Hot Button Topics in Cultural Policy (2014)

January, 2014

Course Overview:

This course offers students the opportunity to engage in real-world cultural policy research focused on some of the most pressing issues affecting the cultural sector.  In Winter 2014 the “hot button” topic is the rapidly changing landscape of arts participation and its relevance to communities defined by a shared ethnic or immigrant identity.

People participate in the arts in many ways—including attending, consuming, creating, collecting, curating and other means of engaging with art online.  Recently, however, there has been widespread, international recognition that tools to measure arts participation have not kept pace with the myriad and evolving ways that people participate in arts. Efforts are currently underway in the US to address this. The National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts underwent significant changes in effort to measure a broader range of arts participation, and the NEA has recently started to release their findings. Currently, a new survey is also underway to measure a much broader set of attitudes about, and activities constituting, arts participation in California.  Despite the advances and new knowledge stemming from these initiatives, there is much more to be learned, including what people recall and report as the aesthetic aspects of their daily life that could be considered arts participation. While this is a concern broadly, it is especially pertinent for some racial/ethnic minority groups. More remains to be understood about how to capture the richness and nuance of arts participation that occurs within communities defined by a shared ethnic identity, especially through the use of quantitative measures. 

The class will include substantive background reading on arts participation, student-led research, writing, and class presentations. Students will have an opportunity to conduct primary research through interviews with members of ethnic and immigrant communities in Chicago, and the class will produce a public report.  Students will become familiar with key arts participation surveys used in the United States and in other countries. 

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