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It's an exciting month for us. Over the past year, we have been preparing the ground for a series of conversations tackling attitudes to research and arts policy-making. The NCFA Colloquia, or conversations, have been devised to create some room for art makers, policy-makers and researchers, to meet, air opposing views, revisit common causes, actively imagine different ways of co-operating and break the mould. Ultimately, we want action, so new channels of communication matter more than ever.
Two weeks ago we announced the NCFA Colloquia, a series of four thematic conversations, organized around the main campaign objectives of the NCFA. To mark the occasion, we published our NCFA Strategy on Research and its companion paper, the NCFA Position on Research.
The aim of the NCFA Colloquia is to challenge and change how we think and speak about the arts and policy-making. As a framework, each of the four conversations is organized around one of the main NCFA campaign objectives about public engagement, evidence building, the value of the arts and education.
Tara Byrne, Curator of the NCFA Colloquia, has written a discussion paper that is now available in order to kick-start the debate in advance. What level of understanding do we really share about the nature and purpose of public engagement, evidence building, the value of the arts and education? What does 'better' research mean?
The first of the NCFA Colloquia will take place on the afternoon of Wednesday 15 May in the National Concert Hall. The guest speaker is Professor Elizabeth B. Silva. Pat Cooke will respond by reflecting on her remarks and the local context. A 'world café' style format will follow so that smaller sized groups can tackle specific questions and 'provocations' linked to the theme of the first colloquy: the question of public engagement.
Full details here.
You are warmly invited, the event is free, but booking is essential as seats are very limited and given on a 'first come first served' basis.
If you'd like to attend, please email email@example.com by 5pm Friday 10th May.
So you do know your arts ...
Thanks to all of you who came along and supported our first 'WTF' table quiz. It was a great night - much fun was had and we raised some much-needed funds too. The total raised was just shy of €3000. This money goes directly into our pre-budget campaign fund. If you'd like to organise a similar event in your area please contact us and we can give you 'how to' guidelines.
And finally ...
Thanks as always to all those who support us through giving of their time, money or talent. We are always looking for more such volunteers. If you are interested in helping out or donating please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In turn, if we can help you with lobbying or promoting the value of the arts, do contact us.
With best wishes,
The Steering Committee:
Tania Banotti, Mark Brennock, Valerie Connor, Loughlin Deegan, Vincent Dempsey, Gerard Howlin, Fiach Mac Conghail, Niamh O'Donnell, Mags Walsh.
A Discussion Paper on the Four Founding Campaign Objectives of the NCFA.
By Tara Byrne.
This discussion paper is published in advance of a series four conversations that the NCFA has invited me to curate in 2013. The NCFA Colloquia will challenge the current state of the relationship between arts and arts policy.
To put this discussion paper in context, it is structured into four parts that have been organised directly in response to the four founding objectives of the NCFA, which are:
1 To work to ensure that everyone in Ireland can experience and participate in the arts.
2 To work with others to build an evidence-base that will inform policy and allow the arts to innovate and reach a wider audience.
3 To capture more fully the value of the arts in Ireland, working hand in hand with the arts sector, artists, the public, and Government.
4 To build a deeper understanding of the mutual values of the arts and education and seek achievable means to embed the arts in education working closely with educational partners.
In commissioning this paper, the NCFA has asked me to adopt a fully independent position and the following essay is therefore intended as a personal response to these founding objectives. Specifically, the paper reflects on a number of inter-related concepts raised by the objectives, touching on core questions and issues of cultural policy. For example, concepts, issues and questions raised by these objectives include: the question of the public and the arts (definitions, interactions, perceptions, understandings, contexts, expectations etc); the concept and question of evidence and evidence-building (normative views, understandings, imperatives, agendas, impacts, policy cycles, ideology, advocacy); the possibility of establishing shared values, collective intentions, or understandings across the arts (languages, honesty, value systems, legitimacy); and finally, the question of education (imperatives, pressures and expectations).
These interpretations form the basis for this short discussion paper and aim to stimulate debate, rather than address more pragmatic or administrative aspects of policy. They are therefore intended to inform the colloquia and to generate discussion, but not presage the individual contributions of the speakers at each colloquy. Equally, this paper does not intend to ‘prove’ or provide ‘evidence’, rather it takes a wider view of interpreting, analysing and provoking questions around key issues impacting on these very pertinent (if recurring) questions. The term cultural policy rather than arts policy is largely used here to denote the wider domain of cultural policy, unless referencing specific ‘arts’ policies. In order to start this paper however, a consideration of the public is needed.
From the outset, the question of engaging the public in a ‘deeper conversation’ about the arts raises a number of issues, starting with the concept of the public itself. The question of the public and policy (whose etymology derives from the origin of ‘public’ via the Greek Polis), as synonymous concepts, is without doubt the core question of, and issue for, all public policy. What is ‘public’ therefore, how public are our arts policies, and are arts policies made for the public or should they be made by the public?
Within a policy context, “the public” and the “public interest” have historically been conceived of as a wholly identifiable, singular and knowable entity, rather than a fragmented and contested construct (Parsons, 1995, p171). While this makes things easier for policy makers, other views of the public contend that there are many publics and counter publics, not least of which divide along the lines of those that are interested in the arts and those that are uninterested in the arts. This gives rise to questions of which public (as well as ‘public goods’ and ‘public interest’) is being served and how any one policy can represent all publics (a particularly political question for specifically cultural policies). The public, therefore, in cultural, as in all public policy, is a loaded term.
However, there are other more specific issues with the term public within cultural policy, these are: its (cultural policy’s) historic associations with elitism and serving of certain cultural publics (via ‘high culture’ and ‘arts policy’ interpretations of’ cultural policy’); awkward issues raised by participation studies (underlining class-based consumption, cultural capital, taste and the role of education); historical questions of the success of access and participation policies (and compatibility issues with concepts of ‘access’ and ‘excellence’); the low status of cultural ministries in government (Gray, 2010); enduring difficulties with democracy in cultural policies (apropos of the prevalence of technical or expert decision-making committees in the arts); questions around whether the focus of cultural policy should be artists or the public (Quinn,1998,p 126); and as above, which public is being referred to and where do non-participating publics fit in?
The concept of ‘the public’ therefore, albeit complex, is the “starting point” for any discussion of governance or public policy.As a result, the question of engaging the public in a ‘deeper conversation’ about the arts (draft NCFA strategy document), suggests a number of things: that we know the public, that the public are already in a conversation about the arts, and/or that the public should be in a conversation about the arts. What are the grounds on which we base these evangelical questions, espousing the transformational, social and economic capacities of the arts? What kind of conversation is needed, to what aim is it directed (understanding, engagement, funding), and why should a conversation take place? There is also the question of who is understood as part of this ‘conversation’, the cultural sector, the outside public, and/or the Department? What values inform the suggestion as to why this conversation should take place at all, other than the traditional premise that culture is “good for you” (Belfiore and Bennett, 2006, p 33).
In ascertaining the thorny question of what conversation, if any, is taking place in relation to the public and the arts, while it may not be possible to conclusively or empirically answer this question, it is interesting to consider a number of indicative factors, beginning with the nature of research. Reports on public involvement in the arts are routinely disappointing (from a quantitative view) when compared with participation in the wider creative industries, and are often criticised as inherently problematic in terms of how they are conducted and what methods and samples are used as the basis for the research (Reeves, 2002; Markusen and Gadwa, 2010). Questions are particularly raised in relation to the independence (from the research) of those advocating bodies commissioning the surveys, despite both the lack of interest in conducting arts research outside of the arts sector and the perpetual imperatives behind research in the first place (often linked to funding and survival). This creates a ‘catch 22’ situation of sorts, whereby arts organisations are damned if they do conduct research (are the reports reliable?) and damned if they don’t (they may not survive if they don’t). What does this mean for how these surveys are perceived and received, how trusted are they and how can the cultural sector avoid this methodological trap?
