Sunday, September 2, 2012

Intrinsic Impact and the Value of Art

We make art because we believe it makes better human beings.
We make art because we believe it makes being human better.

So why do Arts Organizations spend so much energy quantifying the economics of what they do and so little quantifying the impact? The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Central Florida held  a special workshop, presented by guest speaker Clayton Lord, at the Orlando Science Center (777 East Princeton Street, Orlando). He discussed a new book, Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact and the Value of Art, that examines the ways artists, administrators, patrons and funders value and evaluate the art they make and consume. Attendees came from just about every arts Organization in Central Florida.

Clayton discussed the results of a two-year, nationwide research study called "Measuring the Intrinsic Impact of Live Theater" that looked at 18 theater companies across the country, 58 productions, over 20,000 survey responses-all in an effort to increase the field's understanding of what seeing a piece of theater actually does to someone emotionally, and intellectually. Along with this new book on the national study, the conversation included a discussion of the 24 interviews with artistic leaders and patrons included in the book about the changing relationship of artists and audiences, including an overview of tools all cultural organizations can use to measure their intrinsic impact. One of the funniest moments in the presentation came when Clayton talked about a rather esoteric Shakespeare production. Surveys of the audience resulted with responses like, "What the heck was the play about?" and "What was happening?" Obviously the director missed the mark in getting an emotional response from the audience. When a production does hit the mark, people want to return again and again to experience the emotional impact. In this case the art becomes like a drug, or a great relationship that the audience craves.

This research, a comprehensive and expansive attempt to understand and quantify the impact of a piece of art on an individual (and the impact of that individual on the art), has the potential to really change the conversation about evaluating art. A new way is needed to measure and talk about the intrinsic impact of an arts experience on an individual. Arts organizations need to articulate their value to themselves, their patrons, their funders and society-at-large. A bridge needs to be built between anecdotes and numbers.

 The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Central Florida seeks to increase awareness of and engagement in Central Florida's arts and cultural offerings from residents and visitors through collaborative marketing and sales efforts. The Alliance serves over 360 arts and cultural organizations in the seven counties of Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia. The Alliance envisions Central Florida as a vibrant, dynamic arts and cultural community recognized as a creative community and destination.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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