RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


207 Urban Public Arts and Collaborative Production: Revisiting the Role of Universities in the Triple Helix
Affiliation Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Martin Zebracki (University of Leeds, UK)
Saskia Warren (The University of Manchester, UK)
Calvin Taylor (University of Leeds, UK)
Chair(s) Martin Zebracki (University of Leeds, UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Session abstract This session invites scholars across disciplines as well as practitioners to critically discuss the role of universities in arts-based socially-engaged practices. Where consultancy in the public arts was once considered in tension with academic labour, Triple Helix¹ - that is the nexus between research, industry, and policy - is positioned at the lucrative cutting-edge of the academy vis-à-vis the urban knowledge economy and creative industries. Our focus is on the critical role that universities play within Triple Helix alliances to design and execute arts for public spaces along sculpture, performance, (new) media, heritage, etc. The impact agenda and the stipulations of national and international research council funding agencies have moved away from a culture of patronage. They have substantially formalised the contributions the academy makes, or should make, to wider societies as a core function of academic labour (Pain et al. 2011). As culture concerns a standing agenda item on university management boards, universities are increasingly positioning themselves as leaders within the cultural and creative economy with plural responsibilities to their localities, networks and glocal publics. This can be understood as universities looking for a wider legitimising narrative, where culture is a useful focus for narrating local belonging and global outlook. Expertise and often-voluntary time of academics is expected within governance of culture by institutions, artists, intermediaries and policy-makers. Also, arts and humanities and culture-focused social scientists have increasingly seen cultural projects as a way of demonstrating the value of academic research, underpinned by the impetus of research funding priorities around knowledge exchange and impact. We strongly encounter such multi-allegiance in numerous community arts projects. Of interest is the mushrooming of public arts events where research institutions and individual academics act as co-conveners, facilitators and co-producers. As large and well-networked institutions, universities can leverage internships and job creation elsewhere. They may have the capacity to deliver skills and training and construct workplace ecologies beyond the lecture theatre. As resonated by participatory geographies (e.g. Macpherson et al. 2014), this raises critical questions about the nature and ethics of co-working and the (potential) impacts among the multiple actors involved in public arts projects. We invite critical accounts on how universities may speak to the very diverse micropublics that are understood from, firstly, an intersectionality framework (e.g. Gutierreza & Hopkins 2015) that includes considerations of gender, age, ethnicity, class, religion, ability/disability, and so forth, and, secondly, a collaborative research-industry-policy context.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Between the campus and the city: public art as critical exchange
Elaine Speight (University of Central Lancashire, UK)
During the UK's 'urban renaissance' of the 90s and 2000s, local authorities emerged as prominent commissioners of public art. Yet, in recent years, the decimating effects of austerity politics have forced many city councils to curtail their support for art and, in some cases, to withdraw it altogether. In many places, this vacuum has been filled by academic institutions who, keen to maximise their potential for public engagement and to demonstrate the 'impact' of research, have embraced opportunities to work with artists as a way to engage diverse publics. Similarly, the growth of universities and their focus on 'student experience', has provided opportunities to integrate public art within campus redevelopments. Taking In Certain Places – an ongoing public art initiative established in 2003 as a partnership between UCLan and Preston City Council – as a case study, I will discuss how public art can also function as a point of connection and critical exchange between a university and city. Referencing specific projects - such as The People's Canopy (a mobile architectural structure which connected the campus and city centre) and Expanded City (a three-year intervention within a large-scale infrastructure scheme) – I will describe how, through a long-term commitment to working with other stakeholders, such programmes can contribute to everyday life and influence urban policy in a place. At the same time, however, I will also explore the challenges of working within an academic institution, particularly in relation to the university's property development interests, and the local tensions that this can incur.

Towards an Architecture of Inclusion
Anita McKeown (Independent Researcher)
Architectures of Inclusion was a practice-based case study (2012 – 2014) that created a threshold project to identify the challenges and potential of arts-led educational provision within a research-intensive university, with a widening participation agenda. Architectures of Inclusion, an integrated dance project, involved 'different characteristics and capabilities… [and focused] on building a new relationship stage' (Benjamin, 2015). Developed as practice-based research and simultaneously, an act of creative placemaking, Architectures of Inclusion firstly identifies opportunities for a publicly funded institution, in conjunction with additional partners to adhere to Article 26 and 27 of the International Declaration of Human Rights, summarised as; Everyone has the right to education directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. Secondly, the project highlighted the obstacles and tensions inherent in developing such a project, within an institutional context. Supported by a diverse project ecology that included 12 partners; voluntary organisations, institutional departments (educational, local authority, Health Service Executive) and student organisations, the series of workshops, performance and an impact evaluation, initially proposed over 3 – 6mths took almost 2 years and involved the expertise and voluntary contributions of 22 people. This presentation, (theory and practice) will chart the process of realising Architectures of Inclusion, organised around key concerns (conventional understanding of research and knowledge production, participation rhetoric, one size fits all policy and procedures, resource allocation, including use, under-use and budgets.
Co-producing a cultural offer with older people
Anna Goulding (University of Manchester, UK)
This paper explores the early stages of a project where the principles of co-production are embedded throughout, with statutory and non-statutory organisations working together with older people. The Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing, University of Manchester, is the academic partner for the £10M Ambition for Ageing programme, led by Greater Manchester Community Voluntary Organisation. Across the county, eight local delivery leads have been commissioned to work with older people to co-produce projects to help reduce social isolation. The programme aims to maximise older people's contribution to civic, cultural and economic life across Greater Manchester by developing and facilitating such an approach. Currently older people are not themselves central to the creation and development of policies (Buffel, 2015), yet this way of working makes ethical and practical sense as older people are the best placed experts regarding the opportunities and challenges they face. MICRA is working to help develop and embed principles of co-production, helping to shape the research into how older people can shape service delivery and the issue of equality within older person's provision. The programme involves researching and implementing various forms of social participation to help reduce social isolation. One of the central aspects of this will be the development of a sustainable cultural offer involving a range of key cultural institutions. This paper considers how to ensure all partners have an equal voice in the co-production process, when there are inequalities related to social class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability. What are the asymmetrical power relationships involved in creating an accessible cultural offer for people who may never have engaged with official cultural institutions? And how do we ensure the process is not synonymous with mere consultation (Sanderson and NDTI, 2009)?
Academic Labour, Intermediation and Convergence in the Creative Urban Economy
Saskia Warren (The University of Manchester, UK)
Martin Zebracki (University of Leeds, UK)
The final segment of the session will involve discussion and reflection. It will build upon two notions in relation to the Triple Helix nexus: cultural intermediation (Bourdieu); and convergence theory (Jenkins). The first part investigates the role of academic labour and cultural intermediation in local urban cultural governance networks. Drawing on a case study of Birmingham, a large multi-cultural city trying to reimagine itself in the context of deep cuts to public spending, it explores how 'non-state' cultural intermediaries (academics, artists, academic-practitioners) serve to act as a strategic fix in straightened economic times for local state objectives on socio-economic exclusion and a broader policy narrative on localism. The second part discusses the strategic creation and use of various modes for representing/misrepresenting and calibrating/contrasting creative economy objectives across cultural intermediaries in multicultural urban contexts in examples drawn from Western Europe. Those modes have become wide-encompassing and hybrid in interactive and participatory new media and communication contexts. We will then reflect on the ways academics have become an integral part of uneven, pluralised forms of cultural governance in which the inclusion of local communities seems to be progressively challenged.