The art of impact I, or: why the arts now start with the impact of art

Blog 4 december 2014

Art, culture and the creative industries are high on the lists of policy makers. The cultural sector is high on the list of potential (and realised) budget cuts, the creative industries is high on the list of sectors to be praised and stimulated. And in the Netherlands is named a top sector (with 8 other sectors).

The economic and social value of the creative industries has apparently been well articulated and accepted, while the value of the arts is not being seen as such. At the same time the arts form the core of the creative industries in most definitions and analysises. That seems pretty contradictory. The cultural sector has a clear legitimisation problem in the eyes of the population and policymakers.

The arts have for a long time refused to express their value in other terms than their artistic performance, assuming that those were of enough social value to receive automatic attention of policy makers (and thus subsidies).

The last economic crisis proved this assumption completely wrong. There was no resistance to severe budget cuts, neither at the government nor with the poulation. Art as an integral part of society and thus to be subsidized, lost its position. The opinion that artists and cultural institutions should make their own living was widespread. Even among the left parties whose rethoric of elevation and participation by the people failed miserably to work any longer.

Since that moment the cultural sector has been searching frantically for new grounds to legitimize themselves.

The ccreative industries, on the contrary, had their eyes set on their social function from the start. Of course the creative industries comprise more functional disciplines as design, architecture and media. But the creative industries also have many parts where artistic expression is the start of the working process.

The cultural sector is always reproaching others (governments, companies, funds)that they instrumentalize art, that is to say they see art as a means to reach other goals, external to the arts. And that the real value of art is being and that those other goals can not be reached that way. Through this reasoning the cultural sector has kept any other forms of legitimation out of reach.

Only when the other side will accept the intrinsic value of the arts, the sector is now willing to look for new forms of social legitimation. It is characteristic of the sector that the different disciplines and parts of the sector all do this on their own, with a variety of means and results. The policy brief of the Dutch minister of culture, Bussemakers, remains also on a high abstraction level, talking about intrinsic, socal and individual values and announces further research. There is no grounded view on the values of the arts.

In the creative industries the social value of the sector and the cross-overs between the creative industries and other sectors of society have been stressed from the beginning. And they focussed on the buzz word of the moment: possibilities for innovation, and thus economic growth. In the Netherlands they work hard on making cross-overs with other topsectors. But still the intrinsic value of creativity, connected with art, is not seen as lost, but appreciated as a necessary ingrediënt for creating value for society.

In theory at least we see an emerging convergence. In the arts as well as in the creative industries there is the growing recognition that intrinsic value and socal values can be coupled. Although the arts still start from the intrinsic value and the creative industries with the value for society.

But the conclusion is: the creative industries are years ahead in their acquired legitimacy. The arts still has a long way to go. The Dutch minister of Culture just launched a new program: the impact of the arts. The cultural sector still has a long way to go in developing the art of impact.