More than ticket sales and metrics: measuring the true value of culture

In the peak of Adelaide’s festival season, the purpose of culture and how its true value can be measured will be under the spotlight at an upcoming forum hosted by Flinders-led consortium, Laboratory Adelaide, on 8 March 2018.

Entitled When Did Culture’s Value Become a Number?, the forum will feature a panel of senior arts producers, academics and cultural leaders who will discuss how Australia can reclaim the language and purpose of cultural activity in its national life.

Flinders University Professor of Creative Arts, Julian Meyrick, who spearheads Laboratory Adelaide, says the forum will help Adelaide’s cultural sector communicate the value of its events and institutions to policy-makers and funding bodies and map a way forward for a sustainable and meaningful creative arts ecology.

“We need to stop measuring the value of arts and culture using barren metrics and start focusing on meaning, not just numbers,” says Professor Meyrick.

“The impact of culture goes beyond ticket sales and our forum will highlight the range of benefits that art and culture provide and draw attention to its inherent value in an inspired, modern society.

“Culture is pre-eminently a field where value judgements hold sway.

“There is no quantitative methodology that will do our judging for us.

“Measurement can support, but it cannot replace, judgement.

“Metrics-based evaluation methods have their place in the mix but we simply cannot expect to arrive at a full understanding of the benefit of arts and culture through spreadsheets alone,” Professor Meyrick says.

Adelaide’s arts sector has experienced numerous changes to funding arrangements and cultural policy in recent years and is the ideal setting in which to examine the importance of a balanced approach to reporting and evaluation.

“So much policy discussion of the arts sector has failed to address its essential purpose – what artists and cultural organisations are actually trying to achieve,” says Professor Meyrick.

“Funding agencies and policy-makers require new ways of understanding the value of cultural events, objects and organisations.

“The problem of value and evaluation is not one unique to culture – it is shared across education, health and the environment.

“Numbers have their place but they require a wider understanding that helps us know what the numbers actually mean.

“Meaning, not counting, is at the heart of successful evaluation.

“This event bring together specialists from all sorts of different cultural standpoints to explore how our current evaluation strategies can better fit the reality of what we face and enable a more representative, balanced and sustainable way forward for the arts sector in South Australia and beyond,” Professor Meyrick says.

The panellists

Speakers at the forum will include Jane Gleeson-White (author, Six Capitals, Double Entry), Airan Berg (international producer and festival director), Christie Anthoney (CEO Festivals Adelaide), and Julian Meyrick (Professor of Creative Arts, Flinders University).

The panel will be chaired by Greg Mackie (CEO History SA and Chair, Adelaide Festival of Ideas Inc.)

Where and when

The forum will take place at the Adelaide Festival Riverbank Palais in Elder Park on Thursday 8 March at 2:00pm–3:30pm.

How to book

Registration is via Eventbrite.

About Laboratory Adelaide

Laboratory Adelaide is a Flinders-led arts project funded by a three year Australian Research Council Linkage grant and run in collaboration with the State Library of South Australia, the State Theatre Company of South Australia and the Adelaide Festival Corporation.

The project is spearheaded by Flinders University Professor Julian Meyrick in partnership with Associate Professor Robert Phiddian, Dr Tully Barnett and Heather Robinson (all from Flinders University).

Laboratory Adelaide aims to develop a way of measuring the intrinsic value of culture beyond economic dollar values and innovate tools and techniques for communicating the value of culture to government, funding bodies and communities.

More information is available on the Laboratory Adelaide website.



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College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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