Bridget Jones

Australia Council for the Arts

Bridget JonesBridget Jones leads the Australia Council’s research team to deliver insights about the arts to marketers, industry leaders, artists and policy makers. She managed the Australian Arts Participation Survey – More than Bums on Seats and the recent survey of online engagement – Connecting://arts audiences online. She has overseen the artistic vibrancy research program over the past three years.

Community relevance as a core element of artistic vibrancy

There are increasing calls for ‘heritage arts’ organisations to demonstrate their relevance to communities beyond traditional audiences. The Australia Council supports major performing arts (MPA) organisations to reflect on artistic matters using an Artistic Reflection Kit. Monitoring frameworks, which previously focused on metrics of attendance and corporate sustainability, have now been extended to include self reflections upon the artistic vibrancy of MPA organisations.

This paper presents the results of recent research into the idea of ‘community relevance’ as a core element of artistic vibrancy. This paper identifies the four schools of thought on the relationship between community engagement and artistic vibrancy.

Workshop discussion with Australian arts professionals found that the key elements of being relevant to communities are; thinking beyond your audience, opening up to new communities, listening to what they have to say and valuing the process of engagement. Successful community engagements were seen as interacting for mutual benefit – with the arts organisation willing to learn from the community.

This paper contends that for a major performing arts organisation, being relevant to a community means sharing a meaningful connection with a community beyond their traditional audience. Community relevance is not static, and organisations find themselves in different positions at different times. A three-stage reflection cycle is proposed. The first stage involves looking beyond the traditional audience and identifying new communities of interest to the organisation. A second stage is building new and deeper relationships with target communities. The third and final stage involves exploring the creativity of communities and engaging in co-creation activities.

This paper describes the collaborative development and pilot process being used to develop the reflection tools and also presents case studies for each of the three stages of reflection.

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