Measuring the value of cultural activity in regional WA: Evaluation report
This Report can be seen as a companion piece to our major research project this year undertaken with partners the Chamber of Arts and Culture WA – Mapping Arts and Cultural Funding in Regional WA.
We were very pleased to co-fund and partner with Edith Cowan University to produce this second research paper to look more closely at the impact our own programs are having. Measuring the Value of Cultural Activity in Regional WA investigates some of the early work undertaken in the regions using the Royalties for Regions Creative Regions funding package we began distributing in July 2015.
During their consideration of the Report, the Board of Directors of Country Arts WA prepared the following response to add value to the research prepared by Dr Helen Rusak (Chief Investigator) and Dr Susan Studham (Research Assistant). Whilst it is acknowledged the results of the pilot research report are based on a small sample size, the Board felt it could make the following reasonable, evaluative assumptions to help assist in their own strategic planning processes.
The study indicates that the types of communities fall into three main areas:
- Indigenous Communities;
- Farming Communities;
- Coastal Communities.
Challenges and Issues
The challenges of living in the regions (i.e. isolation and transience – FIFO) are being addressed through creative processes by encouraging engagement of communities and providing a vehicle for regional voices to be heard.
This is consistent with results featured in other studies including the 2014 Impact of Royalties for Regions Program Report which determined that investing in creative activities adds value and improves social, economic and environmental wellbeing.
In a time of unrest and uncertainty, young people want stability and experiences that make them feel happy and comfortable. Over 75% of youth respondents describe feeling ‘good’, ‘happy’ or ’comfortable’ during and after events. Events support their health and wellbeing, and offer a positive space for young people to engage.
Artists and Presenters
Artist and performers gained personal professional growth through closer interaction with their audiences. An opportunity identified by the performers was post-event interaction, as a means of building on the initial contact. There was a desire to create more a more sustained engagement and have meaningful interaction post-event.
With over 90% of artists and presenters saying their interaction with regional audiences benefited their practice, we can conclude that CAWA opportunities are facilitating capacity and sectorial growth.
Audiences engage with arts and culture on a number of levels:
- Connect, personally with a story or their community;
- Support their cultural groups;
- Seek creative opportunities to learn and look at the world in new ways.
Communication and distance travelled
- 63% of audience members still use word of mouth (including social media) as their main vehicle to express their views after attending a creative event, activity or workshop;
- 60% of respondents travelled less than 20kms (signalling community engagement in an event/program);
- 27% had travelled more than 100km.
These indicators demonstrate that local communities are engaged with the cultural offer and visitors to the area are also activated to attend. The out of region visitor figure of 27% broadly correlates with Tourism WA’s 2014/15 statistics for visitors to the regions. Cultural events are forming part of a place making platform.
Royalties for Regions Scheme 4 has been instrumental in meeting unmet needs. By focusing on infrastructure needs, organisations are able to live beyond a project to project existence. The fund creates opportunities for organisations to focus on growth by reflecting, learning and developing their craft, building on audience engagement and – in doing so – becoming an integral part of the community and creative offering.
In order to achieve sustainable outcomes the sector requires continued infrastructure investment and improvement. This is supported through by the findings of Circuit West 5-year touring strategy and strategically expressed through SD31 and Country Arts WA Regional Arts Policy Framework. The following highlights key recommendations/assumptions taken from this research program:
- Continued investment of funds into the regions over a sustainable period will contribute to alleviating issues relating to regional living;
- Continue to support cultural organisations and individuals to thrive not just survive;
- Encourage opportunities for artists to increase their connection with local communities (such as the Regional Arts Partnership Program);
- Consider further funding that supports artists and presenters to develop innovative programs and create more hands-on opportunities for regional audiences;
- Increase opportunities for investment in youth activities to give voice to the silent and build capacity to future proof the sector;
- Continue to develop opportunities for professional development in order to support sectorial growth and development.