Arts and Place Shaping: Evidence Review

This review commissioned by Arts Council England builds on previous research into ‘place-shaping’ and assesses the importance of arts and culture in the lives of people, communities and places. This also links to how arts and culture in the wellbeing agenda impacts on place. The review presents an overview of an evidence base as well as a series of case studies.

Date added 25 September 2020
Last updated 25 September 2020

This review commissioned by Arts Council England builds on previous research into ‘place-shaping’ and assesses of the importance of arts and culture in the lives of people, communities and places. ‘Place-shaping’ is defined as ‘creative use of powers and influence to promote the general well-being of a community and its citizens.’ This also links to how arts and culture in the wellbeing agenda impacts on place. The review presents an overview of an evidence base and a series of case studies demonstrating the impact of Arts Council as well as other funding programmes on local communities and areas, including social and economic benefits.

The review emphasises that place-based elements such as arts, culture, heritage and environmental attributes, should be integrated in town plans rather than being seen as optional extras. It argues that arts and cultural activities play important roles in sustaining the spirit of a place and can positively engage local communities to improve their neighbourhoods. This in turn builds stronger and cohesive communities that generate a sense of civic pride and place identity.

It is also emphasised in the review that arts can play an instrumental role in improving social inclusion such as rehabilitate criminal offenders and help reintegrate them back into society. It can further support health and wellbeing, especially mental health as recent research showed that participatory arts activities can help ease anxiety and depression as well as stress. This included both the use of singing and music-making activities.

In the physical sense, art can make places more attractive through high quality urban design. Art in the public realm can contribute to distinctive streetscape and bring economic and educational benefits to the area. For example, the review draws on evidence that demonstrate how a thriving cultural scene is an important local asset that can ensure economic growth. As such, cultural anchors can attract footfall and boost evening economy. The review also argues that the cultural sector can act as a catalyst for regeneration by driving employment and boosting tourism. Together, this shows how arts and culture can help address the challenges faced by UK high streets (such as declining retail etc.) and contribute to revitalise town centres in an entrepreneurial and innovative manner (e.g. repurposing vacant units).