Is street art good or bad for you?

  • Liliana HARDING University of East Anglia, Norwich
Keywords: The value of culture, Public art, Well-being, Novelty consumption, Creative economies


Economic growth can occur within a monolithic, grey urban environment, allowing for decaying facades and deteriorating public spaces. Where artists provide a colorful facelift to urban infrastructure, cities learn to channel the creative capacity of street art. The public good aspect thereby becomes significant in street art’s dimension of wide accessibility and going beyond the controversy of graffiti. This paper explores the case for supporting street art, as a driver for innovation in urban economies. We review the influence of cultural goods on the well-being of various demographic groups and explore the learning process in their consumption. The paper evaluates the willingness to pay towards public culture by controlling for conscious and unconscious exposure to street art in the public space. From a set of 970 field-based interviews, cultural goods ultimately emerge as a promotor of public well-being. Education is the strongest individual characteristic linked with the appreciation of public art. The better skilled further increase their support for potentially controversial cultural goods when works of street art are explicitly presented. A ‘skilled consumption’ emerges for such novel public goods, with further potential for increasing public tolerance through ongoing exposure to art in the urban environment. Finally, as the value of public art amongst the active population is primarily linked to its potential to drive creativity, we will reframe it as a promotor of dynamic local economies, going beyond individual preferences and well-being.

Author Biography

Liliana HARDING, University of East Anglia, Norwich

School of Economics, Associate Professor, PhD.


Arrow, K., R. Solow, P. Portnoy, E. Leamer, R. Radner, and H. Schuman. (1993) ‘Report of the NOAA Panel on Contingent Valuation.’ Federal Register 58, 4601-4614. Available at:
Ateca-Amestoy, V., Gerstenblüth, M., Mussio, I., & Rossi, M. (2014). ‘How do Cultural Activities Influence Happiness? The Relation Between Self-Reported Well-Being and Leisure.’ Department of Economics Working Papers, dECON 06/14. Available at:
Bianchi, M. (2002).’ Novelty, preferences, and fashion: when goods are unsettling.’ Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 47(1), 1-18.
Brooks, A. (2008). ‘The Public Value of Controversial Art. The Case of the Sensation Exhibition’ In M. Hutter & C. D. Throsby (eds). Beyond price: value in culture, economics, and the arts (Murphy Institute studies in political economy). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 270-282.
Bryson, A., & MacKerron, G. (2016). ‘Are You Happy While You Work?’ The Economic Journal, January, doi:10.1111/ecoj.12269.
Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). ‘Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being’. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29(1), 94–122.
European Commission (2013). ‘Cultural access and participation’. Special Eurobarometer 399. Accessible at:
Florida, R. (2012). The rise of the creative class: revisited. New York: Basic Books
Frey, B. (2003). Arts & Economics. Analysis & Cultural Policy. 2nd ed. Springer-Verlag: Berlin, Heidelberg.
Perloff, H. S. (1979). ‘Using the arts to improve life in the city’. Journal of Cultural Economics, 3(2), 1-21
Rushton, M. (2000). ‘Public Funding of Controversial Art’. Journal of Cultural Economics, 24(4), 267-282.
Visconti, L. M., Sherry Jr, J. F., Borghini, S., & Anderson, L. (2010). ‘Street Art, Sweet Art? Reclaiming the "Public" in Public Place.’ Journal of Consumer Research, 37(3), 511-529.
Scitovsky, T. (1976) The joyless economy: an inquiry into human satisfaction and consumer dissatisfaction. New York, London (etc.): Oxford University Press.
Throsby, C. D. (2001). Economics and culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Throsby CD, Withers GA. (1986). ‘Strategic bias and demand for public goods. Theory and an application to the arts’. Journal of Public Economics 31:307-27.
Wheatley, D., & Bickerton, C. (2016). ‘Subjective well-being and engagement in arts, culture and sport’. Journal of Cultural Economics, 1-23, doi:10.1007/s10824-016-9270-0.
Zukin, S., & Braslow, L. (2011). ‘The life cycle of New York’s creative districts: Reflections on the unanticipated consequences of unplanned cultural zones.’ City, Culture and Society, 2(3), 131-140.
How to Cite
HARDING, L. (2019). Is street art good or bad for you?. Timisoara Journal of Economics and Business, 12(2), 203-226. Retrieved from