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Arts + Social Impact Explorer

October 9, 20199 October 2019

Social benefits of the arts

Americans for the Arts

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Americans for the Arts has created an online research tool that compiles and categorizes a large body of evidence on the social impacts of the arts. The “Arts and Social Impact Explorer” is structured as a pinwheel with 10 main topics, which are divided into 26 sub-topics (as shown in the table below). Users can click on a sub-topic to download a brief fact sheet containing a research summary, links to several case studies, and a list for further reading.

Topic Sub-topics
Culture and heritage History, traditions & heritage

Diversity, equity, access & inclusion


Health and wellness Health and wellness


Public welfare


Prisons and rehabilitation

Environment Environment and sustainability
Economy Economic development

Workforce development

Faith Religion and spiritual well-being
Infrastructure Agriculture and food




Community development

Education Education and youth development

Lifelong learning

Social justice Civic dialogue

Community cohesion


Political activation

Diplomacy Tourism


Innovation Technology and innovation

For example, in the health and wellness section, the livability fact sheet defines livability as encompassing economic, architectural, and cultural factors, as well as intangibles such as community resilience and citizen engagement. Highlighted research shows that “participation in cultural activities leads to wider community participation and a greater propensity to volunteer” and that “creative placemaking projects positively affect residents’ feelings about their neighborhoods”. Case study examples include the Southeast Houston Arts Initiative that sought to “transform its community through improvements to the physical environment by cultural expression projects”.

In the social justice section, the fact sheet on community cohesion indicates that “arts participation contributes to social cohesion by reducing isolation, encouraging cooperation, and building community networks”. Other cited studies point to the ability of the arts to bridge language barriers and unite disparate groups.

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