It’s personal: The impact and value of tertiary and creative arts

"Why is the case for the arts so frequently made in terms of its economic impact, as if the other benefits are of lesser importance, not least those that flow from the engagement with them by individuals?"

So asked Geoffrey Crossick, one of the authors of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Report Understanding the Value of Arts and Culture. In a fascinating lecture available on Soundcloud, he explains the centrality of individual experience if the impact and value of arts, whether personal, economic or societal, are to be truly understood. He highlights, for example, how participation in art has instilled an attitude towards thinking that inspires new scientific developments and how art in prisons is changing individual prisoners’ capacity for empathy - an essential precursor to rehabilitation. Yet, under Australia’s impact metrics, would any university be game to attribute any recidivism reduction or new scientific breakthrough to the work of its artists?

In this edition of NiTRO we consider those aspects that can be explained by the current mechanisms as well as critiquing the measures that governments adopt to capture impact and their usefulness to understanding the contribution of creative art.

  • Katja Fleischmann (JCU) reports on recent research that highlights the importance of creative arts and tertiary design to regional economic regeneration.
  • Education researcher, Renee Crawford (Monash) reflects upon her recent research which considers the impact that music and art has upon the education of young refugees.
  • Nadia Niaz (University of Melbourne) approaches the topic of community engagement, impact and academia by considering the effect that community engagement has upon student work.
  • Natalie King (University of Melbourne) brings into sharp relief the overwhelming impact that artists such as Ai Wei Wei and Tracey Moffatt have upon our understanding of global displacement.
  • UK researchers Heather Skinner (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Nicola Williams-Burnett (Cardiff Metropolitan University) present a critical reflection of impact evaluation applied to performing arts.
  • Ian Haig (RMIT) asks in the context of contemporary art and university metrics - just what is impact anyway? And is it useful for contemporary art?

This edition also includes an article on recent research conducted by Victoria University and Entertainment Assist that highlights the mental health impact of a career in the entertainment industry and a call for NiTRO readers to help provide solutions and a framework for improvement. Our thanks go to Susan Cooper (Entertainment Assist) and Adrian Fisher (Victoria University) for their input.