The Arts, Culture, & Social Well-Being

Posted by Mark Stern On May - 3 - 2012
Mark Stern

Mark Stern

As part of its collaboration with The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) and the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy (OACCE), Penn’s Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) is leading an effort to develop an index of livability/social inclusion for the city.

Our goal is to create a series of maps that identify several dimensions of social well-being across the city and to locate the arts and culture within the broader idea of social well-being. This semester, Ira Goldstein of TRF and I have co-taught an Urban Studies seminar focused of clarifying the conceptualization of social well-being and gathering the data necessary to create the index.

The project was inspired by the federal government’s—including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)—recent interest in promoting livability. As we looked at the question, we realized that our measure needed to move beyond livability to include more comprehensive measures of social justice, inclusion, and well-being. Rather than start from scratch, we used the 2009 report of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress as our starting point.

The commission proposed an eight-dimension framework for social well-being that included material standard of living, health, education, personal activities (including work and leisure), political voice and governance, social connections and relationships, environment, and economic and physical insecurity. Our first adaptation of the framework was to add housing as a separate dimension, giving us nine potential sub-indexes.

During the seminar, Ira, the students, and I have been able to develop preliminary version of seven of the nine indexes. Some of them were easier than others. Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Aging: A Local Arts Agency Fills a Community Need

Posted by Rob Schultz On January - 13 - 2012

Rob Schultz

As the population of the United States matures in the 21st Century, data shows that there are as many people over age 65 as are under age 20.

To respond to this demographic shift, the Mesa Arts Center initiated an important pilot program to reach an underserved population of seniors, and early results are very promising!

The center enlisted the services of two marvelous local teaching artists, Tessa Windt (fibers), and Elizabeth Johnson (dance), to work directly with seniors at three Mesa facilities as part of the Creative Aging Program. The goal of the program is simple: uplift individual creative expression in older adults through movement, story, dance, and engagement in art making.

We’re excited that we’ve not only met our goal, but also impacted this special population in meaningful ways and we’re ready to make this program a permanent part of our services to the community.

Beginning with a curriculum map, staff and the artists developed program outcomes, a learning plan, and assessment evidence for the eight-week project. Elizabeth Johnson worked with a group of seniors at an independent-living facility. She quickly found their level of engagement to be unexpectedly high, with people practicing their movements between workshop sessions, and many seniors insisting that they teach Elizabeth about the music and dance of “their” era.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hannah Jacobson

Quick — point to Dublin, OH on a map.

How about Clinton County, MI; Douglasville, GA; or Missoula, MT? (Zero points if one of those cities is your hometown).

For those of us with a few years between elementary school geography and the present, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if these seemingly arbitrary locations elude us.

Some residents of Taiwan, however, might find Dublin as easily as they would their own hometowns. It’s a similar story for students in Shiga, Japan with Clinton County; Denmark with Douglasville; and Neckargemün, Germany with Missoula.

In Americans for the Arts’ December webinar, produced in tandem with the special report entitled Backyard Diplomacy, we found out that cultural exchange—taking various forms of art that are from, inspired by, or headed to a distinctly foreign locale—is happening every day, in cities small and large, through local arts agencies (LAAs).

The major lesson? LAAs of any size and shape can and should feel empowered to take a field trip around the world. Read the rest of this entry »