• Stealing meanings: does measuring quality in the arts mean imposing cultural values?

    Congratulations to WEYA Artistic Director, Dr Dave Kelman, on the publication of this article in the International Journal of Inclusive Education, August 2017.

    Stealing meanings – does measuring quality in the arts mean imposing cultural values?

    ABSTRACT

    An examination of the community youth theatre practice of two groups of culturally and linguistically diverse emerging artists from refugee backgrounds reveals the importance of ‘messages’ in their work and the strong connection to social context. This connection is illustrated by comparing the emerging artists’ perception of the meaning of their art-making (in terms of cultural representation and identity politics) to community audiences’ response to performances. This complex social dynamic is contrasted with the growing practice of using of standardised categories and metrics in an attempt to quantify the value of such arts practice. This approach is problematic because it imposes cultural values on communities and can distort the meaning of community arts performances reducing their social value. The concept of intrinsic value is analysed in relation to the current theoretical discourse on this subject and the criteria used for measuring it are scrutinised and critiqued. The article argues for the importance of allowing community audiences to respond to performances in their own terms because this is integral to the process of how meaning is generated through performance.

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