20 July 2018

Summary: my reading of these documents suggests that the role of the arts is understated. There is the briefest of references to “culture and art” but no indication of its importance.

There is a reasonable body of research that finds that engagement with the arts is an important factor in well-being. In a broad sense it is shown to promote cohesive communities, improve the built environment, enrich human experience and help people to live longer and better lives.

In more specific applications it is shown to aid recovery from illness, help frail and older people to be independent and to reduce old age loneliness, enhance mental health care, help prisoners rehabilitate and improve preventive strategies against ill-health. There are some applications that are very specific, such as music helping stave off or slow dementia.

I do not propose in this submission to elaborate on the evidence and the case for these positive consequences of access to the arts but cite one of the better reports covering the subject and recommend its contents to you. It is:

Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing 

The report of a British All-Party Parliamentary Group inquiring into Arts, Health and Wellbeing, dated July 2017. 

It also seems that your papers are very focused on defining wellbeing and living standards, and on measuring the components, but have insufficient weight on what actual policies and practises will improve wellbeing. It is in this area that the role of the arts can best be defined, probably under your general heading of Social Capital.

If the role of the arts can be recognised in these ways in your papers it is likely that the role will be better recognised in society and perhaps supported in future budgets.

Neil Plimmer MNZM
Trustee and former Chairman, Wellington Sculpture Trust
Trustee, Arts Foundation of New Zealand
Former President, New Zealand Book Council