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Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences Distinguished Lecture
[Image - Members of the public in Sotteville-lès-Rouen participating in street theatre]
How should we understand the difference that arts and culture makes to individuals and to society?
We’ve become accustomed to presenting it in terms of benefits that are supposed to persuade the government of the day, because the aim is usually to make the case for public funding.
Professor Geoffrey Crossick
We point to benefits to the economy or cities or health or education. Some of these stand up to investigation but by no means all, but in any case is there a danger that in doing this we neglect some of the more fundamental benefits that matter to us all?
This is not a question of claiming art for arts sake, but of identifying the most compelling ways in which arts and cultural engagement make a difference to individuals and make a difference to society. In doing so we need to cast our net wider and embrace not only publicly-funded culture but also commercial and amateur engagement, not only experience in public spaces but also at home and online.
The search for evidence is important because far too often claims are made that are hard to substantiate, but in that search for evidence should we question the hierarchy that places scientific methods necessarily above those that come from the arts and humanities?