Earlier this month, the City of Naperville released findings from its 2023 National Community Survey, a tool that captured resident satisfaction scores and measured the “livability” (defined as something that is not only “habitable but also desirable”) of the city.
All Naperville residents were eligible to participate and evaluate ten central facets of the municipality, including economy, safety, and health and wellness. The survey revealed that at least 95% of the respondents enjoyed “an exceptional quality of life,” placing Naperville well above the national benchmarks.
This columnist quickly searched for the survey’s data on education, arts, and culture, hoping to find evidence for what I believe to be true. The comparative resident opinion reflected a rating of 94% and landed Naperville in fifth place among 304 other communities. The category was segmented further and indicated positive ratings for opportunities to attend cultural/arts/music activities (88%) and the availability of special events and festivals (87%).
These statistics indicate the number of local arts offerings is robust. During the last calendar year, crews from Naperville’s Department of Public Works assisted in the execution of 90 special events, including the Last Fling, the Memorial Day Parade, and the Riverwalk Fine Art Fair. Additionally, organizations like North Central College Fine and Performing Arts, DuPage Children’s Museum and Naper Settlement hosted a multitude of experiences, including theatrical performances, outdoor concerts, exhibitions, and festivals.
Community support for the arts received an 83% rating, which rose well above national comparisons. The score potentially was fueled by Naperville’s SECA (Special Events and Community Art) program, a granting source that doled out $1.04 million to 50 nonprofits and funded events, parades, and new initiatives that brought enthusiasm to Naperville in the current year.
Not surprisingly, Naperville Public Library (NPL) garnered a 98% rating and ranked #3 out of 317 regions surveyed. With three locations spanning the city, NPL is home to an array of resources, technology, and digital media. It also offers a full slate of in-person educational and entertaining offerings for all ages and all interests.
While some view the arts as accessories that add comfort and amusement, others see them as vital components of a vibrant community. The survey states, “Participation in the arts, in educational opportunities, and in cultural activities is linked to increased civic engagement, greater social tolerance, and enhanced enjoyment” of the locality. And they do more.
The arts also touch upon many of the other facets cited in the study: they are strong economic drivers that generate valuable revenue, add interest to the natural environment, and play a role in the health and well-being of the residents. Creative expression, used to promote diversity and inclusivity, gives volume to marginalized voices and encourages understanding and acceptance. While we may not need a survey to tell us we love the arts, we now have proof that the powerful benefits they spawn impact our level of satisfaction and our lives in myriad ways.