Centre for Cultural Partnerships - Theses

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    Meanings and measures of urban cultural policy: Local government, art and community wellbeing in Australia and New Zealand
    BLOMKAMP, EMMA ( 2013)
    Local government in Australia and New Zealand has long contributed to the cultural life of communities, particularly by providing services and infrastructure for creative activities. Through a historical literature review and four contemporary case studies, this research explores some of the many goals, values, techniques and traditions that are embedded in local government arts programmes and cultural policies. Drawing on the theories of governmentality and wellbeing as capabilities, this thesis argues that urban cultural policy in Australia and New Zealand is fundamentally driven by local government’s rationale of providing the conditions in which community members can live free and flourishing lives. Faced with increasing demands for accountability and evidence-based policy and planning, local government officers are endeavouring to articulate and assess arts programming and cultural policy in relation to broad aspirations. Their efforts are complicated by the multiple definitions of culture, competing rationales for supporting the arts and the difficulty of quantifying unpredictable and intangible results, not to mention the myriad other activities and agencies that shape cultural community outcomes. Cultural policy evaluation is important for learning and legitimation, but it presents significant challenges for local government. This thesis examines how municipalities in Australia and New Zealand develop and implement cultural plans and services in this complex environment. Exploring the problems of meaning and measurement that arise from certain discourses and practices, it demonstrates the value of an interpretive approach to cultural policy analysis. The case study research shows that local government officers require an array of skills and different types of knowledge to design, deliver and evaluate urban cultural policy. Their discourses and practices are shaped by overlapping traditions of local governance and multiple forms of cultural value. Community wellbeing indicators are put forth as a relevant tool for local government calculations, but evaluating the results of arts and cultural policy requires more than the careful construction of meaningful measures. Effective evaluation of urban cultural policy would recognise the significance of numerous policy frames and multiple forms of context-dependent knowledge.