NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

It’s personal: The impact and value of tertiary and creative arts

Why is the case for the arts so frequently made in terms of its economic impact, as if the other benefits are of lesser importance, not least those that flow from the engagement with them by individuals?

“Why is the case for the arts so frequently made in terms of its economic impact, as if the other benefits are of lesser importance, not least those that flow from the engagement with them by individuals?”

So asked Geoffrey Crossick, one of the authors of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Report Understanding the Value of Arts and Culture. In a fascinating lecture available on Soundcloud, he explains the centrality of individual experience if the impact and value of arts, whether personal, economic or societal, are to be truly understood. He highlights, for example, how participation in art has instilled an attitude towards thinking that inspires new scientific developments and how art in prisons is changing individual prisoners’ capacity for empathy – an essential precursor to rehabilitation. Yet, under Australia’s impact metrics, would any university be game to attribute any recidivism reduction or new scientific breakthrough to the work of its artists?

In this edition of NiTRO we consider those aspects that can be explained by the current mechanisms as well as critiquing the measures that governments adopt to capture impact and their usefulness to understanding the contribution of creative art.

  • Katja Fleischmann (JCU) reports on recent research that highlights the importance of creative arts and tertiary design to regional economic regeneration.
  • Education researcher, Renee Crawford (Monash) reflects upon her recent research which considers the impact that music and art has upon the education of young refugees.
  • Nadia Niaz (University of Melbourne) approaches the topic of community engagement, impact and academia by considering the effect that community engagement has upon student work.
  • Natalie King (University of Melbourne) brings into sharp relief the overwhelming impact that artists such as Ai Wei Wei and Tracey Moffatt have upon our understanding of global displacement.
  • UK researchers Heather Skinner (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Nicola Williams-Burnett (Cardiff Metropolitan University) present a critical reflection of impact evaluation applied to performing arts.
  • Ian Haig (RMIT) asks in the context of contemporary art and university metrics – just what is impact anyway? And is it useful for contemporary art?

This edition also includes an article on recent research conducted by Victoria University and Entertainment Assist that highlights the mental health impact of a career in the entertainment industry and a call for NiTRO readers to help provide solutions and a framework for improvement. Our thanks go to Susan Cooper (Entertainment Assist) and Adrian Fisher (Victoria University) for their input.

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The impact of failure

I can’t help thinking contemporary art is an endangered species in the contemporary university. Within the institution’s overly prescribed research

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More from this issue

‘I know what it feels like to be a refugee and to experience the dehumanisation that comes with displacement from home and country. There are many borders to dismantle, but the most important are the ones within our own hearts and minds – these are the borders that are dividing humanity from itself’   - Ai Wei Wei

In the contemporary climate, education contexts are becoming increasingly heterogeneous and multicultural spaces. This diversity presents teachers, students and communities with exciting opportunities, but also creates complex challenges to navigate and understand.

As a long time advocate of the economic value of creative industries, I have been interested in researching if creative clusters can drive regional economic development.

I can’t help thinking contemporary art is an endangered species in the contemporary university. Within the institution’s overly prescribed research mandates, researchers (who ten years ago used to be called artists) need to align themselves with research clusters and groups and the strategic plan of the corporate university - Contemporary art is a difficult fit for university metrics. And perhaps that’s the point.

Until I started teaching a re-invented capstone Creative Writing subject called ‘Encounters with Writing’ at the University of Melbourne in 2016, I had never given the relationship between my small corner of the academy and the community at large much thought. I had always thought of these as two separate spheres ...

As the world eases itself out of a global recession, while remaining in an era of government austerity measures and public sector funding cuts, many arts organisations find themselves increasingly focused on proving their worth and value to funders. All too often the proof that is sought when evaluating an arts or cultural project and tends to be a quantitative assessment of its impact, judged in terms of hard measures enumerating number of attendees or participants, or ticket receipts against expenditure.

"Where’s the evidence?" Entertainment Assist (EA) received a fairly typical pollie response when they raised the mental health problems present in the Australian entertainment industry. Yet as Susan Cooper, EA General Manager discovered, "apart from a couple of studies in the UK and US there was nothing - no whole-of-industry study on what was impacting in the industry not only for Australia but internationally".