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Evaluation Strategies for Landmark Art Projects

A project for the Fondation Marcel Hicter European Diploma in Cultural Project Management 1999-2000 by Catherine Newbery

Evaluation strategies for landmark art projects based on a comparison of three european projects; the Irwell Sculpture Trail in Britain, Emscher Park in Germany and Artscape Norland in Norway.

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Contextual Setting of the Work

This paper concentrates on evaluation strategies of Landmark Art Projects and attempts to analyse the benefits of public art, especially on the local community, and what systems are being used to provide evidence of those effects in three European Countries.

My motivation to carry out this research stems from an ever increasing demand in Britain for evidence of the benefits of public art projects and the difficulty in providing qualitative and quantitative information on projects that bridge multiple agendas. The evaluation model currently in place is not effective in measuring benefits of Landmark Art Projects as it is based on a museum model which deals with a controlled audience who come through the venue door. Public art has a variety of audiences with very different experiences of the work.

Public Art has also been heralded as the panacea of all ills. "In 1990 the Public Art Consultancy Team described Public Art as a cultural investment, vital to the economic recovery of many cities: It attracts companies and investment; is a feature of cultural tourism; adds to land values; creates employment; increases the use of open space; reduces wear and tear on buildings; and levels of vandalism; humanises environments; brings about safer areas; encourages greater care of areas by residents whose pride in their locality has increased." Selwood,S (1992 pp1)

One of the dilemmas explored in this paper is how to begin to evaluate the above assumptions about benefit when no benchmarks h have been developed against which to measure effects. I believe that we do not have enough evidence to argue for the value of art work and the benefits artists make to our environment. I expected to find that this was a common problem within many public art projects in Europe.

Comparative Study

I compared the project I work on, the Irwell Sculpture Trail (IST) in Britain, with two other Landmark Art Projects Emscher Park (IBA) Germany and Artscape Norland (AN) Norway, to discover the effectiveness of their evaluation strategies. All the projects are long term commissioning programmes to create permanent art work over large geographical areas; working within the framework of regional and national government bureaucracy. Each of the projects has commissioned internationally renowned artists to create site specific work either as part of regeneration or of cultural infrastructure programmes.

Project Analysis

I discover no methodology for evaluation has been developed and evaluation is not carried out consistently in the three comparisons. This stems from different attitudes to culture in the countries and very different management structures of the projects. IBA in Germany accepts Culture as "a way of life" so there is no need to prove the benefits. AN in Norway has used a sociologist to prove the social benefit but no other methods. In Britain culture e has to justify its existence in social and economic terms therefore the IST has to be accountable and use a range of evaluation methods, but is suffering from growing pressure for hard evidence of benefit as well as the anecdotal evidence already in existence.

All the projects have anecdotal evidence of how Landmark Art Projects have affected communities which is an important form of evaluation however this needs to be backed up with scientific research. AN and IBA probably have conducted as much evaluation as they need to provide in their societies and there is an argument to carry out no evaluation. However the IST cannot do this and needs to develop a strategy i and action plan to provide evidence of the benefits that public art can bring.

Project Framework

Through reading secondary literature recommended to me by Franco Bianchini I have discovered methodology developed by other professionals that can be adapted to Landmark Art Projects i.e. Tony Bovaird Public Art in Urban Regeneration: An Economic Assessment and François Matarasso's Use or Ornament? The Social Impact of Participation in the Art. This provided a useful framework to adapt to public art schemes. In my paper I have classified the benefits Landmark Art Projects could bring into Social, Economic, Environmental Improvements and Increase in Cultural Activity and listed methods to go about proving those benefits. I also suggest that only one of the categories be applied to a project as proving a range of benefits will be unachievable and inappropriate to many schemes.

For example an urban regeneration project provides funding for environmental improvements so public art as part of this schemes should be evaluated in those terms. Measure the improvement to the environment through the perceptions of the area before and after the regeneration, ask if attitudes changed and why, if the image of the area improved, if there were social affects or an increase in jobs or visitor figures. How can these be tested?

I have also discussed who should carry out evaluation as I believe professionals outside of the arts world would produce more credible results as they are: more objective; can relate the work to the wider world and in a language politicians can understand; have more experience of the methods to use; and not cut corners as they do not have the internal pressure to complete other tasks. I suggest sociologists should be used on social projects to work with the different communities; and economists, environmentalists as well as market researchers should be considered for regeneration projects to prove external investment in the area, improvements in the image of a place, job creation, visitor figures etc. These professionals would add to the interdisciplinary team that public art projects are good at creating to realise schemes and help towards the integration of culture in our society. This would incur costs so budgets would have to be put aside to carry out the work, however not every project would need this in-depth evaluation but a couple of projects a year which further projects could be measured against.

Evaluation & Conclusions

In conclusion I have developed a series of questions to be asked at the beginning of a project to identify the need for evaluation and begin a discussion with team members and other professionals. In the coming year I will select two Landmark Art Projects on the IST, one that has a social focus and the other part of a regeneration scheme to undertake an evaluation exercise. A small working group will be established for each project with myself, local arts and planning officers from the municipality, a community representative for the social project and relevant professionals I will employ to assist in the study. I wish to work with a sociologist as the research carried out by AN has influenced me.

The resulting proof of benefit will feed into: the Best Value review local government is carrying out to prove service delivery is effective and cost effective; the research Public Art Forum, the national association for the development of professional practice in Public Art, is conducting to provide evidence of the benefits of public art projects; the Art Council of England's evaluation of lottery projects and the development of future projects on the IST.

In comparing the Irwell Sculpture Trail with other European Landmark Art Projects, I have developed a better understanding of the global position of my project and begun to develop a responsive evaluation strategy and action plan for the IST. I now understand the motivation in Britain for proving benefit of Landmark Art Projects and hope this research and the subsequent evidence will help us argue for the inclusion of culture in the development of our society on more equal terms.

6 key words: Evaluation, Benefits, Research, Methodology, Comparison, Evidence.

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