Saturday, January 2, 2021

The Value of Arts and Culture for Community Cohesion: A Saskatchewan Study

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“The Value of Arts and Culture for Community Cohesion: A Saskatchewan Study” is an interdisciplinary, participatory, and community-based research project. Initiated by the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance (SAA) the project team includes the SAA Executive Director (Marnie Gladwell) and University of Regina researchers in the social sciences (Dr. Amber Fletcher) and fine arts (Dr. Barbara Meneley and Dr. Mary Blackstone).

In Saskatchewan, there is a general acknowledgement that the arts add value to the cultural, social, and economic life of our province, but very little research has explicitly studied this topic. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to empirically examine the value, role, and barriers of the arts (and artists) for building community cohesion and inclusion in Saskatchewan and to produce creative, social, empirical, theoretical, and policy outcomes. We are developing a multi-case study documenting community perceptions of the arts with a particular focus on underrepresented communities, which we define by geography (northern and rural communities) and identity (older adults).

The first case study involves a quasi-experimental design with a primarily quantitative survey instrument to investigate whether a new community facility (which brings together sports, the arts, and community clubs into a shared physical space) affects community perceptions of the arts in a small city. Using a narrative approach, the second case study is led by a young Indigenous researcher, who is conducting qualitative interviews in a northern First Nation to reveal the role of the arts in the lives of community members. The third case study responds to the current COVID-19 pandemic by providing telephone-delivered creative engagement activities with older adults living alone in rural Saskatchewan. Through interviews occurring before, during, and after participation in a co-designed creative engagement, this case study will examine whether telephone participation in the arts affects older adults’ perception of being either socially integrated or isolated. Taken together, the three stand-alone case studies, each with its own unique methodology, will collectively provide much-needed empirical insight into the less-tangible social dimensions of the arts and their value.