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Art for Art’s sake? Mission driven values and the role of creativity in a time of rupture

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Patrons queuing outside a the site gallery in Sheffield.

  • Drs Elizabeth Carnegie and Andreana Drencheva are curating a special issue of Arts and the Market investigating Art in a time of rupture
  • Submissions are invited that address the overarching theme of understanding how rupture, complex and rapid change impacts on support for art, artists, and artists’ spaces

Debates about the role and importance of the arts as a social good have never been more keenly felt than in recent years. At the local level, current debates about the death of the high street  are linked to the loss of community as well as equity, with the potential solution that empty shops be used for artist’s spaces and local theatre. Initiatives such as Theatre Delicatessen in Sheffield, remind us that local and national governments accept that the provision of cultural and community arts spaces remain vital to shaping identity, a sense of community and belonging, yet they do so in increasingly constrained circumstances. 

Art in a changing climate

The landscape for local, national, and international art and artists’ spaces has changed considerably in recent years and is continuing to change, as arts organisations and initiatives are increasingly being, and indeed required to be, mission-driven. ‘Mission-driven arts organisations’ we can define at an umbrella term that brings together diverse organisations and initiatives that pursue both social and artistic or cultural objectives. Thus, mission-driven arts organisations are diverse and employ numerous organising forms, such as social enterprises, co-operatives, social movements, temporary organisations and initiatives.

However, at their core is the pursuit of social objectives, which also requires the management of often conflicting artistic, economic, cultural, and social demands. In this context, artists’ lived experiences are marked by tensions and contradictions as they negotiate precarious careers, and develop their creative and artistic values within a challenging marketplace. A question that might be asked here is whether artists value in this context is determined by engagement, or to put that another way conforms to the values of funders. Can artists thus survive, and thrive on the ‘outside’?

This topic has rarely seemed more timely or worthy of debate as we experience a point of rupture within wider society as the intersection of globalisation, nationalism, and neoliberalism creates multidimensional uncertainty that shapes the opportunities, responsibilities, work arrangements, and lived experiences of artists, artist-led initiatives, and cultural organisations. The resultant limited access to funding with shifting priorities, market fragmentation, and public policy place demands on arts organisations and initiatives to change their business models and become more ‘entrepreneurial’ and ‘resilient’.

Call for papers

For this special edition we aim to try and make sense of how artists and mission-driven art organisations navigate the uncertainty of contemporary artistic careers in the context of the social, economic, and technological uncertainty of our times? This question is not only timely from a practice perspective, but also creates an opportunity for dialogue between rapidly growing, yet fragmented, research streams across the cultural and creative industries. This issue will provide an opportunity for a vibrant conversation that for the first time brings together different viewpoints to understand how artists and arts organisations cope with and thrive in today’s uncertainty to catalyse positive social change, while meeting economic demands.

The overarching theme of this special edition is to understand how rupture and complex and rapid change impacts on support for art, artists, and artists’ spaces and in doing so to provide cutting-edge insights relevant for contemporary theory, practice and teaching. It is in this spirit that we are calling for papers that shed light on the foundations and nature of mission-driven art organisations and initiatives across levels of analysis: from individuals and organisations to communities and institutions.

The deadline for submission is 15 May 2019, and full guidance can be found here: http://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/products/journals/call_for_papers.htm?id=8369