The recording of a talk by Laboratory Adelaide’s Tully Barnett, ‘How Do We Value the Arts? – Looking Beyond the Metrics’, is now available to view online.
The talk—given on 3 June 2021 as part of the Australian Dance Theatre’s Critical Conversations series—outlines how and when arts and culture started being viewed as a business to be weighed purely in terms of metrics.
Dr. Barnett then asks how can artists can seek to reclaim the value of the arts, and employ a vocabulary that speaks to the intrinsic value of the arts as human experience.
In a new article on ArtsHub today, Lab Adelaide’s Julian Meyrick and Tully Barnett, together with UniSA’s Justin O’Connor, make the case for a new language of public value that puts arts and culture at the heart of a healthy, diverse and inclusive democracy. The authors applaud the arts sector reforms proposed in a new report from the Australia Institute, Creativity in Crisis, but argue that nothing less than a systematic overhaul of Australian ‘policy imagination’ is required to make these changes possible. Therefore, they call on the arts sector to ditch outdated ‘market first’ economic arguments, and instead reframe art and culture as a public good at the centre of a sustainable new world.
‘The sector must re-learn the language of the public good, and speak of citizens not taxpayers, publics not price-points.’
ArtsHub has published a new article by Lab Adelaide’s Julian Meyrick and Tully Barnett, as well as UniSA’s Justin O’Connor, which analyses the flaws in two new reports on the arts. The authors describe how these reports—by the think tank A New Approach and ex-Grattan Institute Director, John Daley, respectively—misrepresent the history of arts advocacy in Australia and offer solutions that will weaken the sector’s peak body, the Australia Council for the Arts. Instead, the article calls on the arts sector to argue for its central place in Australian society and democracy.
‘A way forward for the cultural sector will not come with professional lobbyists massaging the messages of the minister. It will come from re-asserting an inclusive vision of arts and culture based on citizens’ rights and shared democratic values.’
Lab Adelaide’s Julian Meyrick and Tully Barnett, alongside UniSA’s Justin O’Connor, have an article up on The Conversation that argues new methods of advocacy are needed for the arts. The article, ‘The limits of advocacy: arts sector told to stop worrying and be happy’, describes how attempts to justify the value of arts and culture in economic terms have been unsuccessful, and have led to the arts sector being incorrectly blamed for a lack of advocacy. The authors discuss how two new reports—by the think tank A New Approach and ex-Grattan Institute director, John Daley—offer advocacy approaches that pander to government policymakers but are unlikely to gain new funding for the arts sector. The article concludes by asserting that future advocacy must focus on how art and culture are essential components of social citizenship.
‘If we want to avoid walking down an ever-narrowing policy path to a final cull, we need to assert arts and culture’s fundamental value, not play advocacy roulette with government terms du jour’
Laboratory Adelaide researchers Tully Barnett and Julian Meyrick are contributing to the Reset Arts and Culture project. Reset is an eight-month programme of events involving art and culture practitioners, policymakers and academics from all three universities in South Australia. The project aims to respond to the current arts and cultural policy crisis by resetting how we talk about the value of arts and culture.
Lab Adelaide’s Julian Meyrick and Tully Barnett have contributed a chapter to a book exploring new ways of recording and reporting the value of arts and culture: Exploring Cultural Value: Contemporary Issues for Theory and Practice.
Dr Meyrick and Dr Barnett’s chapter, ‘From Cultural Value to Culture’s Value: The Part-to-Whole Relationship in Assessments’, argues that arts and culture are more than the sum of their parts, and that dividing the value of a cultural activity into discrete dimensions risks losing sight of its overall purpose, scope and place in the world. To explore this issue, they use a case study of a stage play from South Australia, Mi:Wi 3027.
In this chapter, we consider dominant arguments for the ‘disaggregation’ of the value of culture into discrete dimensions – economic, social, environmental, heritage and cultural and so forth – and their separate measurement. We discuss the role of proxies in assessment processes (‘parts’) and their relationship to the cultural experiences (‘wholes’) for which they are taken to be representative indicators. Disaggregation encourages a divisible approach to cultural activities that, at their heart, present as non-divisible experiences. Thus, we should speak of ‘culture’s value’ as opposed to ‘cultural value’ as a way of highlighting a crucial methodological point – that arts and culture are more than the sum of their parts and that the assessment of a particular cultural activity must consider not only the benefits returned by its separate dimensions but also the activity’s overall purpose, scope and place in the world. These non-divisible, often non-measurable, contextual features should not be considered contingent externalities but as sense-providing parameters that give meaning to any numerical data whatsoever. We conclude by looking at the issue via an example of a recent stage play from South Australia, Mi:Wi 3027 written by Ngarrindjeri playwright Glenn Shea and commissioned by Country Arts South Australia. The values of the drama cannot be and should not be distinguished from its value, and assessment processes must therefore look to frame the primary cultural experience it embodies in ways that make sense of its purpose, scope and place in the world.
A new academic article by Lab Adelaide’s Julian Meyrick and Tully Barnett argues that COVID-19’s devastation of the Australian cultural sector highlights an urgent need to reframe the public value of arts and culture. The article, ‘From public good to public value: arts and culture in a time of crisis’, responds to Mariana Mazzucato’s call to go ‘from public goods to public value’ in considering the role of government policy in key sectors of society. Dr. Meyrick and Dr. Barnett also discuss recent examples of challenges to existing evaluation methods in the Australian cultural sector.
This paper argues that the crisis sweeping over the
Australian cultural sector as a result of COVID-19 presents an existential
threat to current (“normal science”) methods of evaluation, and to
instrumental, predominantly economic, understandings of value. Outlining ways
the concept of value is changing, we respond to Mariana Mazzucato’s call to go
“from public goods to public value” in considering the role of government
policy in key sectors of society. We note the broader approach to value called
for by a range of mainstream economists and provide three recent examples of
challenges to existing evaluation methods in the Australian cultural sector. In
conclusion, we touch on the essential features of a re-constructed category of
public value and the implications for value research. During COVID-19, the
public role of arts and culture has become self-evident. The challenge is to
match this realization with a new understanding of their public value.