Warwick University and a-n are collaborating to offer a PhD research studentship that addresses the question of cultural value. Supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the study – ‘Artist-led contributions to the cultural value agenda: developing theory, methods and policy insight’ – will explore whether and how practice-led, small-scale initiatives and artist-led experimental visual arts activities that are delivered through peer networks contribute to creating cultural value.

The question of ‘value’ within cultural policy came to particular prominence in the post-2008 austerity period. How to articulate, measure and advocate the value of the arts has been linked primarily to the need to make the case for the arts to funders, who need evidence that authenticates support for a traditional building-based arts infrastructure. The value of individual artists and artists’ initiatives has been largely neglected – this new study aims to address a significant gap in understanding.

The project represents the latest development in a long-term collaboration between Dr Eleonora Belfiore, Warwick University and a-n’s director Susan Jones. Initially created through Belfiore’s Cultural Values initiative – an online platform and curated blog discussing research and public engagement initiatives on the theme of cultural value – other joint activities include the Dangerous Ground: reframing cultural value consultations.

Artists’ perspectives

Dr Belfiore, who will be the academic supervisor for the PhD, said: “What has emerged powerfully from our joint consultations with practitioners to date is the under-representation of artists’ perspectives within the current research and policy debate around cultural value. This is in spite of the richness of thought, debate, exchange and collaborative practice in those areas within the practitioner communities involved in these scoping discussions.”

Susan Jones, co-supervisor of the studentship, said: “The research topic is in direct support of a-n’s mission to stimulate and support contemporary visual arts practice and affirm the value of artists in society. We recognise that the pivotal value of the artist or practice-led is often unrecognised by cultural and arts policy-makers whose metrics and judgements about value of the visual arts are premised on quantifying the impact of traditional institutional models such as galleries and museums.”

Key to tackling the project’s research questions will be the opportunity to access the body of data, evidence and analysis that exists in the a-n archive. Covering the changing face of the visual art ecology over 32 years through published and unpublished materials, the archive is an invaluable aid to mapping the nature, scope and impact of artist-led initiatives within the visual arts.

The post is advertised on a-n’s Jobs and Opps. Deadline for applications is 25 June, with the studentship starting in October 2014.

More on www.a-n.co.uk:

Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value – report on first of three ‘provocation’ events

Artist as Leader – Joshua Sofaer’s research-based interviews with artists