In light of that, I wanted to look back at where the idea of intrinsic value of the arts all began. Well, at least for me.
The first attempt to measure the intrinsic value of the arts I was aware of was a study by WolfBrown on behalf of the Major University Presenters consortium. I wrote about WolfBrown’s presentation of the study results, Assessing the Intrinsic Impacts of a Live Performance at the Arts Presenters conference back in 2008.
In writing about the report at that time, I related the concerns expressed by then president of Arts Presenters, Lisa Booth,
And while she was glad that there was a new metric of success being developed that wasn’t based in dollars or butts in seats, she was also concerned that in the eagerness to justify the value of the arts in some quantifiable way, the arts community was trying to measure what can not be measured.
This last bit was very interesting to me because Lisa Booth seemed to recognize the inevitable if these measures became widely used. If foundations and governments start basing their funding on the intrinsic value a performance has for a community, arts organizations will probably try to measure everything imaginable to show all the levels on which a performance meets funding agendas. Just as the arts aren’t well served by showing economic impact, they probably will be equally ill-advised to create numeric values for changes in things like self-actualization, captivation, social comfort level and questions raised.
I am not sure if it is fortunate or unfortunate that funders aren’t focused on improvements in intrinsic value measures.
If you want a quick primer of WolfBrown’s process and how they define things like readiness to receive, self-actualization, captivation and social comfort level, you can take a look at the website they have created for the intrinsic impact portion of their consultant work. (It looks like they have refined some of their terminology in the last 8 years.)
In terms of whether one can accurately assess any of these things so that it results in a meaningful measure of intrinsic impact, I don’t know. Even if it does, it is likely to lack the relevance to policy makers and others who are not involved and invested in the arts that Carter talks about.
What I do think their process does is get closer to bridging the communication gap between why arts people like the arts and those who don’t see any value in the arts. When you are having conversations with people where you are paying attention to things like Emotional Resonance, Captivation, Intellectual Stimulation and Social Bonding, you can start to find common language that communicates value beyond economic stimulus and cognitive development.