Developing a Language: A Framework for the Discussion of the Public Value of the Arts

Ms. Claire West
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Firefighters and cops. Necessities. When at the table to talk about dividing up the money, the arts people look at the floor and shuffle our feet. The resources are there and there is enough to go around. We have to learn how to frame the arts’ public value in terms that have the confidence of conviction.

Recently, conversation amongst arts leaders across the US turned toward learning to talk to our various authorizers in ways they might better understand. This particular conversation was stimulated by a partnership between the Wallace Foundation, thirteen state arts agencies, and the Kennedy School of Business to investigate public participation in the arts.

Do you know that your community, your county council, neighbours, elected officials, school teachers, are proud of the art that exists in their community and feel the resources set aside to perpetuate it are inevitable and reflective of what they value?

When talking about the value of our work we are still inventing our vocabulary. In the US we took it for granted that everybody agrees the arts are a part of great society, so we lacked a description to use when that notion was called into question. Examples of changed approaches will be cited. It is hoped that there will be conversation amongst those present not only developing new ways but also challenging the idea that we need to rework our argument.

Keywords: Dividing up the Money, Public Value, Inventing our Vocabulary, Examples of Changed Approaches
Stream: Arts Agendas, Supporting the Arts, Art in Communities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Developing a Language

Ms. Claire West

Performing Arts Director, Arizona Commission on the Arts

Claire West has served as Performing Arts Director at the Arizona Commission on the Arts since 1991. In this capacity she is responsible for providing consulting and grants assistance to individuals and organizations throughout the state in the areas of music, dance, theatre, opera and arts criticism. She also manages the Meet the Composer/Arizona, Regional Touring, Artist Conversations, Field Forward Network, Arizona Dance on Tour, and Consultant Services programs. She serves on panels statewide and nationally, and lectures on arts administration. Prior to working at the Arts Commission, Claire held positions in arts administration in Tucson, New York and Alaska. Her professional training is in ballet and modern dance.

Ref: A06P0173