Millennium Dreams: Arts, Culture, and Heritage in the Life of Communities
This initiative clearly demonstrates "the broad range of activities, both amateur and professional, that come under the rubric of culture; the social and economic value of culture to the life of communities; the intrinsic value of culture to individuals; and finally the understanding, on the part of citizens, that cultural activities constitute an important inheritance for generations to come. “
Jeannotte, M. S. (2006). Millennium Dreams: Arts, Culture, and Heritage in the Life of Communities. Canadian Journal of Communication, 31(1), 107-125.
Our Millennium was a special project of the Community Foundations of Canada to mark the new century. It used the occasion of the millennium to invite Canadians to make lasting “gifts” to their communities to make them better places. An assessment of the Our Millennium initiative noted the disproportionate number of projects that featured various aspects of arts, culture, and heritage. This study examines the linkages between the cultural capital embedded in the communities and the social capital that it generated. It investigates the nature of both the projects and the participants in them as well as the major social capital themes that the arts, culture, and heritage projects appeared to be supporting. It also explores the concept of “cultural citizenship,” locating it in the social and physical spaces in which civic engagement takes place.
To what extent is cultural capital linked with the social capital of the community and what role does this play in a community’s economic and social development? - no one clear answer emerges from the analysis of the Our Millennium database. However, the emphasis placed by ethnocultural groups on reinforcing both bridging and bonding ties through their cultural-capital investments does suggest that the links are closer than are generally acknowledged. In a similar vein, the contributors to the Our Millennium database often cited development outcomes - particularly economic development outcomes - as desired objectives when investing in tangible cultural capital. However, time and resource limitations prevented follow-up with even a limited sample of the 1,768 “Arts and Culture” and “Heritage” project organizers to determine whether the stated aims were accomplished.
In drawing the two strands of this analysis together, it is clear that many of the projects registered in the Our Millennium database fall within the four cultural-capital themes derived from a survey of the research literature. This would suggest that the projects’ organizers were motivated by a desire to link cultural-capital investments to one or more types of positive outcomes: personal development, altruistic behaviour, community development, and cultural sustainability. However, on the basis of the information provided in the project descriptions, it was not possible to determine the socioeconomic profiles of the participants in each of the projects, which might provide insight as to what degree class and power (issues that figure so prominently in Bourdieu’s work on cultural capital) were contributory factors in their organization and implementation.
A useful second stage of this research might therefore consist of an evaluation of the outcomes of a sample of the “Arts and Culture” and “Heritage” projects with a view to addressing Mercer’s challenge to map, audit, and assess the cultural resources of communities. Broadly based assessments of the social effects of culture, whether couched in the language of personal development, human development, citizenship, or cultural capital, are essential tools in charting the future course of cultural interventions, and should take advantage of rare resources, such as the Our Millennium database, that provide a relatively unfiltered view of the motivations behind cultural practices and the perceived value of these practices in the life of communities.
In the meantime, what the Our Millennium initiative clearly demonstrates is the broad range of activities, both amateur and professional, that come under the rubric of culture; the social and economic value of culture to the life of communities; the intrinsic value of culture to individuals; and finally the understanding, on the part of citizens, that cultural activities constitute an important inheritance for generations to come.