Other more specific factors point to how the arts are publicly and politically positioned in Ireland. From a ministerial point of view, statements from Ireland’s cultural policies seem to reflect the view that culture is good for societies and important to national economies and identities (“our strong cultural identity” holds “a distinct and intrinsic value”…”known the world over”). Equally, the theme of the arts as a national reputational enhancer or emollient are also key, demonstrated in calls for the arts to “repair the damage” done to Ireland’s reputation by the recent economic downturn. These supportive views are also demonstrated in Ministers’ claims of “Ireland's reputation as a cradle for the arts” (O' Donoghue, 2005, n.p.), statements that culture and creativity are “at the core of our status, our well-being as a society and our success as a nation” (Brennan, 2008, n.p.), that Ireland is where “creativity is seen as a crucial bedrock” (Minister for Arts Sport and Tourism, 2009, n.p.) and, descriptions of culture as the “primary driver of Ireland’s global attractiveness as a centre of creativity and innovation and as a destination for tourism and business” (Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, 2008c, p. 10). Notwithstanding whether these statements align with certain cultural value systems over others, these benign narratives of rebuilding brand Ireland, restoring its success, and salvaging its lost international reputation, which are by no means unique to Ireland, give the impression that culture and the arts are highly valued here. Equally, industrial references to the importance of culture and creativity (via the Smart Economy and Innovation Island initiatives), the impassioned invoking of culture at Ireland’s economic forums (Farmleigh), and Ireland’s international reputation for culture, suggest a highly mobilised state approach to supporting the culture sector.
However, though all policies are strategic, these uses for the arts raise questions as to the dominance of what might be perceived as non-arts outcomes proffered in arts policies (as above), if compared with for example, health outcomes in relation to health policies or economic outcomes in relation to economic policies, as well as the balance of types of outcomes and value-systems in policies. Equally, given that cultural policy in Ireland has been described as marked by “benign neglect” (Howlin, 2013, n.p.), it may not come as a surprise that the perception of the culture/arts ministry in government, and by the media, is highly problematic. This refers to broadsheet descriptions detailing how the career path of a new culture minister was cast in “a negative light”, represented a “poisoned chalice”, “ the end of the political road” and was the “last step before departure from Cabinet” (Bacik, 2008,n.p.) a number of years back.
More recently, another Minister’s reaction to her appointment was so negative that it was described as like a “nasty disease” (O’Toole, 2010, n.p,) and widely interpreted as “a demotion” (O’Toole, 2010, n.p.; Stokes, 2010, n.p.). This response is also borne out by the downward career trajectory of six (former) arts and culture Ministers following their departure (none was awarded another ministry and three resigned from politics). Frequent changes in the names of arts or cultural ministries (comprising of combinations of Arts and Culture, Heritage, the Gaeltacht, the Islands, as well as Sport and Tourism), may also indicate an equivocation in relation to ‘culture’ if not the arts. Additionally, recent accusations of a degree of state cynicism in relation to the honesty of intentions behind the broadly cultural/tourism event of ‘The Gathering’ by (ironically) by cultural ambassador Gabriel Byrne, indicates a lack of consensus as to how governments manage and package major cultural events.
Equally, other factors indicate a certain stasis in relation to both research and the quality of public debate on the arts in Ireland. These are: that there has been little significant investment in research at cultural policy level here (if compared with other similar size countries); newspaper reports typically ignore or polarise accounts of the arts as wholly positive (usually naive narratives of how the arts has transformed something/someone or made it/them more beautiful), or wholly negative (usually damning wastes of tax-payer’s money); there is a paucity of public platforms or debates on the arts in Ireland, and of course, the negative means-ends discourses surrounding funding decisions in relation to cultural institutions (such as the McCarthy report). Cumulatively, these can be argued as pointing to a lack of sophistication in wider public sphere arts conversations.
In considering the nature of public discussion on, or engagement with, the arts in Ireland therefore, these factors (lower than wished for attendance figures, negative perception and changes in the name of the cultural ministry, lack of research, media dismissals) are unsettling. As such, the concept of negativity or worse – apathy – might be relevant to how the arts are perceived by the vast majority in Ireland. In the wake of the international financial crisis, and Ireland’s response to its new financial position, apathy is a word that this country can wholeheartedly relate to, repeatedly voting in the same parties, and apparently alien to the culture of protest, made all the more salient by putative acquiescence to repeated state and religious scandals and more recently, banking accountability. The question of whether there is political apathy (via the ministry) towards the arts is also a legitimate one, particularly given the response to ministerial appointments outlined above, the low status of arts or cultural ministries in governments and the career aspirations of politicians. One of the key questions here is whether political apathy reflects public apathy (or vice versa), or is apathy reflexive?
Before leaving a consideration of arts/cultural ministries or departments however, particularly in relation to their status in government and the impact this has on public perceptions of the arts, their negotiating situation in government needs to be mentioned. One of the key roles of arts ministries (as all ministries) and policy, is to elicit trust and support from the wider sector, a difficult endeavour given the sometimes fraught relationship between the stakeholders of arts policy and thus policy research, suggested to be the ministry, the practitioner and the public (Holden, 2006). However, this triangle of stakeholders misses out on one other key stakeholder, the wider government. In negotiating the making of policy and securing of central arts budgets, wider government or more powerful ministries (ie the finance ministry) ‘buy-in’ to budgets and policies are critical to the success or efficacy of arts ministries, indicating the often unacknowledged chain of persuasion and pressure that works both up and down the stakeholder network. This was illustrated recently in comments from Britain’s culture secretary, Maria Miller. In addition to Miller asserting that in order to “fight the corner” for culture as a “commodity” the ministry’s focus “must be on culture’s economic impact” , she also referred to the critical need to generate trust and support or “traction” from her government “colleagues” (Higgins, 2013, n.p.). This demonstrates the range of pressures working from within government beyond that of the culture or arts ministry itself, and suggests that in considering public engagement and perceptions of the arts, those that are not necessarily engaged or interested in the arts are also represented in central and non arts policy departments (as well as politicians).
From these indicators, what is to be gleaned about the current state of the arts “conversation” in Ireland in particular? What can be said of who constitutes the public, and how they are, or can be engaged with the arts (as defined in the Arts Act)? In addition, what is and what can be the arts community’s response to reports on arts attendances, particularly as it compares to the much greater non-subsidised cultural and creative industries (notwithstanding the trickle-down effect of arts subsidy)? What do low arts attendance figures say about the nature and rationale of public subsidy? (i.e. unpopularity = subsidy), and how do we feel about the way the arts is defined in Ireland (in a ‘high culture’ sense), in the context of the belated but growing policy interest in the creative industries here? What impact will the new policy area of the creative industries have on arts policy, and who might manage it, is it a future ally or rival for arts policy in Ireland? And finally, what are the implications of the economically inflected and repeated uses of ‘creative’, ‘creativity’, ‘innovation’ and ‘entrepreneurialism’ in cultural discourses (via academies, courses and reports)?
Many of these questions represent key areas of research and ‘evidence’ for those in cultural or arts policy, most particularly in relation to public participation rates and practices (The Arts Council of Ireland, 2006). These reports and evidences are typically used to help argue for changes in policies, financing, or simply increase understanding about the sector we work in. The concept and use of ‘evidence’ within cultural policy therefore, is far from straightforward and will be considered next.
Keywords: ideology, disinterest, discourse and power, state and longevity, civil servants.
“[…] the exercise of power and the desire of policy makers for the maintenance and enhancement of the prevailing order and of their own status within it can short-circuit the thorough use of the available evidence.” (Stevens, 2011).
As suggested above, though evidence in a cultural policy context can be applied to any number of interests or purposes, it has been predominantly used in relation to quantifiable activity, specifically the economies of culture, social inclusion, as well as audience attendances and participation rates. The origins of normative evidence-creation in culture and the arts, essentially reflects a series of management ‘turns’ that informed policy ‘reforms’ in the financially constrained contexts of the late 1980s and early 1990s, predominantly in the UK, but also in Ireland. These new functions for arts and cultural policies highlighted the managerial imperative behind (and pressures on) arts and culture sectors to behave like other policy sectors in justifying themselves and becoming more accountable, as well as attempting to gain greater traction within governments. Terms such as ‘evidence’ have therefore become commonplace and are consistent with management terms such as ‘investment’ and ‘return’, purportedly empowering the culture sector as professional and enterprising rather than supplicant and disempowered sectors.
