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New Research Ties Arts to Well-Being: Culture linked to healthier, more secure neighborhoods

April 2017 Newsletter

Neighbors performing in a local theater form friendships. Art galleries become gathering places. Dance studios give city kids a chance to challenge themselves. We’ve long sensed that the arts improve communities. Now we have proof. 

New research by the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) documents the positive effects of New York’s lively networks of cultural organizations, creative enterprises, and resident artists. The findings: These “cultural ecosystems” improve quality of life for ordinary New Yorkers.  

The two-year study, by the Social Impact of the Arts Project at Penn SP2, was funded with $250,000 from the NYC Cultural Agenda Fund in The New York Community Trust.

Other studies look at the economic impact of the arts. But this research found that in lower-income neighborhoods, cultural resources “significantly” correlate to improved health, schooling, and security. 

Specifically, in neighborhoods such as Harlem and Corona, cultural resources are linked to a 14 percent decrease in cases of child abuse and neglect, a 5 percent decrease in obesity, and an 18 percent decline in the serious crime rate.

“Our grantmaking boosts the arts in neighborhoods that need it most, so we are thrilled to use these findings to hone our strategy,” says Kerry McCarthy, Trust program director for arts and historic preservation. 

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