Posts Tagged ‘university of pennsylvania’

Photo: @elliott.jerome, via Instagram
Installation view of Theresa Chromati’s
Tea Time, with audio accompaniment by Pangelica, at Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts in Brooklyn.

For ten years, I was the editor of a magazine focused lower-income communities, and like this blog, it reflected a lot of my interests. One of the topics I was always on the hunt for was the role of the arts in community development. This study would have fit perfectly.

Isaac Kaplan writes at Artsy, “Arts advocates have long extolled the benefits of culture to personal and neighborhood welfare. While the contention is broadly accepted within the field, the existence of the link has largely been argued without an abundance of data and taken a backseat to economic justifications for arts funding.

“But a two-year study released this month by researchers from the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania has revealed a quantitative relationship between the presence of cultural resources in a neighborhood and key aspects of social well-being, particularly in less advantaged neighborhoods. The research was part of the school’s ongoing Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP).

“Professor Mark J. Stern and SIAP director Susan C. Seifert found that low- and middle-income residents across New York City with more access to cultural resources experience better education, security, and health outcomes compared to residents of neighborhoods with similar economic profiles but with fewer cultural resources. …

“The relative higher presence of cultural resources in lower-income neighborhoods is linked with several health, safety, and education benefits. These include a 14% decrease in indicted investigations of child abuse and neglect, an 18% decrease in felony crime rate and also a 17–18% increase in the number of students scoring at the highest level on standardized Math and English tests. …

“While the report is careful to note that such findings do not mean the arts are causing these outcomes, the link is nonetheless significant within a broader picture. …

“To reach their conclusions, the researchers compiled a ‘cultural asset index’ — an accounting of thousands of nonprofits, for-profits, employed artists, and cultural participants across New York City, drawing on numerous sources, including tax, grant, and administrative data.

“The study complements this data with interviews and discussions with individuals engaged with cultural enterprises across the entire city. …

“The study says that economically disadvantaged areas generally have fewer cultural resources than wealthier parts of the city. But less advantaged communities also had a stronger correlation between the prevalence of cultural resources and social well-being.”

Read more at Artsy, here.

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Quite a bit of energy has been spent on studies to determine what makes people happy. The findings often seem self-evident (for example, the observation that simple pleasures can be the most satisfying), but studies may be needed when the culture grows detached from what is self-evident.

NY Times columnist Ron Lieber writes, here, about one such study: “Amit Bhattacharjee and Cassie Mogilner, met when Mr. Bhattacharjee was earning his doctorate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where Ms. Mogilner is an assistant professor of marketing.

“When they decided to work together … they were trying to help answer one of the next big questions in the emerging field of happiness studies. Already, scholars in the field have established that experiences tend to make people happier than possessions. What we do, it seems, has more potential for lasting satisfaction and memory-making than what we have. But Mr. Bhattacharjee, who is now a visiting assistant professor of marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, and Ms. Mogilner wanted to know what sort of experiences made people the most happy and why.

“To find out, they conducted eight studies in which they asked participants about their recollections of, planning for or daydreaming about various happiness-making experiences. They also checked to see what sort of things their subjects were posting about on Facebook. The researchers’ definitions of ordinary and extraordinary experiences, when they prompted people to discuss one or the other, were simple and focused on frequency; ordinary experiences happen often and occur in the course of everyday life.”

Lieber notes ordinary experiences like reading the paper, walking around the block, talking to neighbors, spending time in the library. I would add playing with grandchildren, listening to music, and baking something when you have time.

Update 9/3/14 — John just sent word of another study tending to prove the same thing, here.

Free Shakespeare production on the library lawn in summer

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