For those who make and admire artistic works, there is no question of their value. However, for others interested in economic development, the value of the arts is often more tangential, contested and questionable. While the post-modern world of consumption and spectacle suggests to some academics and governments that the arts and cultural industries are the way of the future, others remain sceptical about their social and economic value. This is a theoretical as well as a practical issue this paper explores by offering a reconceptualisation of Pierre Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital as a way of re-assessing the value of the arts. The paper then applies this framework to quantify and qualify the value of the arts in one regional city in Australia – Geelong in Victoria – focusing on the work of two artists. The aim is to describe the interconnected processes by which the arts generate cultural capital in the form of confidence, image, individual well-being, social cohesion and economic viability. The analysis also highlights the ongoing power relations which prescribe artistic production, circulation and valuation. The implications of such a rethinking and application go well beyond one city and region to other places grappling with the relationship between artistic production and urban well being. By focusing on the broad-ranging process by which artistic value is created for individuals, groups, professionals, communities and governments, a model becomes available for other places to use in realising their cultural capital.