Arts as Public Service: Strategic Steps towards Equality (ArtsEqual)

Public description of the goals at the beginning of the project

Six research groups in the ARTSEQUAL project reinterpret the traditional position of the arts in Finland by regarding them as a basic service that should be available equally for all and that contributes to well-being across a wide range of life domains. From the perspectives of equality and well-being, the project produces new knowledge on how already existing arts services can be developed in order to enhance citizen creativity and communal engagement. The research groups will apply systems thinking in order to comprehend the social impacts of the arts, and analyse how participatory artistic and arts-educational interventions in schools, basic arts education, services for the elderly, multicultural youth work and prisons impact well-being. The project will propose policy recommendations to support political decision-making and consolidate new arts services. The project is carried out in close collaboration with ministries, regional state administration, municipalities, and NGOs.

Public description of the results at the end of the project

ArtsEqual examined the implementation of equity in the Finnish arts and arts education service system with multi-artistic, -scientific and -methodological approaches. Field studies, interventions and surveys (e.g. in primary school, Basic Arts Education, arts organizations, care and nursing homes, and prisons) showed that the services do not reach everyone equally but mainly benefit those already well-off in society. The research identified a number of historically ingrained patterns of unequal, discriminatory mechanisms (e.g. distanciation, exclusion, hierarchy, utilitarian thinking, and restriction of rights) and demonstrated that by identifying these mechanisms, and their effects, the existing level of inequality can be reduced, if so wished. The building of positive equity requires change in structures, professional mental models, and cross-sectoral cooperation in the service system. The project produced significant new theorizing for the arts fields in this light.

More information

  • Consortium's website
  • Consortium PI Heidi Westerlund, Professor, University of the Arts Helsinki, firstname.lastname(at)

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