AIMAC doctoral symposium 2015 day one

It was with a strong sense of nervousness that I arrived at the location for the International Arts Management conference doctoral workshop.  Would my research hold up amongst an international, highly qualified audience of my peers? Was my presentation appropriate? (We had limited guidelines.) Was I dressed right. (Hey, I’m superficial.)

The last question was answered pretty quickly- yes. As unsurprisingly the participants were largely women aged 25-40 and we all dressed similarly (arts stereotypes anyone?)

The kick off session on research methodologies from a Roger Bennett eased my mind about question two. It was interesting but also demonstrated that good presentation style counts for much, so I knew I’d hold the audience well. The second session, a really informative analysis of trends in publication in arts management and creative industries in Europe , answered a bit more and made me realise two things. One I know what I’m talking about, in particular my experience teaching cultural policy has served me really well in understanding key trends and theories. Secondly, my thesis is in an emerging area combined with a classic one. I’m taking a classic arts management theme, leadership, and looking at it in what was described in an avante-garde way.  I can tell by my positioning within the program that the scientific committee didn’t really know what to do with me.  This is good, as I’m charting new territory, but bad because I may not be ‘arts management enough’ for my potential examiners.  This has got me thinking about the positioning of my thesis and future career. While I’m working in now, and hope to have a job, in arts and cultural management, my thesis itself may be too interdisciplinary and narrative orientated.  I hope not.(Elaine if you’re reading this we might need to discuss.) I think I will get an indication as to how the academic world sees me with the acceptance or rejection of my recently completed journal article.

The key themes emerging in arts and cultural management, interestingly summarised by Anne Gombault, are:

  • The creative turn- the shift from arts management to creative industries.
  • The digital turn- the impact, or disruption, of digital on the discipline and sector.
  • Private art funding and entrepreneurship- a long term area in the USA and Australia but only now an issue in Europe as public funding diminishes.
  • Governance and evaluation- I was interested to hear there is still very little evaluation and measurement of cultural policy outcomes in Europe and boards have very little power or influence.
  • The avant-garde- which included areas like celebrity, careers and design thinking.
  • The classics- arts marketing, leadership (which I sort of fall in, but with a new approach), management control and dual leadership.

The post presentation conversation got into some interesting territory about the rise and fall of Eureopean dominance, but the informative comment of one of the assessors/advisors in the program, Gretchen Larsen from Durham raised the idea that it was more to do with the rise in neo-liberal thinking than geography (which I agree.) Later we got talking, she’s a New Zealander so we gravitated towards each other drawn by flat vowels, and I think I found my first kindred spirit. It’s interesting trying to read the political dynamics of something like this conference. 

The early afternoon was spent watching the first of the PhD presentations, and now I’m pretty confident that I can present effectively because a)  this is not outside my realm of experience and b) I know my stuff inside and out. And I’m ace at presenting, public speaking is my jam. (Shall revisit this tomorrow post presentation because I have the co-chair of the whole event as one of my assessors, who also happens to be the editor of the most prestigious journal in the space….so no pressure.)

The last sessions of the day on publication and coping with a PhD were well intentioned but probably didn’t teach me anything I hadn’t learned comprehensively at UTS, once again reaffirming my good choice in applying to go there. I’m extremely thankful for the guidance I’ve received, both from my supervisor and from the staff in general.

We broke at 6:30pm, and after starting at 8:30am, I was crushed. There was some sort of experiential art event planned later in the evening, but I know myself well enough to know a bit of alone time was needed before my ‘big’ day tomorrow.