The Impacts of Arts and Culture Festivals

Abstract in English

This assessment focuses on 16 arts and culture festivals that received government subsidies from the Finnish Ministry of Education in 2018:

  • Helsinki Festival
  • Ilmajoki Music Festival
  • Jyväskylä Festival
  • Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival
  • Kuopio Dance Festival
  • Helsinki Design Week
  • Mänttä Art Festival
  • Naantali Music Festival
  • Oulu August Festival
  • Pori Jazz Festival
  • Kaustinen Folk Music Festival
  • Sata-Häme Soi Festival
  • Savonlinna Opera Festival
  • Salmela Art Centre
  • Tampere Theatre Festival
  • Turku Music Festival

In 2018 the Ministry funded the activities of the 16 arts and culture festivals with a total of 2.5 million euros.

The aim of this project for assessing the impacts of arts and culture festivals is to produce new information to support the Ministry’s decision making relating to festivals. The report also offers information for the development of follow-up indi-cators and models for assessing the impacts of arts and culture festivals. In the report the terms impact and effectiveness refer to the broader and longer-term impacts that the festivals have created through their activities in their local communities, nationally and internationally.

The evaluation in this report was based on the cultural, social and economic impacts as assessed by the festivals themselves. The report notes that Finnish festivals are multi-artistic and versatile. As a way of producing art, festivals can through their activities serve various goals of cultural policy with their different emphases. The events offer citizens ways to participate in arts and culture and access to the supply of arts and culture, provide job opportunities for artists and create conditions for local business due to their network-based pro-duction structures. The report confirms the findings of earlier research by concluding that the cultural, social and economic impacts of arts and culture festivals are visible and concretized through the festivals’ production activities at local, national and international level.

The Finnish Ministry of Education supports arts and culture festivals by awarding state subsidies to them annually. The subsidies are discretionary and regulated by the Act on Discretionary Government Transfers. The objective is, in line with the Ministry’s strategy for cultural policy, to strengthen the foundations of culture, enhance inclusion and participation in culture and to improve the general conditions for creative work and production. The subsidies support the goals of the Ministry’s 2017–2025 action plan for arts and culture festivals, which aims to strengthen the appreciation and position of festivals in cultural policies and to promote sustaina-ble development, internationalization and competencies, relevant research and data, and systematic cooperation.

The festivals subsidized in 2018 represented music, dance, visual arts, theatre and design. They produced altogether 2 935 events, of which 1 700 collected admission fees and 1 200 had free admission. The total number of visitors was a little over one million. The festivals reported having sold nearly 430 000 tickets and the number of visits to the free events was over 550 000.

The report shows that the significance of systematic data gathering for developing the Finnish field of arts and culture is apparent. In the future it will be increasingly important to create multidisciplinary tools for the assessment of impacts, focusing on one specific art field at a time, especially when the assessment examines the social, cultural and economic impacts and effectiveness of arts and culture festivals in local, national and international contexts. The different actors use different and mutually divergent reporting methods, and these should be better integrated. The gathered data need to serve the many actors involved. The system of gathering data should enable the collection of data from actors in the festival field on a broad range.

In the development of follow-up indicators, we recommend that the cultural impacts of the festivals should be examined from the viewpoint of the artistic planning of the events. Surveys could serve to examine, for example, how and to what degree festivals base the planning of contents on new artistic overtures.

The social impacts of festivals could be analyzed through questions pertaining to participation, inclusion, availability and access. Long-term follow-up would offer an opportunity to produce information on the development of the festivals’ operating practices and forms.

The economic impacts of festivals could be examined from the viewpoint of employment opportunities and cooperation structures. Examining the cooperation structures would lay a groundwork for mapping local business partnerships and for research on the linkages between arts and cultural events and the business sector.

Project researchers