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Shared spaces: Social and economic returns on investment in cultural infrastructure

Appendix E to Under Construction. Prepared by M. Sharon Jeannotte

January 14, 200914 January 2009

Facilities / Cultural Infrastructure

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This report, one of eight appendices to Under Construction: The State of Cultural Infrastructure in Canada, examines a range of existing sources for information about the social and economic returns of investments in cultural facilities.

The report indicates that, in 2005, cultural infrastructure comprised only 2.0% of all government infrastructure investment, well behind roads (39.9%), the environment (14.5%), water systems (10.8%), office buildings (9.2%) and recreation (5.5%).

The report provides a useful summary of general theories regarding the social and economic effects of culture and of the two main conceptual approaches to measure the return on investments in cultural infrastructure (creative city and cultural planning approaches). The report cites Montreal and Toronto case studies of the role of cultural infrastructure in promoting the creative economy (Creativity, connections and innovation: A study of linkages in the Montreal Region and Toronto case study, Strategies for Creative Cities Project). The report also refers to the exploratory quantitative analysis of the Toronto report Beyond anecdotal evidence: The spillover effects of investments in cultural facilities. (See the Arts Research Monitor, Vol. 3, No. 10 for more information.)

American research into 23 case studies of the development of artist spaces indicates that almost half of the case studies “were positioned primarily as community economic development and social improvement projects, six were positioned primarily as business ventures, and five were focused on services for artists”. Although little formal documentation exists on the impacts of the artist space projects, the researchers did identify some potential physical, social and economic impacts:

· Physical impacts can include beautification, animation of vacant property and preservation of historic buildings.

· Social effects can include increased arts programming for residents, additional multipurpose space for arts and non-arts uses, youth development and diversification of low-income communities.

· Economic impacts can include the promotion of creative clusters, increased real estate values and diversification of community development strategies.

Whatever approach is used, the report argues for the need to examine both social and economic effects, rather than focussing on one to the detriment of the other. The report concludes that “there are serious gaps in our knowledge about how cultural infrastructure affects the communities in which it is located. The gaps must be addressed before adequate indicators of the social and economic returns on cultural infrastructure investments can be developed.” The author provides suggestions to close these research gaps.

The other six appendices to Under Construction provide information about: multilevel governance and cultural infrastructure; the policy and funding framework for cultural infrastructure; emerging financial models for cultural facilities: the existence and state of inventories of cultural facilities; the historical development of cultural infrastructure in Canada; and an examination of recent investments made in cultural infrastructure by two federal programs since 2000.

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