Hanna, Gay, Michael Patterson, Judy Rollins and Andrea Sherman. 2011. “The Arts and Human Development: Framing a National Research Agenda for the Arts, Lifelong Learning and Individual Well-Being.” National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, November. https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/TheArtsAndHumanDev.pdf.


This paper is the result of a convening hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The convening showcased new research and evidence-based programs that identified the cognitive, social and behavioral outcomes of arts interventions. In response to calls to address “the whole person” in health and education policies, this paper proposes a framework for long-term collaboration between NEA, HHS and other federal agencies to align the arts with specific human developmental outcomes over a person’s lifespan. The authors provide a comprehensive review of pertinent studies related to the arts and human development, identify gaps in and challenges to existing arts education research and propose a framework to align federal arts policy. The paper emphasizes the importance of using evidence-based strategies to inform collaborative national arts policy efforts.

Key Findings:

Through their examination and summary of arts education research, the authors identified future challenges and opportunities in building a strong evidence base for arts education. The authors propose that three fundamental challenges exist in the arts research field: 1) a lack of coordination in fields that play a role in arts education, 2) the size of the populations studied and 3) low visibility of findings. To address these challenges, the authors suggest the arts research community: 1) establish a federal interagency taskforce to promote the sharing of researcher and information, 2) convene a series of technical workshops to help develop strong research proposals and 3) bring the arts to national and international conversations about integrating the concept of well-being into policy development.

Significance of the Findings:

The paper is significant in that it reviews research connecting arts and arts education with lifelong cognitive and behavior development, while providing a framework for policymakers and a broad research community to collaborate. Based on their review of research, the authors provide policymakers and the broad arts education field with a series of recommendations and opportunities to bring quality arts research to develop greater arts integration.


The paper reviews research presented at a 2011 convening hosted by the NEA in partnership with HHS, as well as research presented elsewhere. Research spans three distinct sections of a learner’s lifespan: early childhood, youth and adolescence, and older adults. Papers were reviewed individually to highlight outcomes and collectively to identify research gaps.

Limitations of the Research:

While the review of research is comprehensive, the authors do not address research pertaining to young adults and adults. The two groups serve as significant populations that could be impacted by the arts.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Can coordination between federal agencies, including the creating of common policy goals and interagency strategies, promote effective outcomes and efficient use of resources?