Architecture of Value

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Alan Brown
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In this article, author Alan Brown revisits and interprets the 2005 report, The Gifts of the Muse, published by the RAND Corporation and commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, with valuable analysis of how public value occurs from the core artistic experience.  Starting with an individual experience, the cumulative impact of exposure to the arts can ripple through a community. Brown argues that artists and practitioners need a consistent language to communicate the transformative experience of the arts to funders and policymakers. Brown suggests a framework that measures benefits along two axes: the social dimension of arts benefits from the personal to the public and the time in proximity to the arts experience including real time benefits, benefits before and after the art experience, and longer term benefits that accrete gradually over time.  The latter underscores how repeat experiences can lead to higher-order benefits.   Along this framework are five value clusters, or overarching categories of benefits, that articulate the aggregated benefits of exposure to the arts: imprint of an arts experience, personal development, human interaction, communal meaning and civic discourse, and economic and macro social benefits. These value clusters show how the impact of one individual’s exposure to the arts can impact their families, social networks, and neighborhoods. These categories help explain the long-term effect of the arts to different audiences. For example, parents may want to hear more about the personal development and human interaction benefits of the arts, while policymakers may be more interested in learning about the economic and marcro social benefits of the arts. These value clusters provide a vocabulary for the impact of the arts that is accessible to different audiences. Without a consistent language for evaluation of arts for change work, Brown fears that the impact of the arts will remain cloistered among industry insiders and academics. By using accessible language that expresses the value and benefits of the arts, more people can become involved in supporting arts for change work. In addition, arts organizations can use the same framework to compare evaluation results and learn from each other. Expanding the audience for arts evaluation helps make the case for arts for change work. If more people understand the benefits of the arts, then change in systems, policies, and conditions are possible.

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