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While attending a session at the Theater Communications Group conference on Intrinsic Impact: Assessing the Artistic Experience to Set Goals and Demonstrate Value, I started thinking about how – in a way – impact, assessment, goals, and valueare key words of a neoliberal economic vernacular that allows funding bodies to instrumentalize the arts in general and especially during a period of economic crisis by – if nothing else – forcing market-driven competition. For the theater field and presenting organizations, it is typically audience numbers that provide a barometer of success.  Questions are now cropping up in the artist residency sector about outcomes, evaluation, measurement, and accountability.  It is important to point out that two foundations which own artist residency facilities have either held meetings or will do so in the near future that will/may address these issues.  Some questions I would ask is whether or not that will skew the expectations held for residencies?  Do the majority of residencies understand their responsibilities for showing impact in the same way that a foundation would expect its residency-as-funding-area to perform?  As pertains to the residency sector, a couple ways to valorize impact might be to require community engagement and count the number of community members who engaged with the artist-in-residence, or to require that art work be produced and documented during the period of the residency.  However, both of these go against promises made by some residencies to their artists of free, unrestricted time to think and create, activities that may not always produce visible outputs within a specific timeframe.  During the economic maelstrom that has spanned the last five years, we have seen (i) culture funding cut along with that of all other sectors due to the contracting endowments of many multi-sector foundations; (ii) the programs representing other sectors with more definable outputs vie for larger percentages of grantable dollars  within those same foundations, thus shrinking culture monies in a different way, and (iii) we’ve seen new foundation presidents and senior staffers being recruited from the business sector, which may also affect donor trends related to less commodify-able areas such as the humanities.  Within the broader arts/media context, there are areas which are leading the way in terms of impact evaluation, such as social issue film.  One example is the social impact evaluation of ‘The End of the Line’ by the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation.  Whereas the documentary film sector has made some headway on evaluation, it has done so under the rubric of ‘social impact evaluation’.  This is all going down at the same time as funders are trying to figure out how best to fund social change as evidenced by the recent report Trend or Tipping Point: Arts & Social Change Grantmaking A 2010 Report & Resource for Funders.  I ask myself if this movement in the arts funding world is a corrective (reaction) to the my observations i, ii, & iii (above) that will allow the culture coffers to be replenished.  While I am all for art processes effecting social change … and would suggest that they have always done so, I see a problem with expecting art processes (from an individual work of art to an artist residency that offers unrestricted time to think) to show their social value in order to justify funding.  It flips the art-for-art-sake argument on its head to say the least.

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