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Thursday, December 4, 2008 NASAA Notes December 2008   VOLUME 12 ISSUE 8  
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Amateur Informal Arts Can Increase Quality of Life in Low-Income Neighborhoods

A recent study released by the Urban Institute found that desirability, commitment, social integration and quality of life in a community area are all increased in low-income neighborhoods that have a greater amount of amateur informal arts activity. Magnetizing Neighborhoods through Amateur Arts Performance studies the relationship between improved neighborhoods and the informal arts in Chicago. This work is part of the Arts and Culture Indicators in Communities Project, a long-standing project that researches the effects of arts and culture on neighborhood conditions and community dynamics.

Informal Arts Activity Examples

  • parades
  • street festivals
  • open mic performances
  • community murals

A set of indicators including data about arts events, performance spaces, and public venues was developed to assess the level of informal arts activity in a neighborhood. To determine whether these events and venues had an effect on community development and quality of life, six factors were measured:

  • population growth and ability to stem population loss
  • increased number of housing units and ability to stem loss
  • improved grade school test scores
  • decline in personal crime rate
  • decline in property crime rate
  • economic change in housing values, mortgage capital flow

Of the six factors, five were significantly correlated to the amount of informal arts activity. Low-income neighborhoods with a higher amount of informal arts activity lost fewer residents and homes than did neighborhoods with less arts activity. The neighborhoods with more informal arts activity also demonstrated higher grade school test scores and a decrease in personal and property crime rates. A significant correlation between greater informal arts activity and economic change measures did not emerge.

These significant correlations evidence an important link between the amount of amateur informal arts activity and the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. The results presented here are similar across all income levels. Therefore, an important component of any community development strategy should be support for venues and activities that facilitate amateur informal arts.


Published by The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
Copyright © 2008 National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. All rights reserved.
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