As a result, the emphasis on evidence has a strong claim to neutrality and independence and appears to offer a democratic, meritocratic and importantly, convincing mechanism of persuasion (within government). As suggested above, evidence also tactically aligns cultural policy with other policy sectors, framing it as a sector responsible and accountable to the public in the same way as any other. Equally, evidence provides a comfort factor for those making policy, because they can point to it as a rational driving factor behind decisions, creating distance between civil servants/politicians, the focus of policies and decisions. Within the scope of what we mean by evidence however, are ‘good’ evidences and ‘bad’ evidences, which are worth clarifying here. Evidence-based policy, apparently driven by ‘hard’ data, rather than ideological or political imperatives, is generally held up as best practice by all sectors. This is particularly so when compared with advocacy and less quantitative, empirical or ‘scientific’ reports, the views of experts, and the pejoratively framed concept of policy-based evidence or research.
In contrast, policy-based evidence is evidence that is viewed as dependent rather than independent of political agenda and therefore explicitly (rather than implicitly) hegemonic, as well as ‘unscientific’. Not surprisingly, this kind of evidence is decried in cultural policy circles and scholarship, on the basis that it follows the politics (and potentially money) rather than the objective evidences. However, policy-based evidence is a tactical reality acknowledged by policy makers (Finnish Ministry of Education, 2009c, p 9), and though apparently bad practice, is not necessarily more ideologically led than its counterpart, evidence-based policy. Evidence-based policy can be viewed as ideological or at least flawed on the basis of one department, politician, civil servant or agency being responsible for the decision that evidence of something is needed, pointing to an agenda or policy they wish to pursue (one of the main problems in relation to arts sector commissioning evidence in the first place).
However, evidence in cultural polices has typically represented quantitative or economic evidence and has become part of the widespread conversation about positive and negative ‘instrumentalism’ (or using culture as an instrument to achieve something non-cultural), suggesting the perception of good or bad uses for culture. Evidence therefore typically points to the apparently unstoppable framing of cultural benefit or value as singularly economic and social. Though social benefits may appear more laudable, they often refer to social cohesion, forming part of transformative agendas for marginalised typically urban areas, and are ultimately intended to generate economic spin offs from making places more liveable and thus ultimately economic. Equally, these social benefits contrast with internal social benefits, which might be considered artistically instrumental, and are directed at evaluating or auditing the personal experience of and engagement with the arts.
Notwithstanding the methodologies developed to describe other kinds of evidences more concerned with the individual’s encounter with, and the individual impact of, the arts (McCarthy, Ondaatje and Zakaras, 2005), it is unclear whether the status of this kind of (internal or intrinsic) evidence is as high, or as persuasive as other (external or extrinsic) economic or social evidences. The overwhelming emphasis on the latter, together with advocacy-oriented research, can ultimately be seen as indicative of the poor position of cultural ministries and cultural policy’s dependency on, and proximity to, scarce central government funding.
Ultimately in addressing the paucity of research information in a country like Ireland, the question must be asked of what kind of evidence is needed (do we need a balance of evidences), how do we understand and contextualise this evidence (intrinsically or extrinsically), what is the status of long-term (necessarily expensive and therefore rare) versus short term evidences, how do we reconcile questions over the methodologies applied in evidence-gathering (i.e. not taking into account comparative investment in other sectors when evaluating economic evidence), and is there a consensus on the purpose evidence serves and to whom it is directed (the public? the state?). Equally, does ‘better’ evidence (depending on what we mean by this) lead to better policy, given the long cycle of policy-making and the ‘moment-in-time’ evidence on which it is built. In light of arguably under-resourced cultural agencies, does evidence get serious attention and does it actually make any difference to policy? Can evidence lead to a limited interpretation of value and lock relationships into a restrictive expectation/delivery cycle, creating an inextricable relationship between evidence (as well as research) and advocacy (which cannot claim to be neutral or disinterested) (Selwood, 2002, n.p.)? While few would disagree with the view that evidence, or at least documentation, provides information, some would argue that it does not present a conclusive image of what is going on within cultural activity and can be problematic when viewed in isolation from wider contexts of understanding, particularly in relation to its limitations and in relation to other valuations of culture. How to reconcile this view and these issues with democratic and publicly accountable policy needs, is a key question for all cultural policies.
success, and competition.
The question of ‘cultural value’ informs and is key to evidence, whereby value systems can determine what is considered evidence (i.e. social and economic) and what is less so (cultural), particularly in relations to the ‘responsibilities’ of the subsidised arts. Though there are a number of attempts to describe ‘cultural value’, a now common term in UK cultural policy, it often refers to crucial agreements between the tactical needs/values of the politician and the policymaker, the putatively artistic/cultural needs /values of the cultural practitioner and the audience/participant needs/values (suggested to be artistic or at least not economic or social) of the public (Holden, 2006, p59). The term ‘cultural value’ was deliberately constructed in the course of the 2000s to create a legitimising cultural analogy to the concept of ‘public value’ (with its managerial overtones), to garner political traction for cultural ministries, as well as an attempt at creating a shared language for culture, in the hope of establishing a clear mandate for cultural policy. Definitions of public value are legion, but can be considered as involving “contingent” valuation, or the willingness of the public to pay for the service/policy (Frey, 2003, p 20), the capability of the service/policy, and crucially, the legitimacy or trust in the service/policy (Lee et al., 2011, p 290; Keaney, 2006, p 13). Though ‘public value’ is arguably abused or at least over-used in political rhetoric as a persuasive device, it has formed the basis for thinking about cultural value. As such, along with evidence, ‘cultural value’ aims to suggest the democratic nature of why states support culture, and more pragmatically, provide an “acceptable” framework for funding decisions (DCMS, 2010, p5) “commensurable with other calls on the public purse” (DCMS, 2010, p9).
The creation of this term was also intended to hand (back) power to the cultural sector in terms of a shared language to describe value in the arts (and increase trust amongst the stakeholders), a key factor in commissioning ‘evidences’ in the first place. Significantly, attempts to develop more ‘appropriate’ languages to describe culture from a cultural perspective have been noted by British politicians in claims that they have “enough reasons to support culture on its own merits to stop apologising for it by speaking only of it in terms of other agendas” (Jowell 2004, p. 17cited in Gray, 2007, p206), claims from media commentators that “it is almost impossible to defend art honestly” (Jones, 2012,n.p.), statements from policy researchers concerning a “lack of concern with truth”, or to put it more bluntly, the prevalence of “bullshit”in cultural policy (Belfiore, 2008, p 1), and senior arts figures in the UK demanding a “unique language of the arts” (Tusa, 2011, n. p.). Notwithstanding the difficulties in knowing or agreeing key ideological and normative concepts such as “honesty/ly”, the “truth” and “unique”, the message here is clear: that we need to be careful but also sincere in how we frame cultural policy conversations, so that both pragmatic policy contexts, as well as other value systems and languages are taken into account.
With this in mind, it is easy to see how difficult it might be to reach consensus in relation to value and value systems (which are value-laden), particularly when value can simultaneously mean value as both price and priceless (Miller, 2005, p1122). This perhaps neatly sums up the competing mandates of cultural policies to satisfy what might lazily be described as public, cultural (sector) and government needs. In this respect, cultural value as an attempt to reduce the vastly complex concept of the value of culture, through the ambiguity of the term value, may counteractively represent a reductive “bottom-line” approach, failing by its own criteria “as a means to add value” (Miller, 2005, p 1130). However, as policy analyst Sara Selwood has commented, “it is no good trying to relate all the value of arts and culture to monetary valuations, and equally unhelpful to try to justify the arts as some kind of special case, different from all other spending priorities and subject to unique criteria” (Selwood, cited in DCMS, 2010, p 13). Nevertheless, questions remain as to how to reconcile different value systems in cultural policy, and the non-cultural outputs proffered through it, which may somewhat undermine Selwood’s suggestion that the arts are no different to other policy areas.
