Arts Investment

These two snippets are taken from Heather Ostertag’s speech from the Juno Dinner and Gala on March 28, 2009:

“Culture has proven it produces a positive return on investment”

“Music from both the cultural and business aspect is a sound investment.”

I have been seeing phrases similar to this used more and more frequently to convince the government for more arts funding.  It popped up quite a bit in the previous federal election as well.

I should say that I’m not out to disprove anything. I just think that sometimes people habitually use and accept phrases like these and so my intuition is telling me to look at them closer.  Kind of like the phrase “Toronto is the most multi-cultural city in the world.”  Torontonians hear this everywhere, but I’m unconvinced.  Do we accept these ideas because they’re based on empirical fact or because it creates buzz and strokes our ego as proud Torontonians/artists?

First of all, if you know where I can find studies that show investment in the arts produces a positive return on investment, please show me (for that matter, if you know where I can find studies that show that Toronto is the most multi-cultural city in the world, please show me that too!)  I would be most interested in how much those positive returns are, and also how arts investment compares to other investment options.

I suspect that Heather Ostertag and others are guilty of over simplifying the meaning of investment. What do they mean by “positive return?”  Do they mean positive monetary return?  Cultural return?  Intellectual return?  Without any context to these arguments they seem redundant.  It’s rhetoric.  Which means they’re not necessarily targeting government officials, but also artists and the general public.  For artists, it becomes a mantra they can instinctively use to encourage investment or combat cuts to arts funding.  As an artist, I can say that I’m not the most knowledgeable in the fields of monetary investment and macroeconomics so simplification would be most welcome!

Lets discuss!


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