Culture is the lifeblood of a vibrant society, expressed in the many ways we tell our stories, celebrate, remember the past, entertain ourselves, and imagine the future. Our creative expression helps define who we are, and helps us see the world through the eyes of others. Ontarians participate in culture in many ways—as audiences, professionals, amateurs, volunteers, and donors or investors.
In addition to its intrinsic value, culture provides important social and economic benefits. With improved learning and health, increased tolerance, and opportunities to come together with others, culture enhances our quality of life and increases overall well-being for both individuals and communities.
Individual and social benefits of culture
Participating in culture can benefit individuals in many different ways, some of which are deeply personal. They are a source of delight and wonder, and can provide emotionally and intellectually moving experiences, whether pleasurable or unsettling, that encourage celebration or contemplation. Culture is also a means of expressing creativity, forging an individual identity, and enhancing or preserving a community’s sense of place.
Cultural experiences are opportunities for leisure, entertainment, learning, and sharing experiences with others. From museums to theatres to dance studios to public libraries, culture brings people together.
These benefits are intrinsic to culture. They are what attracts us and why we participate.
Improved learning and valuable skills for the future
In children and youth, participation in culture helps develop thinking skills, builds self-esteem, and improves resilience, all of which enhance education outcomes. For example, students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to get a degree than those who do not. In the US, schools that integrate arts across the curriculum have shown consistently higher average reading and mathematics scores compared with similar schools that do not. Many jurisdictions make strong linkages between culture and literacy and enhanced learning outcomes, in both public education and in the development of valuable workforce skills.
Cultural heritage broadens opportunities for education and lifelong learning, including a better understanding of history. Ontario’s cultural heritage sector develops educational products and learning resources in museums and designed around built heritage and cultural landscapes.
As trusted community hubs and centres of knowledge and information, public libraries play an important role in expanding education opportunities and literacy, overcoming the digital divide, supporting lifelong learning, and preparing people for work in the knowledge economy. Participation in library activities has been shown to improve literacy and increase cognitive abilities.
E-learning is on the rise in both academic and professional settings. Games are being used to enhance math, writing, and other academic skills, and to motivate employees. There are over 120 specialized e-learning companies in Ontario.