The suggestion of subjectivity at the heart of many of these questions also raises the perennial question of determinations of ‘excellence’ and ‘quality’ in arts decisions. Subjectivity here should not be interpreted as inexpert, unfounded, unverifiable or lacking in credibility, rather it is an acknowledgment of the extent to which, ultimately, individual judgment is brought to bear in arts decisions, based on the necessarily unscientific, amorphous and shifting nature of the arts (as expressions of shifting humanity), even with the formulation of identifiable and tangible criteria. As such (and arguably), determining quality, though a highly rigorous and expert process, while important for accountability purposes and to consider a variety of judgments, always take place in the context of decisions that might always be otherwise. This is not to disavow concepts such as ‘quality’, but rather to suggest that these concepts are at all times context-laden. This paper will conclude with a consideration of education, a function of government that is arguably at the heart of understandings, participation, and activity in the arts, and in this way links back to the first objective, public engagement.
Few would argue that education is central to the putative ‘health’ (or active participation) of the arts, given the key role played by education in affirming and forming cultural tastes and experiences (Bennett and Silva 2006). Equally, if the arts are valued in societies, as the font of formative experiences, education must be key to subsequent adult arts participation. Indeed, just as education is a UN human right, initiatives like Agenda 21, promoting the “coordination between cultural and education policies” and ‘Cultural Rights’, implicitly place education and access as central cultural rights and key to issues of sustainability. From an Irish perspective, after significant work over many years, recent inroads (December, 2012) into this agenda has been achieved in the form of a “practical” Charter for education. This charter has been developed between the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Arts Council and educational authorities.  While it remains to be seen how the charter achieves greater arts or cultural participation, and crucially, how it impacts on residual claims of elitism in the arts (Bonnar Keenleyside, 2000), the suggestion of an implicit ‘contract’ between the funded (whether artist or arts organisation) and the state, raises questions of whether all artists are inherently educators and / or whether contracts can be fulfilled by the simple production of publically available culture.
However, there are other issues pertinent to considering education and culture together. Many countries have used the ‘soft’ power of education with culture as a means to self-determination and identity formation. This reflexive use of education and culture acknowledges the inherently educational ethos of the arts and cultural ethos of education, as collective generators of meaning, knowledge skill, as well as modes of communication. As such, education and arts discourses are often interchangeable in terms of their posited role in societies: invoking concepts of citizenship, democracy, civil society, agency, identity, and latterly, the economy. The similarities between education and culture therefore, results in both a shared set of values and imperatives, but also pressures to deliver creative workers and in particular, economies and a labour pool. Educationally, this is the case at both primary and secondary school levels, as suggested in cultural policy discourses of the importance of creativity in education for generating labour market skills, but also third and fourth level, where students are closer to entering the world of work.
To illustrate these parallels, recent UK discussions of the role of education in government are notable. As a key feature of human capital theory and the knowledge society (a key industrial agenda in Ireland through the Innovation Task Force and Smart Economy agendas), both concerned with the creation of value through highly skilled and educated workers, the question of the purpose of education and education policy within society, whether that be serving the market, positing the individual learner as an employee/entrepreneur in development, or positing education as a wider space for questioning and considering important issues, can be seen to reflect key problematics of arts and cultural policy. As in cultural or arts policies, the knowledge economy has come to dominate education discourse, with the UK positing universities as at the “center of the knowledge economy”, and Ireland, the “third side of the iron triangle of government and industry”, and “an essential component in the new labour market system” (Kenny et al., 2009, p28, p29). Also like culture, as part of the economisation of education, universities are claimed to “function more like cost-cutting retailers” “competing on price” in order to “equip’ ‘young’ people to get jobs” and to “contribute to ‘growth’”, rather than represent places of learning (Collini, 2012, pp, 2- 4).
Equally, the question of what education is ‘for’ resonates with questions of what culture is ‘for’; it implies a familiar ‘means-end’ rationalism, and the attribution of non-educational outputs to education policy, mirroring the non-cultural outputs posited for cultural policies referred to above. Like cultural institutions, the pressures on universities to fulfil “admirable” civic and social goals (through discrete approaches rather than long term outcomes) have been claimed as undermining the open enquiry they are primarily intended to serve (Collini, 2012, pp, 2- 4.). Similarly, universities are asked to consider students as a means to generate money or investment, using the most efficient or fewest resources, rather than inculcating understanding in those students, arguably its core function. Also, by positing education as a consumer or service-provider, its status as a ‘public good’ is effectively undermined. In this context, the claim that “what lies at the heart of a university is closer to the nature of a museum or gallery than is usually allowed” or that “universities would be comfortable with” (Collini, 2010, pp 2- 4), is instructive for what it reveals about the similarities of both sectors, but also attitudes to cultural institutions. Thus, though some might view difficulties with education and culture’s relationship with the market as elitist, these demands disavow both the knowable and unknowable, wider and longer-term benefits to societies that are arguably (until we have good enough evidence) incrementally accrued from both education and culture.
However, while there are obvious mutualities between education and culture, and while these similarities suggest a natural alignment, caution needs to be applied in considering the two together. This refers to the power plays between the two sectors, where arguably, education, being more tightly aligned to the economy, has a greater role within governments, and unequivocally so if considered in relation to financing. Education is typically cast as the back bone of a country’s status and critically, economic success, and tends to be more readily, if not “unquestioningly”, accepted as a “public good” than culture or the arts (Holden, 2007, p 9, p 12). This indicates the senior nature of education in its relationship with culture and is important for how collaboration might or should take place. One of the key questions to be asked therefore in relation to both education and culture is how to make sure that the arts or creativity does not become solely an economic instrument within educational systems.
This paper has considered questions of the public and public engagement, querying how we understand these terms, the nature, value and agendas behind evidence-creation, the possibility of a shared cultural value system amongst cultural stakeholders and finally, the role of education as core component of arts engagement, but also a political ally. These issues raise tough questions, and like most debates, are prone to ideological contest. While they are not particular to Ireland, in this particular moment when Ireland may have finally reached the mid-point of its current financial devastation, it seems like a good time to critically consider ‘where we are at’, or might be at, in relation to the public, the arts and cultural sector, and the government.
Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon (2006) The Public and the Arts, The Arts Council of Ireland, Dublin.
Bacik, I (2008) Demotion for the Arts sector, Sunday Tribune [online] 11 May. Available: http://www.ivanabacik.com/wpcontent/uploads/file/IvanaBacik_tribune.arts.11may08.pdf [Accessed 17 June 2011].
Belfiore, E (2008) On Bullshit in Cultural Policy Practice and Research, Proceedings of Fifth International Conference on Cultural Policy Research, held at Yeditepe University, Istanbul, 20th - 24th August 2008.
Belfiore, E and Bennett, O (2006) Rethinking the Social Impact of the Arts: A Critical-Historical Review, Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, University of Warwick, Research papers No. 9, Series editors, Oliver Bennett and Jeremy Ahearne.
Bennett, T. & Silva, E. 2006, ‘Cultural Capital and Inequality – Policy Issues and Contexts’, Cultural Trends, 15(2-3), 87-106. Available: http://www.uws.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/185869/Bennett_and_Silva_CulturalTrendsIntro_ICS_Pre-Print_Final.pdf. [Accessed 12April, 2013].
Bonnar Keenlyside (2000) A National Cultural Strategy for Scotland, Report of consultation for the Scottish Executive, Fife.
Brennan, S (2008) Speech for the launch of ‘A Statistical Analysis of Public Involvement in the Arts’ (no pagination), Monday 25 February, Royal College of Physicians, Dublin.
Collini, S (2012) 25 February, The Threat to our Universities, The Guardian, pp 2-4.
Cullen, M, Minister for Arts Sport and Tourism (2009) Budget 2010: Government Consolidates Support for Arts, Sport and Tourism Sector [press release] 9 December 2009 [online] Available: http://www.fiannafail.ie/news/entry/3075/ [Accessed 28 January 2013].
