The Role of Art in Society

The Role of Art in Society

Fostering Creativity, Diversity and Cohesion


We envisage a society that actively engages the arts as a constructive influence and vehicle to communicate its values, while embracing a diverse and pluralistic world.

We look for ways to stimulate capacities for and activity in research, thought, teaching, dialogue, innovative performance and exhibition addressing the role of the arts, in their multiple forms and combinations, within and between communities.

Scope and Agenda

These endeavors are founded on the conviction that the arts influence both individuals and communities in deliberate and inadvertent ways. Artistic expression is a universal fact of human life, but its content, uses and influences are of a changing character over time and between societies.

The arts do not shape events – the arts shape man – man shapes events. The influences of the arts are seen on individuals and in societies through:

  • learning and the fostering of creativity and innovation;
  • experiencing diversity and its enrichment, encouraging tolerance and pluralism;
  • shared experience of the arts as a search for beauty, expression of emotion and reflection of our common pursuit of a meaningful and satisfying life; and
  • communication of values that influence political, policy and social choices, including, potentially, cohesiveness.

Through these dynamics, the arts can help to contribute to:

  • a constructive national identity and pride;
  • addressing cross-cultural and social differences through dialogue, impactful symbolism and shared experience, instead of confrontation and conflict; it can enrich societies through diversity;
  • reconciliation of contemporary or historically-rooted hostilities through shared memory and the revealing of common fundamental goals;
  • balance between individualism, community and representational roles of the arts, interests in free expression and social responsibility in service of a healthy human society; and
  • the use of the arts and leadership of iconic institutions to draw attention to select social issues for constructive policy response.

At the same time, attention should be given to historic facts and contemporary risks of the arts fueling anti-social views, divisiveness and conflict. History tells us we need to remain alert to the arts encouraging a belief in an ethno-cultural and nationalistic superiority, or promoting of anti-social sentiments.

There is much of importance to be explored about the constructive potential and the risks of exploitative use of the arts - all of which suggest a significant agenda:

  • the characteristics and capacities of the arts to bridge divides;
  • the implications of their adaptations to the changing conditions;
  • the range of visions for conceptualizing or managing co-existence amidst cultural differences from multi-culturalism, to assimilation, to nativist separation;
  • their societal interpretation or usage as an instrument of national identity and constructive pride compatible with, if not supportive of, pluralism or of nationalistic separation and even sentiment of superiority;
  • the resulting consequences for social cohesion, both local/domestic and international of the different dynamics of the arts in society; and
  • consideration of societal and geopolitical challenges and risks to which the arts might draw attention and assist with constructive solutions.

We are continuing to work with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, with which we organized a significant Symposium on the arts in reconciliation and dialogue across differences.

This program is a collaboration with
the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Related Pages

The arts do not shape events
The arts shape man
Man shapes events