Last week, there was a lot of to-do about a new study revealing how an increasing time crunch is hurting Canadians' wellbeing.
This being a study on leisure time and its health and wellbeing impacts, the report looked a lot at the fact that Canadians are increasingly working non-standard hours and precarious jobs, with women in particular crunched for time because they are caring for seniors as well as kids. All of these are definitely cause for concern.
One of the unexpected points in the study, though, has to do with issues of arts access—an issue close to my heart, as recent posts on museum admission fees and access measures show.
Could access to arts and culture institutions actually be vital to our wellbeing as Canadians? Yes, says the study:
Participating in leisure and culture pursuits, either individually or overall, contributes to individual, community, and societal wellbeing. Some relationships are stronger than others. Taking part in physical activity and exercise, for example, is more strongly related to physical wellbeing and the prevention of disease, engaging in social activities is more strongly linked to social wellbeing, and participating in the arts can help to enhance both social and psychological wellbeing.
Could declining arts access, then, actually be hurting Canadians' wellbeing? Also yes:
Worrying is that over the past several years, public agencies and non-profit, voluntary organizations responsible for the provision of leisure and culture programs, services, facilities, and other opportunities have seen an ongoing shift away from core funding. Indeed, since 1990, community per capita expenditures on recreation and culture have not kept pace with inflation or population increases. This decline in basic operational support represents a serious threat to the ongoing missions of these agencies and organizations, which are mainly responsible for the infrastructure supporting leisure and culture in Canadian communities. It represents a loss of potential to improve the wellbeing of Canadians.
The upshot? We need to "be especially mindful of ensuring equity and inclusion" in culture and leisure and "now, more than ever, we need governments and public policies that support our culture and leisure infrastructure."
Specifically we need to "encourage barrier-free arts and culture activities" and promote "inclusive environments for physical, leisure and social activities by ensuring everyone has the opportunity to participate." This includes "initiatives such as discounted or free programming available for those with limited incomes, as well as tax credits to allow all families to better afford these programs."
Though I've based my most recent arguments on arts access on the fact that many museums are mandated to provide public access, it's also great to get support for the cause from a health perspective. I do hope that museums, public galleries and cultural policymakers across the country take note.
Image from SUNY Oswego
Monday, June 21, 2010
Posted by Leah Sandals at 3:17 PM