Art ‘doesn’t need to be useful’, report advises self-evaluating organisations

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Art should “not be expected to be useful”, and arts organisations conducting evaluations should avoid putting trust “solely into quantitative data”, a new online resource has advised.

Published by European network IETM, the report uses online resources and real-world examples to guide arts organisations through the sorts of questions and outcomes they should focus on to achieve their assessment objectives.

“This toolkit aims to guide you through the key steps of evaluation, whether you have chosen to do it yourself or if a funder or decision-maker asks you to do so” writes report author, Vassilka Shishkova.

It aims to help arts practitioners design, carry out and use their evaluations, and to control the process, identifying “risks and traps” along the way.

Self-help

The report, ‘Look I’m Priceless’, suggests deciding upon an evaluation focus – such as the extent to which activity encourages participation – and offers critique on the objectives commonly expected from creative activity.

“It is important to remember that we are talking about art, and not about social or agricultural projects,” Shishkova adds. “Despite all the evidence for the positive impacts of art on social or economic fields, art should not be expected to be useful.

“It is not supposed to be a means to an end. It is not a substitute or a double to welfare, social programs or health care. It must be free to have no other goals than its artistic ones.”

The report continues with advice on:

  • Planning an evaluation
  • How to ask questions (who to ask and how to avoid bias)
  • How to sample in a way that avoids threats to validity
  • How to write an evaluation report
  • Techniques for quantitative and qualitative evaluations

Online resources and case-studies from arts organisations internationally are provided as support, including UK-based Walk the Plank.

Shishkova continues: “Many of you have already adopted certain evaluation procedures, mostly following the guidelines of your funding bodies…this toolkit can take you a step further, and maybe equip you to start a conversation with funders on how to approach evaluation in a different way.

This article was originally published on Arts Professional on the 5th of July 2017. Read the original article.

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