Cultural Trends, 15(2-3): 87-106.
DCMS (2010) Measuring the Value of Culture, a report to the Department for Culture Media and Sport [online]. Available: http://www.culture.gov.uk/publications/7660.aspx [Accessed 21 February 2012].
Finnish Ministry of Education (2009) Creative Economy in the Implementation of the Northern Dimension Policy, Department for Cultural, Sport and Youth Policy, Ministry of Education, Finland, 2009:39 [online]. Available: http://www.minedu.fi/export/sites/default/OPM/Julkaisut/2009/liitteet/opm39.pdf?lang= [Accessed 14 March 2011].
Gray, C (2007) Commodification and Instrumentality in Cultural Policy, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 13(2), 203- 215.
Gray, C (2010a) Are Governmental Cultural Departments Important?: An Empirical Investigation, Proceedings from the Sixth International Conference on Cultural Policy Research, Held at the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, 24-27 August 2010.
Higgins, C (2013) British culture should be seen as commodity, says Maria Miller; argument for funding must be made on economic grounds, culture secretary will say in first speech on arts, The Guardian [online] 24.April. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/24/british-culture-commodity-maria-miller [Accessed 24 April 2013].
Holden, J (2006) Cultural Value and the Crisis of Legitimacy, DEMOS, London.
Holden, J (2007) Publicly Funded Culture and the Creative Industries, Report for Arts Council England.
Howlin, G (2013) 17 February, Think tank: State must stay out of the picture, Censorship is inevitable unless our arts boards remain independent, The Sunday Times.
Jones, J (2012) Save your rhetoric: why can't museums defend art honestly? The Guardian [online] 27 February. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2012/feb/27/save-museums-art-ashmolean- [Accessed 28 February 2012].
Keaney, E (2006) Public Value and the Arts: Literature Review, Arts Council, England.
Kenny, A, Larkin, C, MacSíthigh D, and Thijssen, J (2009) Irish Education Policy for a Globalised World: A Policy for Chasing Black and White Swans, The Swan Group, Dublin, Available: http://www.tara.tcd.ie/handle/2262/35126 [Accessed 6 September 2012].
Lee, D L, Oakley, K, and Naylor, R (2011) The Public Gets What the Public Wants? The Uses and Abuses of ‘Public Value’ in Contemporary British Cultural Policy, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 17(3), 289-300.
Markusen, A and Gadwa, A (2010) Arts and Culture in Urban or Regional Planning: A Review and Research Agenda, Journal of Planning Education and Research, 29(3), 379-391.
McCarthy, K F, Ondaatje, E H and Zakaras, L (2005) Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts, The Rand Corporation Publications, Santa Monica. Available: http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2005/RAND_MG218.pdf [Accessed 22 June 2011.
Miller D. (2005) The Uses of Value, Geoforum 39 (2008) 1122–1132
O’Donoghue, J (2005) O' Donoghue Outlines his Stance on Tax Exemption Scheme, DIT Conference on the Economic and Social Significance of the Performing Arts in the National Gallery of Ireland, 6 October 2005, Dublin.
O’Toole, F (2010) 3 March, Does Mary Hanafin Realise She's the Minister for All We've Got? no pagination, The Irish Times.
Parsons, W (1995) Public Policy: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Policy Analysis, Edward Elgar, UK.
Quinn, R B M (1998) Public Policy and the Arts: A Comparative Study of Great Britain and Ireland, Ashgate Publishing, Hants, UK.
Reeves, M (2002) Measuring the Economic and Social Impact of the Arts, The Arts Council of England.
Selwood, S (2002) Measuring Culture (no pagination), from the symposium Statistics in the Wake of Challenges Posed by Cultural Diversity in a Globalisation Context in Montreal, at the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and l’Observatoire de la culture et des communications de l’Institut de la Statistique du Quebec, 30 December 2002 [online]. Available: http://www.demos.co.uk/files/File/VACUSSelwood.pdf [Accessed 3 July 2012].
Stokes, N (2010) 13 April, The Arts are Crucial to the Economy [online] (no pagination), Hot Press. Available: http://www.hotpress.com/archive/6395101.html [Accessed 18 June 2011].
Tusa, J (2011) Finding a necessary language for the arts. Guardian Professional [online] 16 November. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2011/nov/16/finding-necessary-language-arts [Accessed 23 January 2012].
Text © Tara Byrne & the National Campaign for the Arts, 2013.
 See URL: http://www.globalirishforum.ie/PressRel.aspx?yr=2012, accessed 31st July, 2012.
 The three ministers who resigned were Sile de Valera, Martin Cullen and John O Donoghue. Founding Minister Michael D Higgins (1993 – 1997), on retiring from the ministry following the coalition (Labour, Fine Gael and Progressive Democrats) party loss in the general election of 1997, is the only ex arts/culture Minister to have remained in politics. He became the labour Party spokesperson on Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, was re-elected to Dail Eireann in 2007 and 2011. Sile de Valera, who occupied the ministry from 1997 – 2002, lost her seat in the general elections of 2002, became a Junior Minister and retired from politics in 2005. John O Donoghue (2002 – 2008), was appointed Ceann Comhairle or chairperson of the government, following the elections of 2008, and resigned in 2009. Seamus Brennan died shortly after leaving office, Martin Cullen (2008 – 2010), resigned from his Ministerial office and as a TD in 2010, Mary Hanafin (2010 – 2011), withdrew from public life following losing her seat in the election of 2011.
 There have been seven Ministers (including the current Minister) for the Department since its foundation in 1993, and four who have spent less than a year in office and between 2007 and 2011 ( Seamus Brennan, Martin Cullen, Mary Hanafin and most recently, Jimmy Deenihan).
 This refers to the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes set up in 2008, whose work, when published, became informally known as the McCarthy Report.
 The Second Arts Act of Ireland defines the Arts as: any “creative or interpretative expression (whether traditional or contemporary) in whatever form, and includes, in particular, visual arts, theatre, literature, music, dance, opera, film, circus and architecture, and includes any medium when used for those purposes”. See: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2003/en/act/pub/0024/sec0002.html#sec2 [Accessed 4th April].
 This definition of cultural value reflects economist David Throsby’s account which rests on a balance between economic and cultural or intrinsic value, defining intrinsic value as “aesthetic, spiritual, social, historical, symbolic and authenticity value” as well as “ideas about pricelessness“ (Keaney, 2006, p31) and contrasts with an emphasis on cultural rights (ethics) and sustainability issues (Reeves, 2002, p36-37; Ministry of Education and Culture 2010c).
 See: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/right-to-education/ [Accessed 26th March 2013].
See: http://www.agenda21culture.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=44&I[Accessed 26th March 2013].
 Unesco’s right to culture, or ‘cultural rights’ are “seen as part of civil rights relating to: freedom of expression; right to and responsibility for cultural heritage; right to free practice of art and culture and to creative work; right to protect the intellectual and material benefits accruing from scientific, literary and artistic production; right to participate in cultural life and right to equally accessible and available cultural, library and information and leisure services; right to choose one's own culture; right to the development and protection of culture; respect for culture and its autonomy and for cultural identity. See the Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe. URL: http://www.culturalpolicies.net/web/ethics-human-rights.phpIn, accessed September 15th 2011.
 See: http://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/Arts-In-Education-Charter.pdf[Accessed 26th March 2013].
 Education policy often shares a Ministerial portfolio with culture (i.e. Finland). See also New Zealand, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, URL: http://www.government.nl/ministries/ocw, accessed 5th July, 2012., Austria, Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, URL http://www.culturalpolicies.net/web/austria.php, accessed 5th July, 2012. Netherlands, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, URL http://www.culturalpolicies.net/web/netherlands.php, accessed 5th July, 2012..
