The societal impacts of the arts and culture are a frequent subject for debate in Italy. Given the complex governance of the cultural field in the Country (with the State, Regions, Provinces, Cities contributing often in overlapping, sometimes controversial or even conflicting ways) and the rich texture of the Third Sector, a synthesis is easier if we consider those impacts from the point of view of the various disciplines that express them.
Service-oriented cultural facilities, like public libraries, about 8,000 according to the 2019 official census survey, promote social and cultural projects targeting specific groups, like book workshops and reading groups; animations and courses for children; training courses; assistance or support to the public in writing resumes, as well as filling in forms or doing homework. Many libraries make their spaces and experience available for activities aimed at the cultural growth of citizens and at the enhancement of the territory: guided tours; exhibits; film shows; theatre performances and live music shows; and study and research about the local territory.
Despite their decline in attendance, as compared to the previous decade, cinemas have been often areas of social aggregation and citizen’s mobilisation, as in the case of Cinema America in Rome or the Arci Movie programme in Naples.
Cultural heritage institutions and museums have intensified their efforts to break down barriers and increase their accessibility, both physical and cognitive. In Tuscany, a network of 55 museums, Musei Toscani for Alzheimer’s have adopted a special approach for people with the syndrome and their carers. In general, museums pursue the goal of inclusivity by forging stronger connections with their territory and its actors, addressing new audiences, and devising strategies for engaging people with special needs. The Ministry programme towards a National Museum System, launched in 2018, includes the promotion of healthy relationships with the territory and its stakeholders, among the key criteria for admission, in line with the Faro Convention.
In many cities all around the country, projects of street art have contributed to the re-vitalisation of neglected or depressed areas. Often, those interventions are self-funded, thanks to crowdfunding initiatives.
The contribution of cultural heritage and the arts to promoting health and wellbeing and reducing social inequalities – all the more as consequence of the pandemic – is gaining momentum as a distinctive topic across the entire cultural sector, with mobilisation of museums, theatre and dance companies, libraries and individual artists, like musicians and visual artists. The main arguments are active ageing, development of life skills and soft skills in children and teenagers, the inclusion of migrant groups, and enlarging the activities for people with dementia or Parkinson’s, and their careers.
The Italian Third sector is particularly active in bridging the arts and cultural activities with social issues. In Italy, about 220,000 non-profit organizations, out of nearly 340,000, provide cultural, entertainment and sports services, and about 65% work in the field of the arts and culture for promoting and protecting civil rights (13%), support and assistance to vulnerable people or people facing difficulties (25%), and care of common goods (15%).
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