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“The arts need to be understood as being critical ingredients in the contemporary identity of communities; an essential element of what makes a place attract and retain investment, talent and trade.”

Why Art Works, North by Northwest

“The arts need to be understood as being critical ingredients in the contemporary identity of communities; an essential element of what makes a place attract and retain investment, talent and trade.” Why Art Works, North by Northwest

In their summary report on the value of contemporary arts to Lancashire and Cumbria , North by Northwest argue that artists bring valuable perspectives and approaches to social and economic development.  They outline ten distinct benefits the arts can achieve and categorise them into three thematic areas: Engaging and Connecting Communities, Placemaking and Economic Value.

The first three benefits in the reports model fall under the theme of ‘Placemaking’, in the context of the campaign to save Moseley Road Baths, it’s evident that the arts played a role in ‘Placemaking’ in the following ways;

1. Creating better communities to live in
‘Arts and culture that is rooted in the community can support efforts to bring people together, creating greater cohesion and encouraging more active citizenship and civic pride.’

The friends of Moseley Road Baths talked about numerous arts activities that took place during the 15 years of the campaign, this created a cascade effect, by where once one artistic project had taken place, more local artists felt able to approach the baths and the Friends with projects, in turn this generated more momentum and engagement with the campaign.

2. Changing the way places look & 3. Changing perceptions of places

‘Contemporary art can have a profound impact on the visual identity of different communities. Contemporary artists engaged in community development make for more distinctive, creative, interesting, and beautiful places.’

Whilst artists have not changed the way the building or Balsall heath looks during the campaign, numerous projects have created subtle and not so subtle interventions in the interior spaces and exterior of the building, changing the way people, experience the baths and the nature of the building.

In a survey of baths users over 50% indicated that experiencing arts activity at the baths changed their perceptions of the space.