture (particularly in the business world), in the social sciences it is seen as an increasingly dated and culturally-specific concept. Nussbaum’s central human capabilities may eventually fall prey to similar criticisms, but overall they seem to be a clear improvement over the framework initially proposed in our healthy arts ecosystem definition and a step towards both internal clarity and interoperability with other social innovation initiatives.


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