Arts Engagement with Sustainable Communities: Informing New Governance Styles for Sustainable Futures


  • Meg O'Shea University of British Columbia



In established processes of governance and related literature, arts and culture have been largely neglected, but work is currently being produced suggesting the importance of arts and culture to processes of good governance and the sustainability transition. A style of governance that fully integrates cultural considerations and understands cultural implications of policy is desirable to address the integrated aims of sustainability and to guide the transition to a sustainable future. The impact of arts and culture on communities and social perceptions is difficult to assess and to anticipate; similarly, the influence of culture on governance and policy is equally difficult to measure, though culture permeates every aspect of social and political life. This article suggests that taking cues from the processes of arts and culture to inform new styles of governance supports an open, adaptive, participatory, and creative governance model that responds to a diversity of voices and alternative modes of communication. It argues that a governance style that integrates cultural knowledge is better able to build equity across present and future generations, and is better suited to support a sustainable future. Empirical examples of arts engagement with two communities practicing sustainable behaviours demonstrate the power of arts and culture to build social capital and to potentially contribute to an inclusive and innovative style of governance.