Well-Being and the Arts in 2020

Laboratory Adelaide’s Elise Silson convened this online panel of experts, to discuss current intersections between well-being and the arts in Australia.

Laboratory Adelaide’s Dr Tully Barnett opened with a discussion of the different ways that well-being can be integrated into our discussions of value.

AnglicareSA CEO Rev’d Prof Peter Sandeman gave an overview of the social well-being considerations specific to 2020.

Elise Silson described the importance of the arts in expressing and understanding narratives, as a means of developing compassionate and perceptive approaches to individual and collective challenges.

Associate Prof Jo Caust described current challenges faced within the Australian arts sector.

Flinders University’s Dr Sarah Peters offered grounded insights into her experiences as a playwright and arts program facilitator. She spoke about how digital interaction shifts experiences of art creation and performance.

Flinders University’s Prof Stephen Muecke described the social impacts of the shifts in economic power associated with digitisation. He offered important insights into how digital delivery of information displaces First Nations people from teaching about significant places.

A transcript of this panel discussion will be available shortly.

‘Democracy and the Arts: Charting the Way Forward’ A Whitlam Institute Webinar

Laboratory Adelaide’s Julian Meyrick took part in a recent Webinar hosted by the Whitlam Institute. The Webinar—titled ‘Democracy and the Arts: Charting the Way Forward’—focused on the value of arts and culture in Australia. It explored how the COVID-19 crisis has revealed the vulnerability of the arts sector and led to calls for additional funding for those working in the creative industries. It also asked how we can define the intrinsic value of arts and creativity without relying on economic measurements; this question is at the heart of the Laboratory Adelaide project.

            Julian was joined by writer Thomas Keneally, Professor Dr. Josephine Caust from the University of Melbourne, and multi-media artist Abdul Abdullah. The event was moderated by Whitlam Institute Director Leanne Smith.

The Whitlam Institute is a public policy institute inspired by the legacy of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, one of Australia’s most pro-arts leaders.

            The event was recorded and will soon be available on the Whitlam Institute website: https://www.whitlam.org/events/charting-the-way-forward

You can also read Kim William’s legacy paper on Gough Whitlam and the arts here: https://www.whitlam.org/publications/2019/11/13/whitlam-the-arts-and-democracy

The arts review and plan for South Australia

After months of consultation and research, the arts review and plan for South Australia has been released by the South Australian government’s Department of Premier and Cabinet. The report highlights the “richness of arts and culture that exists in our State” and great work done by the cultural sector in South Australia.

Underpinned by four values – visionary leadership, strategic collaboration, embracing diversity and courageous experimentation – the Plan set outs six goals to guide the growth of and investment in the State’s leadership in the arts and cultural sector. Interestingly, the Plan uses elements of narrative storytelling “as a way to provide an alternative perspective through which to view the arts and cultural landscape of South Australia.” Case studies from various perspectives and points of view are also used to “illuminate and celebrate” arts and cultural activities.

Most significantly for the Laboratory Adelaide research project, meaningful ways of measuring the value of arts and culture is a specific area of focus. This priority, “Measure,” is included within Goal 6 (p. 40 of the Plan) and is borne out in full in a section entitled “Capturing value and impact” (pp. 43-43).

This focus follows a recommendation by Tony Grybowski and Graeme Gherashe to:

Develop an evaluation and measurement framework that captures the value of arts and culture, one that builds on and draws together the existing work undertaken in this area.

Recommendation 13.1 p. 91 The Arts Review for South Australia

In making this recommendation, Grybowski and Gherashe refer to the work of the Laboratory Adelaide research project and that of Professor Justin O’Connor (UniSA). Of particular note, one of their suggested initiatives includes:

Progressing Cultural Value frameworks initiated by South Australian researchers in partnership with the South Australian Government

p. 91 The Arts Review for South Australia

The Laboratory Adelaide team welcomes the Arts Review and Plan. It is heartening to see so many substantial ideas put forth, the result not only of extensive consultation, but of deep thinking about the needs of a diverse sector with a past to be proud of, and a future to look forward to.

