Measuring the immeasurable? : a critical response to the way arts funding bodies evaluate the work of arts organisations
The arts impact on all our lives. They play an important role in our spiritual and cultural well-being, but the creative industries also contribute considerably to our economy, and a significant investment in this sector is made by state funding. The Arts Council of Wales and Arts Council England are charged with distributing state funding for the arts and this study examines the methods used by them to evaluate the arts organisations that they fund. Client evaluation is a key element in the relationship between funded and funder and a matter of considerable importance and sensitivity to both parties. Both artists and arts council officers were found to be dissatisfied with the current evaluation system, which has been in place for some twenty years. Among several important criticisms was the fundamental perception that it simply was not a suitable system for determining whether or not an organisation was doing a good job. The study comprises eight chapters, the first two of which describe the evolution of the arts funding system in Britain and the manner in which governmental attitudes towards arts funding has changed over recent years. The third chapter establishes the theoretical construct for the study. Firstly it examines the relationship between the funding body and the funded organisation within the context of Foucault's conception of Panoptic disciplinary power. It then proceeds to consider the development of evaluation practice in the sphere of education. Education is an appropriate domain to explore, partly because there are many similarities between the fields of art and education, but principally because pioneering work in this domain has informed the development of evaluation practice in other fields. The primary data gathered for this study, through observation and interview, is qualitative in character and is reported in Chapter 5. Finally, following analysis and discussion of the field and desk data in Chapters 6 and 7, an alternative approach to client appraisal is proposed in Chapter 8.