Sarah Penhall & Robin Penty

Arts Centre Melbourne

Sarah PenhallSarah Penhall is the Project Manager for Research & Evaluation and the Coordinator for Private Giving Services and at Arts Centre Melbourne. Sarah has worked for numerous arts based organisations in the UK and Australia which promote young people’s participation in the arts including the Royal National Theatre, Creative Partnerships, the Anne Peaker Centre for Arts in Criminal Justice, and Sing Up, the national government flagship program for promoting singing in schools. Her research interests include diversity in the arts, families and the arts and arts impact measurement. At Arts Centre Melbourne she is responsible for raising money through donations, trusts and foundations for arts participation programs, and developing an evidence base to support this work through evaluation.

Robin PentyRobin Penty has worked in the arts and education sectors for over two decades and is the recently appointed Head of Participation & Public Programs at the Arts Centre Melbourne. Robin’s career includes an extensive background in programming, tour and creative development, including roles as program manager, executive producer, artistic director, general manager, lecturer, qualitative researcher, choreographer, performer and workshop facilitator. Since commencing with Arts Centre Melbourne, Robin has overseen a significant restructure and expansion in her portfolio to become the largest performing arts & education team in Australia, with numerous awards and recognition for leadership in this area at state, national and international levels. In addition, Robin is a published freelance writer and accomplished public speaker, including appearances and interviews on national television and Ovation Channel.

Sustainable Methods To Better Understand The Impact Of Our Education And Participation Programs Involving School-Aged Children And Youth

Over the last two years Arts Centre Melbourne has embarked on a program of evaluation to find sustainable methods to better understand the impact of our education and participation programs involving school-aged children and youth. This work has been driven by the need to build an evidence base to support a culture of continuous improvement and drive the quality of our cultural programming, as well to grow an evidence base for the next generation of high ROI philanthropists.

Our experience and research tells us that that participating in high quality performing arts experiences can have significant benefits for young people, influencing the way they think, learn, interact with each other and understand the world. We also know that in order to derive these benefits, programs for young people must be participatory, accessible, and of high intrinsic worth. However, without robust tools and indicators to measure the impact of our cultural and learning programs in relation to these benefits, the evidence base remains largely anecdotal.

Informed by international literature on measuring the intrinsic and instrumental impact of arts participation1, we set about developing and piloting a set of indicators and tools to measure the impact of our programs for students. The indicators were developed against a goal framework which included five headline goals 1) promoting artistic vibrancy, 2) social and learning outcomes, 3) access and participation, 4) community connectedness and 5) leadership.

A very important factor in the design of this work was sustainability. We needed to develop tools to build our internal capacity for evaluation that could be used on an ongoing basis. So far the work has yielded promising results. We have completed three pilots and have established the validity of the surveys and reviewed their usefulness in helping us understand the impact of our programs. This presentation will focus on the importance of embedding sustainable methodologies and evaluative practice in arts and culture organisations, and will signpost some of the thinking and outcomes which Arts Centre Melbourne has developed through this work.

1 Especially: Brown, A, Novak J. (2007) Assessing the intrinsic impact of live performance, WolfBrown, Bailey. J (2009) Artistic Vibrancy Resources produced for The Australia Council for the Arts, The new economics foundation (2009) Capturing the Audience Experience: a handbook for theatres, Holden, J (2004) Capturing Cultural Value, Demos, London and McCarthy, K. Ondaatje, E. Zakaras, L. and Brookes, A. (2004) Gifts of the Muse, The Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, CA



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