The Wellbeing Benefits of Arts and Culture: Professor James Pawelski

Adelaide City Council recently hosted Professor James Pawelski of the Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Pennsylvania for a three week research trip exploring the wellbeing benefits of arts and culture activities. During his visit, Pawelski participated in a series of meetings and public talks exploring the value of Adelaide’s arts and culture from the perspective of human flourishing. This paradigm for valuing the arts follows 20 years of experience addressing mental health through positive psychology, and in particular the role of the humanities in wellbeing.

Professor Robert Phiddian and Dr Tully Barnett met with Professor Pawelski to discuss how Laboratory Adelaide’s work aligns with that of the Positive Psychology Centre and the concepts of human flourishing. Professor Pawelski cited the Laboratory Adelaide work in his final presentation of his findings. Read more about Professor Pawelski’s visit to Adelaide here and his broader work here.

What’s the Story? “Credible” Narrative in the Evaluation of Arts and Culture, 5 September 2019

In their latest article, published in The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, Julian Meyrick, Tully Barnett, Heather Robinson and Matt Russell consider the relationship between the concept of narrative as a theoretical object, and its use in the practical evaluation of cultural organisations. Following a brief overview of rhetoric and narrative theory, the article suggests that in order for narratives to be a “credible” and forensic instrument of account, certain principles should be followed. The Laboratory Adelaide team sets out six commitments in a proposed Charter of Cultural Reporting:

  1. Commitment to sense making
  2. Commitment to a reporting relationship
  3. Commitment to plain language
  4. Commitment to communicating all types of value creation
  5. Commitment to improved integration of quantitative and qualitative information
  6. Commitment to reporting on the meaning of culture, not just its economic and social effects

Read the full article here: https://doi.org/10.1080/10632921.2019.1646176 or get in touch for more information

“A different kind of dialogue” – article in Arts Professional UK, 18 October 2018

“It is time for everyone who cares about arts and culture to get out of the brace position and come alive to a dialogue about their inherent value.”

In Arts Professional (UK) Julian Meyrick discusses the problems associated with assessing cultural value arguing that we “are stuck in a financially reductionist ‘value = money’ orbit. We should be examining people’s experiences of culture, and the meaning that comes from those experiences”.

The article can be accessed here.

Issues raised are discussed in the recent book What Matters? Talking Value in Australian Culture published by Monash University Publishing. Authored by Julian Meyrick, Robert Phiddian and Tully Barnett. The book is available for purchase here.

Julian Meyrick in conversation with Peter Goers on ABC Radio Adelaide

Julian Meyrick appeared for an interview with Peter Goers on Evenings with Peter Goers, ABC Radio Adelaide. The interview appears approximately mid-way through the three-hour program which can be downloaded here.

What Matters? Talking Value in Australian Culture is a new book released by Monash University Publishing, authored by Julian MeyrickRobert Phiddian and Tully Barnett. Copies are available for purchase here.

Presentation at State Library Wednesday, 19 September 2018

The Value of Culture: Rethinking value for cultural organisations

In recent decades, the concept of value has been distorted across many sectors, including the arts. There is no quick, methodological fix to this problem of communicating value. Instead, there is a need for a richer discussion.

“Laboratory Adelaide: the Value of Culture” is about to launch into its second phase of research. For the last three years, this project has explored the challenges faced by the cultural sector when required to prove its worth. Flinders University’s Tully Barnett and Heather Robinson will share some of the key findings from the first phase of research conducted in partnership with the State Library of South Australia, the State Theatre Company of South Australia and the Adelaide Festival. We invite practitioners and professionals from across the cultural sector of South Australia to share our findings and gather feedback on what needs to be done to embed better ways of communicating the value and meaning of what we do for the long-term benefit our sector and our community.

Presented by the State Library of South Australia

Details on the event and registration to attend available here.

“WHAT THE STATE BUDGET CUTS MEAN FOR THE ARTS” The Advertiser, 9 September 2018

Julian Meyrick writes for The Advertiser, Adelaide’s daily newspaper on the topic of the recently released State Budget (SA). The articles is available online for subscribers (paid access) here.

“THE State Budget signalled major changes for the arts in South Australia, writes Julian Meyrick. And if the cuts weren’t as savage as prior rumour suggested, they were still pretty awful.”