The National Campaign for the Arts are pleased to announce the launch of
Conversations about the Arts and Arts Policy
NCFA COLLOQUIA – Conversations about the Arts and Arts Policy was launched on Saturday 13th April 2013 at Exchange Dublin in Temple Bar. The NCFA COLLOQUIA are four structured conversations specially devised to challenge and change how we all think and speak about the arts in general and the funded arts sector in Ireland in particular.
The first of the NCFA COLLOQUIA will be held in the National Concert Hall on 15 May 2013 and will be led by Tara Byrne, independent cultural manager and researcher, who has curated the conversations. Each of the NCFA COLLOQUIA aims for a mix of professionals, academics, makers, producers, curators, directors, advisers, funders and interested parties, with a guest speaker recognised as a leader in their field from a comparable cultural context outside of Ireland; expect robust conversations on issues such as public engagement, evidence building, collective intention and education.
The NCFA COLLOQUIA series have come about in response to the lack of adequate substantive and rigorous research on the arts and cultural activity in Ireland. The aim of these four conversations is to promote a case for research that will redress this deficit of knowledge. It is our intention to involve policy makers and funding institutions who will take on board insights that emerge as they shape the sector into the future.
To mark the launch of the NCFA COLLOQUIA, we have published the NCFA Strategy on Research along with a brief position paper which makes a case for an improved evidence base on which to build better policy-making for the arts.
NCFA COLLOQUIA will feed into the NCFA’s own ongoing research and pre‐2014 Budget campaign.
“We see this as a great opportunity to engage widely on research, to listen and learn from others so we can inform ourselves, our stakeholders and our Minister. We expect the NCFA COLLOQUIA to be a full-blooded investigation of the clichés, prejudices, cherished beliefs, and cultural bogeymen that stand in the way of a better understanding of the value of the funded arts sector.”
Valerie Connor, NCFA Chairperson
The NCFA COLLOQUIA series is supported by Independent Seanad Eireann Senator Fiach Mac Conghail.
The NCFA Message
We believe in a society that values creativity,
imagination and expression.
We believe the arts enrich our lives.
We believe in the value of the arts.
We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to
participate in and enjoy the arts.
Our campaign aims
To be a voice for the arts in Ireland,
communicating the value of the arts and campaigning
for continued and increased engagement with and investment in the arts.
To work with others to ensure Ireland values all those who work in the arts
and provides a fertile and supportive environment for artists.
To work with others to enable the arts to
make the fullest possible contribution
to Irish society and its future.
Our campaign objectives
To capture more fully the value of the arts in Ireland,
working hand in hand with the arts sector, artists, the public, and Government.
To work with others to build an evidence base that will inform policy
and allow the arts to innovate and reach a wider audience.
To build a deeper understanding of the mutual values
of the arts and education and seek achievable means to embed
the arts in education, working closely with educational partners.
To work to ensure that everyone in Ireland
can experience and participate in the arts.
In 2012, the National Campaign for the Arts undertook an analysis of its activities and reviewed its achievements since beginning its work in 2009.
At the same time, the NCFA commissioned an independent assessment of the arts evidence base in Ireland. We found that the cultural and arts sectors appear to be lagging behind comparable countries in strategically building a comprehensive evidence base for policy. We sought advice on how to improve this and gathered examples of how this situation has been addressed in Ireland and other countries.
Our NCFA Strategy on Research presents these as options for further consideration in order to stimulate interest and action among policy makers.
There is no one existing model that can simply be copied. In fact, what we found was that while there are successes elsewhere they too have their shortcomings. This is most obvious where long-term research is concerned. Therefore, there is a real opportunity in Ireland to lead on this internationally.
We believe that a good evidence base, founded on systematic and appropriate research, is the basis for a change in ways of thinking about the arts among policy makers and that it will also improve how the value of the arts is generally communicated.
The NCFA Strategy on Research is complemented by an additional position paper that further puts our action on research in context.
On an ongoing basis, we are assembling a relevant research resource on our website adding to it as new information, analysis, and examples of arts research relevant to policy-making emerges.
NCFA Strategy on Research: Introduction
The NCFA Strategy on Research has its roots in the unsettled period of Autumn 2009, when Ireland was first coming to terms with the scale of the economic crisis. The extent to which the country’s financial security had been compromised and the length of time we would have to live with the consequences. For stakeholders in the arts, it was a period of vigorous grassroots activity and organizing. The so-called McCarthy report – prepared for the then-government – by a group of economists, sketched out a plan of actions in the arts that would have reduced the arts and cultural sector catastrophically. In this climate, the NCFA began.
Initially a small group, motivated by the need to urgently make the case for the centrality of the arts to the wellbeing of our society, the NCFA was soon formalised into a steering committee. A national coordinator was appointed and a network of constituency coordinators was organized across the country. Very quickly, major festivals, venues, producers, representative organizations, and independent artists in visual arts, theatre, film, dance, music, literature, architecture, and collaborative arts and artists, gathered to make the case for the arts. Unsupported McCarthy report based recommendations allegedly to be linked to cost savings and public sector reform gave rise to a plan of action by the NCFA to show the positive economic contribution of the arts to Ireland. The NCFA published information and lobbied political parties in local and central government and in opposition.
The NCFA has been through many iterations since: refining its thinking; testing its assertions; identifying new opportunities, and making the case for the centrality of cultural participation and engagement for all the people of Ireland. It has been an empowering experience, bringing forth a wealth of possibilities and alliances that permeate every walk of Irish life. We have learnt that as a society, far from diminishing our artistic affinity, the economic crisis has sharply honed our perception of its importance to our sense of ourselves now and into the future.
There is a general consensus that the arts are important and valued by the public in Ireland. Behind this, lies a rich hinterland of potential for research. Now is the time for us to explore this, together and with others, to find the new learning that will help us understand how best the arts can serve the public and how government and the state can best serve the arts. In doing so, we acknowledge the research that has gone before us and the actions of state agencies, government and cultural institutions, local authorities, representative organisations and academics.
The NCFA is embarking upon this process because we believe that the arts will play a formative part in shaping our future. The present task is to better understand the funded arts sector so that future generations will continue to be enriched by the arts. To complement the NCFA Strategy on Research we have also published an NCFA Position on Research paper that elaborates on the circumstances that moved us to advocate for action on research in the arts in Ireland.
The NCFA aims to make a positive contribution to public knowledge about the funded arts sector by fostering understanding and common cause between the arts and other sectors.
The NCFA aims to establish new avenues of communication between researchers and arts communities so as to better inform policy-making for the funded arts sector in Ireland.
The NCFA will lobby to improve decision makers’ approaches to understanding of the funded arts sector by bringing the sector’s social, economic, and cultural achievements to political attention.
The NCFA will advocate for greater cooperation and openness across academic, professional, and non-traditional research communities, in order to promote accessibility in the policy arena and ultimately enrich the public conversation about the arts.
We believe we have a persuasive case to make and that action on research in the arts is mutually beneficial to the public and the funded arts sector. We will do this through:
NCFA Colloquia in 2013
When we will present:
Advocacy from 2013 to 2016
When we will seek to promote cooperation and collaboration on:
A Better Evidence-Base for Better Policy-Making in the Arts.
So that policy decisions are secure and the value of the funded arts sector is properly understood. New attitudes to research and the use of different definitions, new research tools, and complementary methods are essential, desirable, and possible.
The NCFA has commissioned a series of focused group discussions beginning in the first half of 2013. These events have been devised in consultation with the NCFA and managed independently on behalf of the NCFA.
A discussion paper for the series will act as a provocation designed to animate a set of thematics that will be devised for the colloquia. At the conclusion of the colloquia a report based on the outcomes of the discussions will be publicly available for further reference and consultation. The NCFA expects to draw on the report to inform future NCFA strategy and campaign messages.
The NCFA wants traditional models for consultation used within the arts and cultural sector to improve. We will work with arts and cultural agencies to help determine what initiatives would facilitate deeper conversations and better embed them in future research relationships.
Such a deliberative approach allows for an exploration to public attitudes to arts funding and funding priorities, through specifically designed discursive questions, supported by the circulation of relevant pieces of policy, models of practice, or other useful artifacts. One such example could be the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon’s study of the behaviour and attitudes of the Irish public towards the arts (Hibernian Consulting, 2006). This was a continuance of research undertaken in 1983 and 1994 and intentionally methodologically similar.
