Is street art good or bad for you?
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.
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