Investing in arts and culture positively changes communities: an impact study of RADF supported arts projects in Western Queensland

PhD Thesis


Power, Margaret Ann. 2018. Investing in arts and culture positively changes communities: an impact study of RADF supported arts projects in Western Queensland. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/5c09cef2f0ccb
Title

Investing in arts and culture positively changes communities: an impact study of RADF supported arts projects in Western Queensland

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorPower, Margaret Ann
SupervisorScollen, Rebecca
Burton, Lorelle
Cuthill, Michael
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages283
Year2018
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/5c09cef2f0ccb
Abstract

Regional Australia is undergoing change. Communities within regional locations are under varying degrees of pressure from: threats to local and regional economies; socio-economic disadvantage; population migration to urban centres; environmental degradation; and aging populations. This process of change is exacerbated by globalisation which has direct detrimental impacts on the micro-economies of small communities, resulting in economic hardship and disadvantage.

Academic research here in Australia and internationally suggests that community arts participation can make significant contributions to community wellbeing. Yet the arts sector in Australia remains relatively silent in respect to the active role it could play in changing the perception of policy makers regarding the contribution community arts participation could make to support regional communities undergoing change. While community arts are one of a number of developmental activities policy makers have available to fund, little is known about the impacts of this government investment on regional Australian communities.

Responding to this lack of knowledge about regional Australian arts and cultural participation, this research explores and describes community arts impacts at the community level. The knowledge generated in this study will inform government planning, and provide an empirical evidence base to direct policy decisions toward developing arts and cultural strategies ensuring the ongoing resiliency of regional communities. This study benefits Federal, State, and Local Government arts funding policy makers who seek to support regional community development, prosperity, and resilience.

This study uses a qualitative methodology to describe community arts impact and draw out the processes driving this change. A case study approach is used to explore impacts made by the Queensland Regional Arts Development Fund initiative, which is a partnership program between state and local government. An examination of in-depth evidence gathered from key stakeholders and archival documents from the Western Downs Region is investigated.

The results of this study establish that community arts engagement is a powerful tool to direct collective agency towards changing community development trajectories and resiliency. Four impact themes including developing arts and culture, wellbeing, social connectedness, and capacity building were identified through the study. Community arts impacts have multiple dimensions that aggregate across four levels of a community in a process that is cumulative over time. These cumulative impacts demonstrate links to a community capacity building process and the development of seven community capitals activated by participation. Evidence from this research reveals that, over time, the sum of multiple community arts impacts can make significant contributions to the wellbeing and resiliency of regional Queensland communities through building community capacity, developing community capitals, and facilitating the communication of community culture.

The three new frameworks developed in this study contribute to knowledge about community arts practice, community development, and Social Science theory. This study adds to what is known about community arts impacts in regional Australia, and provides a robust evidence base for informing policy maker decisions and community arts practitioners arguing for greater arts funding for the regions.

Keywordscommunity arts, community capacity, resilience, impact, Queensland communities, conceptual framework
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470201. Arts and cultural policy
461010. Social and community informatics
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Arts and Communication
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