In preparation for the colloquia, the NCFA has drawn on issues represented in a selection of published research. Some of the documents and questions arising are included here (See, Appendix 1, on page 9).
A snapshot of ongoing research in Ireland, Northern Ireland, UK, Australia and USA, is available on the NCFA website. This contextualizes the current dearth of published research information available within Ireland and highlights the gaps in our research base and demonstrates the overtly instrumental nature of what published research material does exist.
The NCFA believes that there is shared desire amongst all stakeholders to know more about how the arts operate in society and are valued. We want to seek out ways and approaches, modes and methodologies that will yield better results and improve on traditional models for research within the arts and cultural sector.
We will work with arts and cultural agencies nationally to help find and facilitate potential partners, interested and able to embrace research alternatives and initiatives, that will produce better public policy outcomes in the arts in Ireland.
The NCFA believes that cross-agency cooperation is necessary and that collaboration will foster the exchange of organizational knowledge and strengthen shared interests. The expertise of partners will ensure the responsible management of data and data protection for policy purposes. We are acutely aware that any calls we may make for new programmes of research or evaluation activities must be focused and justified at a time of reduced public expenditure.
The NCFA will specifically advocate for –
1 Annual profiling of the funded arts sector & better use of existing and collected data.
This requires strong partnership-working models involving partners who are already gathering data as part of their function in order to scope out the possible delivery options.
a) Capturing the Gross Value Added (GVA) impacts of the arts (Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon & ESRI, 2008). The contribution of the arts to the economy is measured in GVA terms, but the ‘economic value’ of the arts as it is expressed through the choices people make with the most common unit of measurement, that is, money.
b) Sector profiling using information from funded arts sector that is already acquired as part of the accountability process. For example, the following study on secondary data:
‘The Art of the Possible: using Secondary Data to Detect Social and Economic Impacts from Investment in Culture and Sport’ has been undertaken in England by CASE (the Culture and Sport Evidence programme). This was commissioned by the Department of Culture Media and Sport in Britain, in collaboration with four partners in arts, sport, heritage, and library sectors (DCMS 2010).
2 Biennial survey of cultural participation.
Barriers to participation in the arts continue (Lunn & Kelly, 2008 & NESF, 2007). Using strong Value For Money (VFM) arguments and the full expertise and cooperation of the arts sector in order to make this successful, the NCFA can assist in explorations on what the possibilities are for a cross government department/agency initiative.
Examples of how this might be achieved –
a) DCAL Social and Economic Research and Survey Programme.
In 2011, the Dept of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Northern Ireland scoped its future research needs based on the Ministerial and Departmental priorities. In order to provide a clearer and direct link with policy, the areas identified for further research are categorised under the Department’s five key areas: economy, education, health, social inclusion and the environment (Dept of Culture, Arts and Leisure, 2013).
b) The Irish Sports Council has formed targeted partnerships with the Economic and Social Research Institute, third level research centres, and the Central Statistics Office.
c) The Cultural Value Project. Launched December, 2012.
In launching this two-year Cultural Value Project, the Arts & Humanities Research
Council wishes to make a major contribution to how we think about the value of arts and
culture to individuals and to society. Recent years have seen many attempts to capture
that value in straightforward ways, not least in order to make the case to governments
for public funding, but none have commanded widespread confidence (Arts, Humanities and Research Council, 2013).
3 Longitudinal study measuring the impact of the arts on individuals.
First, a feasibility study is required to scope the research, identify the expertise needed, establish the costs, what funding is required and its availability, and what partners are required.
Example of the longitudinal approach and partnership model –
a) The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), launched in 2006, to study a representative cohort of at least 8,000 people, aged 50 and over and resident in Ireland, charting their health, social and economic circumstances over a 10-year period. The study is being carried out by Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with an inter-disciplinary panel of scientific researchers, with expertise in various fields of ageing, from Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT), Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), University College Cork (UCC), University College Dublin (UCD) and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). A group of international scientists advises the TILDA investigators. TILDA is funded by the Department of Health and Children, Irish Life plc, and the Atlantic Philanthropies.
Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon. 1983. ‘Audiences, Acquisitions and Amateurs.’ Ireland: The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
_____________1994. ‘The Economics of the Arts in Ireland’. Ireland: The Arts Council/ An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
_____________ 2008a. ‘Points of Alignment: The Report of the special committee on the arts and education’. Ireland: The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
_____________2008b. ‘Arts, Education and other learning settings’. Ireland: The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
Arts, Humanities and Research Council. 2013. [online]. ‘The Cultural Value Project’. Available at: http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/Funded-Research/Funded-themes-and-programmes/Cultural-Value-Project/Documents/Cultural_Value_Project.pdf
Bailey, J. 2009. ‘Meaningful Measurement: A review of the literature about measuring artistic vibrancy,’ Australia Council for the Arts.
Chappell, M & Knell, J. 2012. ‘A public value measurement framework for the arts’ produced for the Department of Arts and Culture in Western Australia.
Dept of Culture, Arts and Leisure. 2013. [online]. ‘DCAL Social and Economic Research and Survey Programme’. Available at: http://www.dcalni.gov.uk/dcal_social_and_economic_research_and_survey_programme_2013-2014.pdf
Dept of Culture, Media and Sport. 2010a. ‘The Art of the Possible: using secondary data to detect social and economic impacts from investment in culture and sport. UK: Dept of Culture, Media and Sport.
_____________. 2010b. ‘Measuring the value of culture’. By AHRSC/DCMS research fellow Dr. Dave O’Brien (2010). UK: Dept of Culture, Media and Sport.
_____________2011. ‘Taking Part – the national survey of culture, leisure and sport: statistical release.’ UK: Dept of Culture, Media and Sport.
Hibernian Consulting. 2006. ‘The Public and the Arts.’ Ireland: The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
Lunn P, and Kelly E. 2008. ‘In the Frame of Out of the Picture? A statistical analysis of public involvement in the arts’. Ireland: National Economic and Social Forum.
National Economic and Social Forum. 2007. ‘The Arts, cultural inclusion and social cohesion: Report No. 35’. Dublin: National Economic and Social Forum.
From, ‘The Public and the Arts’ (Hibernian Consulting, 2006):
75% of respondents believed that just as much importance should be given to providing arts amenities as is given to providing sports amenities.
Almost 90% believe that the arts play an important and valuable role in a modern society like Ireland.
A significant fall in the proportion of the population experiencing difficulties in attending or taking part in arts activities – down from 73% in 1994 to only 17% in 2006.
Levels of attendance and participation have stayed more or less the same between 1994 and 2006.
Some other research already published and commonly cited –
Based on these research examples, questions that might typically be asked include–
Q What are the responsibilities of the funded arts sector in Ireland? Is the funded arts sector clear about its areas of responsibility? How do the sector’s accountabilities extend to working with others toward equal access, and the contribution of the arts to civil society?
Q How should we measure quality? Notions of artistic quality are often self-imposed by artists and cultural producers, is this an aspect of artistic production that needs to be further defined? And who should define it?
Q How should we measure reach and impact? There is a growing interest in the impacts of the arts on social capital formation, the cohesiveness of communities, and the impacts of all of this on a vibrant democracy and civil society. A rigorous approach to how ‘reach’ and ‘impact’ are defined and understood in relation to the arts should draw on international practice. It should then go further in examining whether new terms are needed to capture the key dynamics of broader engagement and impact resulting from arts based activities.
Q What type of cultural entitlements do we want to create and uphold and how do we ensure the best arts education is offered in our schools, colleges and universities?
Q What kind of learning experiences and curriculum development can happen if cultural organisations could work more closely with educators at every level?
Q To what extent does the arts sector accept as legitimate status quo cultural policies and practices that are formed within institutional hierarchies?
