Building the Field of Arts Engagement: Prospects and Challenges

Building the Field of Arts Engagement: Prospects and Challenges

Given the urgent need for arts and cultural organizations to demonstrate their public benefit and update their underlying business models in order to remain relevant and sustainable, the field of arts engagement needs a shared framework for analysis, knowledge transfer, and practice, a report commissioned by the James Irvine Foundation from AEA Consulting finds. Based on surveys, panel discussions, and interviews, the report, Building the Field of Arts Engagement: Prospects and Challenges (22 pages, PDF), found that the arts engagement field is lacking in shared identity, standards of practice, a knowledge base, leadership beyond small grassroots organizations, and a funding and policy framework. The study finds three emerging agendas for field building: The reform agenda, in which engagement is a means and participation is the end, emphasizes the need for established nonprofit arts organizations to be relevant and meaningful to the changing community; while the cultural equity agenda focuses on arts participation not as the end but as a means to collective action to promote social equity and social justice. The big tent agenda aims to advance both reform and cultural equity across the creative economy as a whole by integrating the two agendas by supporting the production, distribution, and consumption of broader creative industries and including individuals, for-profits, not-for-profits, and benefit corporations.