Monday, December 9, 2019

Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture

Understanding, assessing and communicating the broad value of arts and culture is a major and ongoing task. There has been an immense amount of work already carried out. The challenge is to understand some of the pitfalls of research and the methods that underpin it. Research and evaluation is invaluable for all organisations but it is particularly important for Government. The experience of researching arts and culture in Government is of much broader relevance, as the arts and culture sector navigates the tricky task of building a comprehensive understanding in each locality of the broader benefits of arts and culture. The latest Arts restructure makes this even more urgent.

I have spent the bulk of my working life – and most of my non-working life, as well – in various parts of the arts and culture sector. Even when I worked in Government I was mostly in the section of it responsible for arts and culture. In that time, across all those areas, it became absolutely clear how critical research, evaluation and measurement is to understanding what the arts and culture sector does and what works best.

Research and evaluation - drawing class outside Mary Quant exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2019

In July 2016 I listened with great attention to the outline by Professor Geoffrey Crossick of the massive Cultural Value project of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, summed up in its major report, ‘Understanding the Value of Arts and Culture’. Following this, in July 2017 I was closely involved in organising the Arts Value Forum, a major event in Canberra which looked at valuing arts and culture. This was presented by independent ACT arts advocacy body, the Childers Group, in conjunction with the Cultural Facilities Corporation of the ACT Government.