Measures of reach could include audience numbers, diversity and the extent of connection with target communities of interest. Reach also encompasses the development capacity in communities of practice (artistic, amateur, commercial); the leverage of investment from non public sources; and the extent to which any publicly funded activities create platforms from which future activities can emerge.
Impact needs to be defined in ways that would allow for an easier understanding of the direct and indirect effects of acts investment and activity. For example, there is a wide range of direct and indirect economic and social benefits produced by the arts, and a burgeoning interest in a range of economic and social measurement techniques. The arts also produce a broader set of induced benefits concerned with the ‘liveability’ of places, in terms of the contribution of the cultural offer to the quality of life and reputation of Ireland, and ‘place-making’ activities, in which cultural activity helps the economic and social activation of places.
The Taking Part Survey (2010a) collects data on many aspects of leisure, culture and sport in England, as well as an in-depth range of socio-demographic information on respondents.
The need for consistent, high quality national data on engagement with culture and sport led to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and three partners (Arts Council England, English Heritage and Sport England) commissioning the Taking Part survey, the first of its kind to provide data of this quality.
The main sectors for which data is gathered in the ‘Taking Part’ survey are:
Museums and galleries
For each of these sectors, data about the reasons for participating and not participating, barriers to participation, and the frequency of participation are also collected.
In addition to these sectors, data sets are also gathered on a variety of other sectors and topics.
Engagement in sectors while growing up
Internet / TV / radio use and access
Attitudes to heritage / the arts
The total survey size is around 15,000 respondents, and Department for Culture, Media and Sport is committed to supporting the survey until at least 2015.
Every day, all across the country, people make a compelling case for the arts by actively getting involved with a huge variety of creative, artistic and cultural activities. The NCFA aims to amplify this positive message by communicating on the value of the funded arts sector in Ireland.
The NCFA believes that a programme of dynamically planned research with practical policy goals is urgently needed to ensure the funded arts sector continues to serve its social, economic, and cultural function. This is desirable as soon as possible. Everyone should know how the funded arts sector is governed, what it achieves, and who benefits.
Against the current backdrop of far reaching change in people’s lives and society’s fortunes, consolidating existing research and instigating long-term research can reveal the complexity of individual experiences and protect against the loss of organisational knowledge. In our view, the mandate to government to represent the public interest puts government at the centre of any prospective research partnership across the cultural, educational, and political spectrum.
Moreover, those working in not-for-profit or non-profit contexts typically struggle to afford to commission the kinds of sectoral research that are needed to properly inform policy and underpin decisions. We see an opportunity for a new approach to this challenge: a programme of research projects of unprecedented ambition that is capable of showing how the work of the funded arts sector functions in a modern democracy and how it contributes to society.
‘The Measure of Success’
Research is a complex thing at the best of times. At the worst of times, actively advocating for resources for research on how cultural value is determined is especially challenging. Nowadays, the meaning and value of cultural experience is regularly represented in economistic terms.
This approach normally favours measurements and definitions associated with quantitative methods of evaluation above all else. That is, research methods that normally prioritise computable, statistical data - the representation of information through percentages and so on. This view is often perceived to be somehow better because it deals in so-called ‘hard’ data.
However, the strengths of this approach are also often considered limited when used alone. Used in isolation, this can lead to a belief that only ‘what gets counted, counts’ (New Economics. http://www.neweconomics.org). The simple inference is that what doesn’t get counted, or measured in a certain way, doesn’t count. As a consequence of this certain values may not be articulated at all.
The mechanisms of mainstream evaluation most typically used by cultural policy makers in Ireland exclude values that are outside from the mainstream language of evaluation.
We must challenge the current mechanisms of evaluation. The intertwining of culture with profitability is now common. By combining funding with results, we have been led to what has been called a ‘crisis of legitimacy’ in the arts (John Holden. 2006. “Cultural Value and the Crisis of Legitimacy.” UK: Demos). A perception of the arts very much couched in these terms has become the norm since the 1990s. The legacy of this view has deeply affected discussions of value in the arts ever since (Kevin McCarthy, Elizabeth H. Ondaatje, Laura Zakaras, and Arthur Brooks. 2004. "Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate about the Benefits of the Arts," commissioned by The Wallace Foundation. USA: RAND).
Impacts and outcomes that cannot be explained, described, or measured solely in terms of having an economic function, still struggle for authority within the wider policy arena. Slowly, this is being recognised by cultural policy makers and governments as a problem because the economic function is an insufficient lens through which to view and evaluate the totality of work in the arts and cultural experience.
Other research methods that seek to record and evaluate qualities and effects that are hard to capture by statistical measurement do exist. They thrive when well supported. But these approaches are time consuming and require researchers to have certain additional skills that will allow them to elicit information and analyse it well (Dave O’Brien. 2010. ‘Measuring the Value of Culture: a report to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport,’ UK: Department for Culture, Media and Sport).
Ongoing prejudices also exist in the language of research culture and can be a superficial distraction among policy makers when commissioning research; for example, data produced under these conditions may be described as ‘soft data’ rather than ‘hard data’, inferring that it is less stable, less solid. But this limited level of engagement is very unsound (Alan Bryman. 2003. "Quantitative and Qualitative Research", ed. Clive Seale, Social Research Methods: a Reader. London: Routledge).
The NCFA believes that Ireland can be at the leading edge of better research about the arts. The research culture that has recently been fostered in Ireland has been substantially supported directly or indirectly by the state, or through the mechanisms of the state, so it fair to expect that the resources and the will to use data better, and support a truly outstanding example of longitudinal research are available in Ireland.
We are advocating for research fully realising that current research concepts and definitions can seem unrecognisable to the ‘reality’ or ‘experience’ of key stakeholders that the research describes. As a consequence, those who daily make and work in the arts, and to whom this research matters a great deal, often feel alienated from the results. Nonetheless, expectations within the sector do demand that research underpin decisions that affect policy and the implementation of policy.
While previous research on expenditure and sentiment shows that government support for the arts continues to be high and public opinion is positive, the lack of a shared language on value and the arts artificially limits the depth of any discussion about why the arts generally matter so much to people. It also limits debate. (Tessa Jowell. 2004.“Government and the Value of Culture,” UK: Department for Culture, Media and Sport.)
Aiming to break down such barriers, the NCFA urgently advocates for new approaches that connect long-term evidence-based research to a systematic process of policy development. We realise that communication about the meaning and value of the proposed activity must connect with all members of society, in Irish public life and in private.
The NCFA is confident that a more confident and imaginative approach to measurement can be a shared endeavour that does reflect mutual intentions and aspirations. On this basis, the NCFA aims to improve policy and decision-making in the funded arts sector by promoting more appropriately designed and adequately maintained research.
We will seek truly innovative ways to do this. The NCFA believes that measurement is a useful and vital tool. It is worth recalling that with a long history of exposure to criticism the arts are accustomed to judgement. But the place of policy is not the same as criticism.
We need better research questions and ways of gathering information and interpreting data that really connects public life with the arts. The publicly funded arts sector can galvanise its strengths to steer itself through the current crisis, but the sector must be allowed to do this and to contribute to recovery.
The NCFA is a non-partisan grouping. We support the complementary goals of other advocacy groups and membership organisations in the arts. We support transparency in lobbying.
There are clear data deficits and the NCFA has specifically identified an urgent need for:
(1) the annual profiling of the funded arts sector and the better use of existing and collected data;
(2) a biennial survey of cultural participation;
(3) a longitudinal study into the arts and the lives of individuals in Ireland.
The NCFA is meeting with potential research partners in the arts, higher education, professional research groups, and partners specialising in non-traditional research practices and more radical consultation approaches. To start with, a review of the existing literature and data about cultural participation and ‘value’ in Ireland needs to be done. We will seek to act as a catalyst in devising future partnerships. Research completed, it is our ambition that the new data and examples of research methodologies will be made public and available to all stakeholders.
Please see our NCFA Strategy on Research, for examples of how other research has been done in Ireland and abroad, in the arts and other sectors; these examples are given to stimulate discussion and action on research and to help all those with a stake in the funded arts sector communicate on what the arts mean to us all.