Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Value of the Arts

I’ve been reading a lot about the value of the arts, or, more precisely, the variety of ways to look at that value, to express that value, and the different ways that different groups look at valuing the arts.

Here at the Council, we are in the middle of wrapping up consultations, and formulating our new Strategic Plan. The fact remains that, in order to be meaningful, the plan needs to have appeal to three distinct groups who value arts and culture in three different ways.

John Holden (with Demos, a UK based think tank) illustrates the problem quite clearly in his pamphlet Cultural Value and the Crisis of Legitimacy. I do this job because of my belief in the intrinsic value of the arts but need to ensure that the organization has institutional value for its own sake, and for continued support from the “public” who have their own ideas about the intrinsic value. Yet, I find myself talking in instrumental value terminology to the elected officials who make decisions on our funding. John makes some interesting observations and I'm happy to see that some of his conclusions are reflected in some of the activities we've undertaken.

We have a long road ahead of us, but I can't help but feel we're gaining a little bit of momentum.