Raising appreciation of the art and culture sector: a necessary endeavour

Great advances have been made in understanding the social significance and value of the art and culture sector in recent years. Numerous studies and reports have been written on the issue, which have provided a unanimous range of views. 

The social, societal and economic effects of the art and culture sector are significant, and the sector must be seen as part of an expanding service and business sector. The sector creates up to 120,000 jobs in Finland — and has been growing strongly. The sector is in a significant position as a builder of the future as it renews society and increases well-being, growth and innovation.

The basis for the appreciation of the art and culture sector is in personal experiences and social impacts. It is in the impacts and opportunities that could not exist without the sector’s professionals and specialists, or without allocating sufficient resources for promoting the sector.

Social well-being and health

The effects of culture on social well-being are examined from the perspectives of increased participation, prevention of exclusion, promoting interaction and empathy, cultural and social diversity, and support for critical thinking.

Health effects have been examined from the perspectives of health promotion and care, public health, perceived health and quality of life, mental health and mental well-being. The importance of culture is often presented as an indirect way of saving on social and health care costs. The World Health Organization recommends making culture and art and part of social and healthcare policy.

Engaging people in cultural activities reinforces their personal and social resilience. It creates an atmosphere of learning and growth, forges a sense of belonging and increases trust and mutual respect. Art has been proven to make people more creative, happier and more active. We need specialist professionals in the sector to support all of this.

Link to the economy and employment

Culture creates growth and employment, both directly and indirectly. The art and culture sector is a broad ecosystem which employs up to 120,000 people and forms around 3.3% of Finnish GDP.

The spill-over effects of culture speak in turn of the sector’s significance as a pull factor. Services such as transport, catering and hospitality thrive, and competent municipalities make use of culture to increase their attractiveness. The sense of togetherness and local pride created by culture are no small things, either.

Trans-sectoral, added-value generating competence

According to Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, the social change ahead of us requires education, which enables renewal and the capacity to respond to questions considered critical.

In the context of society’s pace of change, disruption crisis, binary confrontations and the ecological sustainability horizon, we need multidisciplinary and multi-valued cooperation, which art and culture sector specialists can enrich with their own specialized competence.

Cross-sectoral models are progressing rapidly, such as by bringing culture and art-derived operations to the social care and health sector, travel and primary and secondary education interfaces. Another strong vector is the use of specialist art and culture competence in developing other business operations.

Art and culture specialists are needed at the interfaces of different sectors, where they function as cross-sectoral enablers of development and build the conditions for new operating models, employment opportunities and business creation. Creative innovative capacity is one of sector’s strengths. However, more resources are needed to respond to the pace of change and to secure further education. Education and the conditions for work in the creative sectors are the basis for society’s creativity.

Competence in the humanities means the understanding of meaning

Various academic disciplines need each other, and particularly graduates of programmes in the humanities, for as long as the end user is a human being and not a machine. Humanities graduates are needed precisely in the sectors where they are as yet absent.

Students in the faculties of humanities research and study interaction, cultural processes, beliefs, worldviews, ethics, history, languages and meanings. The meanings our world is built on — or which risk crumbling.

Humanities graduates’ analytical critique, creative problem-solving ability and clear communication skills are their trump cards in the job market of tomorrow.

As generalists, humanities graduates can also serve as interpreters or bridge-builders between different sectors or highly specialized professionals. The humanist view creates perspectives which would be difficult to achieve in the light of other sciences.

Art and culture sector as the producer of a new kind of value

Art and culture have a huge potential as a builder of a positive future. The sector is involved in Finland’s sustainable growth programme, and on the basis of the Finnish Parliament’s Future Committee’s final report, culture may be seen as part of a solution that builds a sustainable future.

The final report in question creates a general picture of issues such as cultural trends, democratic challenges, environmental questions, equality, and the development of welfare and the economy, in the direction of which culture may be incorporated.

Broadly speaking, art and culture may be seen as part of the development of a sustainable way of life. The abilities of art and culture to support ecological sustainability are realized not just through organizations’ striving for environmental friendliness, but also in their ability to implement immaterial values.

Arto O. Salonen, assistant professor and docent at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies of the University of Eastern Finland, explains the background to this issue as follows:

“Consumption-centricity will lose its significance as a life ideal as society moves from industrial society thought patterns to post-industrial ones. It will be replaced by things which offer richness of content for human existence. These experiences of well-being include a joy of life, aesthetic experiences, a feeling of belonging, being understood and keeping personal creativity and achievement to the fore in life.”

And finally

One of TAKU’s tasks is to raise the social appreciation of art and culture and its specialists. We also aim to increase the weight of cultural policy to an equivalent level, and to bring the sector’s specialists’ salaries in line with their education and specialized competence.

The financing of art and culture needs both growth and continuity so specialists in the sector can fulfil their tasks, develop and make their contributions to society — the contribution that only this sector can make. What kind of world do you want to be involved in building? What more would we achieve if the sector were financed more sustainably?