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Call for proposals: Engage 40

Call for proposals – Engage Journal 40: Civic role, public space

Proposals are invited for Engage 40. The deadline for proposals is 10am, Friday 31 March 2017.

The outline below, stimulated by a discussion with the engage Journal Editorial Advisory Board (EAB), is followed by a series of questions. Please address these or use them as prompts in proposals for articles.

Download a PDF version of this callout here.

It is timely that in 2016 the Gulbenkian Foundation launched an enquiry into the civic role of the arts, ‘to increase awareness of the civic role that arts organisations play nationally and in their communities, develop an understanding of what constitutes ‘next practice’ and develop a movement of arts organisations committed to demonstrating it’. http://civicroleartsinquiry.gulbenkian.org.uk

Since the 1980s the broad direction of travel for museums and galleries has been towards more democratic institutions, with an expanding remit to broaden their collections, show work and exhibit artists representative of the diversity of the populations they serve, enable access, enjoyment, learning and participation, and provide social spaces.

This burgeoning of new buildings and cultural provision was driven by social and political ideology, and resulting public funding. In Privatizing the public: Three rhetorics of art’s public good in ‘Third Way’ cultural policy (2011),Andy Hewitt describes howcultural policy in the UK under New Labour (elected 1997) extolled the potential of art for social, economic change, which underlined the concept of ‘public good’ associated with publicly-funded policy. In addition to the argument that culture produces economic benefits, it was also believed that culture could contribute to making Britain a fairer and more cohesive society.


This belief in culture-led regeneration and public good, which has been pursued in many countries across the world, left a legacy of flagship institutions - a famous example being the Guggenheim in Bilbao, leading to the much-studied ‘Bilbao effect’. Hewitt argues that rather than these investments leading to social transformation, culture led regeneration has been ‘instrumental and complicit with an agenda of privatisation and marketisation, with negative consequences for democracy’.

This issue of the journal questions this argument, which appears to ignore the demographic changes amongst audiences and development of learning and participation programmes that have been achieved. A further important aspect of cultural regeneration and capital development is the creation of public spaces, along with the exposure for greater proportions of permanent collections, and for artists. And alongside the flagship buildings a plethora of different visual arts organisations and initiatives emerged, which have increased opportunities for artists and public alike.

Since 2008, world economies have taken a downturn, and there is enormous pressure on public funding and public services. ‘Privatization and marketisation’ are a real concern, but for different reasons than Hewitt discusses. As libraries close, running public parks is put out to commercial tender and urban spaces are privatised, cultural spaces are increasingly precious. New models are emerging, and they often involve balancing private and public investment, and increasing commercial activity.

Amongst these is The Design Museum in London, which moved into its new home in 2016. In a model of public private partnership, the conversion of the building that once housed the Commonwealth Institute was funded by the construction of private housing on the valuable Kensington High Street site.

Another example is Smiths Row, in Bury St Edmunds in the East of England, which is pursuing a rather different model of commercial partnership, with the regional rail operator,

Toenrich and connect artists, rail and the publicwe are planning an exciting move to work along the Ipswich – Cambridge rail line firstly at Stowmarket station then at Bury St Edmunds’.With a gallery, and artists studios at Bury St Edmunds Station ‘the wider partnership with the train operator would use art to improve facilities for rail users all along the Ipswich to Cambridge train line, increase tourism and create employment for local companies including creative industries’. 


Hewitt, A. (2011), ‘Privatizing the public: Three rhetorics of art’s public good in ‘Third Way’ cultural policy’, Art & the Public Sphere 1: 1, pp. 19–36, doi: 10.1386/aps.1.1.19_1


We are interested in contributions from colleagues in the UK and worldwide, reflecting on practices, shifting understandings, discussing polices and the challenges faced in different contexts, in relation to questions such as:

- What are the positive intersections between public space, democratic cultural provision and commercial activity?

- What new funding and operational models for visual arts organisations, galleries and museums are emerging?

- How does the expanding social role and commercial enterprise of flagship galleries and museums translate in smaller institutions?

- What different requirements, pressures and agendas do public funding and commercial enterprise place on the institution?

- If arts institutions have high targets for earned income what are the implications for programming, working with artists, and deployment of space?

- What implications does this have for audiences, democratic involvement in our cultural institutions, and developing new and more diverse audiences?

- What role do galleries and museums play as public space in a reducing public realm?

- What is the distinctive role of the educator in this changing landscape?

- Art and artists critique society; work can be uncomfortable or alienating. If galleries and museums become visitor destinations and social spaces is there space for dissent?

- In making gallery or museum buildings more social, by emphasising the facilities and opportunities for time with family and friends, what are the benefits and opportunities for learning and participation?

- What opportunities or conflicts arise from the conflation of audience development and learning agendas?

If you are interested in contributing to this issue, please send an informal proposal of no more than 300 words, your job/freelance title and contact details to Laura Callan at communications@engage.org by 10am on Friday 24 March 2017.

Contributions may take the format of articles, interviews, collaborative pieces, conversations, photo essays or discussions, and Engage welcomes those which take advantage of the Journal’s online format, through the use of sound or video clips, film and html links to digital content. As a guide, final articles lie between 1,500 and 4,000 words.

 Issue timeline:

- Proposals deadline: 10am, Friday 24 March 2017

- Finished article deadline: 10am, Friday 26 May 2017

- Engage 40 will be published in September 2017

First published in 1996, the Engage Journal is the international journal of visual art and gallery education, edited by Barbara Dougan, and features articles by academics, artists, researchers, curators, policymakers and gallery educators.

Each edition of this twice-yearly online publication focuses on a separate theme to form a definitive collection of work on all aspects of visual art and gallery education. The Journal can accessed by all Engage members and subscription holders around the world.


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