In launching this two-year Cultural Value Project, the AHRC wishes to make a major contribution to how we think about the value of arts and culture to individuals and to society. Recent years have seen many attempts to capture that value in straightforward ways, not least in order to make the case to governments for public funding, but none have commanded widespread confidence. The AHRC decided that something more ambitious was needed.
The Cultural Value Project seeks to establish a framework that will advance the way in which we talk about the value of cultural engagement and the methods by which we evaluate that value. The first part of the framework will be an examination of the cultural experience itself and its impact on individuals and its benefit to society. The Project will take as its starting point the different forms of cultural experience, such as, for instance, the aesthetic and cognitive dimensions of our cultural encounters. This might be seen as analysing the phenomenology of cultural experiences in order to understand better the benefits uniquely associated with cultural activity. This significant approach will be conducted alongside exploration of the many other economic and social benefits conventionally associated with cultural activity. The ambition underpinning the second part of the framework is to articulate a set of evaluative approaches and methodologies suitable to assessing the different ways in which cultural value is manifested.
The project will broaden our focus beyond publicly-funded arts and culture, to embrace all activities including those in the third and commercial sectors. It will include the informal and improvisatory practice and experience of culture as well as that in formal organisations. Not just a concert at the Royal Festival Hall or an exhibition at Imperial War Museum North, but also young people who get together in a band to make music for themselves, amateur choirs, local art clubs, reading groups and so on. If we wish to understand the value of cultural activity then we should direct our attention to cultural activity of all kinds. The Cultural Value Project does, of course, wish in the medium term to influence decisions on public policy and funding, but its priority lies in developing a much better understanding of arts and culture across the diverse ways that it is organised and experienced.
The starting premise of the Cultural Value Project is that we need to begin by looking at the actual experience of culture and the arts rather than the ancillary effects of this experience. It is the cultural experience itself which will give coherence to the framework as a whole. The value begins there, with something fundamental and irreducible, and all the other components in the framework might be seen, to a greater or lesser extent, to cascade from it. In giving priority to the cultural experience itself, the Cultural Value Project will take the lead in developing a rigorous approach to what many see as the most important aspect of art and culture.
Further information about the Project is in the Introduction to the Cultural Value Project (PDF 72kb, opens in a new window).
Listen to the Cultural Value Project Podcast
Look at the promotional publication (pdf, 1123kb, opens in new window)