Stepping Out from the Shadows of Neglect: Understanding the Nature and Role of Community Arts in Australia

Dr Martin Mulligan,
Professor Paul James,
Dr. Christopher Scanlon,
Dr Kim Humphrey,
Nicky Welch,
Ms Pia Smith,
Ms Dee Basinski
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Often considered a distant and poor relative of “authentic” arts practices in Australia, community arts have experienced something of a renaissance in recent years. However, this has not been acknowledged in arts funding policies and so community arts projects and practitioners continue to be poorly resourced. Working in collaboration with Australia’s most innovative health promotion agency, VicHealth, the Globalism Institute at RMIT University in Melbourne has recently completed a three-year study of the role of the arts in community development strategies across four diverse local communities. The selected communities ranged from inner-urban St Kilda in Melbourne to the rural/regional centre of Hamilton in western Victoria that has experienced the negative impacts of rural economic restructuring.

We concentrated on analyzing the work of a wide range of highly experienced community arts practitioners, working within a range of media, in order to better understand what it takes to become successful in the field. More broadly, the study focused on how community arts can help local communities negotiate the impacts of globalization and this paper will present arguments for increasing the public investment in community arts in the context of accelerating global change.

Keywords: Community Arts, Globalization
Stream: Art in Communities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Stepping Out of the Shadows of Neglect

Dr Martin Mulligan

Senior Research Fellow, Globalism Institute, RMIT University

Recent research: sense of place and community well-being in particular Victorian communities; community development strategies in Papua New Guinea; the recovery of local communities in post-tsunami Sri Lanka; strategies for nature conservation in the post-colonial era; rethinking attitudes to water in Australia and internationally; social history of ecological thought and action. His books include Ecological Pioneers (2001 with Stuart Hill) and Decolonizing Nature (2003 with William Adams)

Professor Paul James

Director, Globalism Institute, RMIT University

Paul James is Director of the Globalism Institute (RMIT), an editor of Arena Journal, and on the Council of the Institute of Postcolonial Studies. He has received a number of awards including the Japan-Australia Foundation Fellowship, an Australian Research Council Fellowship, and the Crisp Medal by the Australasian Political Studies Association for the best book in the field of political studies. Invitations have been received to deliver addresses in Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel-Palestine, Japan, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Scotland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States. He is author or editor of nine books including, Nation Formation: Towards a Theory of Abstract Community (Sage, 1996). His book with Tom Nairn, Global Matrix: Nationalism, Globalism and State-Terror, has just been published by Pluto Press, and Globalism, Nationalism Tribalism: Bringing Theory Back In will be published by Sage shortly.

Dr. Christopher Scanlon

Researcher, Globalism Institute, RMIT University

Over the past five years I have been conducting research into the politics of community in the current era of globalisation and the move to the ‘informational societies’. This work has focused particularly on debates around social capital, social inclusion and social entrepreneurship in the United Kingdom and Australia. In these different national contexts, I have sought to examine how community has come to be positioned as a new arena and instrument of governance in response to the challenges and of global flows of information, exchange and production. Since submitting my PhD in 2002 I have been researching declining linguistic diversity and the impact of globalisation on local and Indigenous languages, linking these to debates about the burgeoning global knowledge economy. More generally, my work has focused on the interrelationship between the technological, commercial and cultural developments underlying recent dramatic declines in linguistic diversity. In addition to this work, and drawing on a background in social theory and politics, I am currently working on a project examining the impact of community arts initiatives on community wellbeing. This research seeks to generate a new understanding of the deep interactions and practices that make communities sustainable with the intention of informing and empowering local communities through enabling them to produce valuable arts projects as a means of enhancing processes of community-building.

Dr Kim Humphrey

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Constructed Environment, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University

Nicky Welch

Research Fellow, Globalism Institute, RMIT University

Ms Pia Smith

Research Assistant, Globalism Institute, RMIT University

Ms Dee Basinski


Ref: A06P0096