Getting in on the act: how to create opportunities for active participation

Getting in on the act: how to create opportunities for active participation

By Alan Brown
Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard


People are engaging in the arts in increasingly active and expressive ways. Arts organisations are examining this seismic shift toward a participatory arts culture and figuring out how to adapt in new and creative ways. This report looks to deepen understanding of these changes and spotlights exciting examples of participatory arts practices. The researchers investigated active arts participation across the arts sector in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. The report helps address many of the concerns that arts organisations may have in embracing participatory arts practices and illuminates the various trends in the field that are responsible for this shift. This report also presents the “Audience Involvement Spectrum,” a helpful new model for understanding various levels of arts engagement.

As active arts programming moves toward the center of the body of practice, some arts groups will make minor adjustments to time-tested programming formulas, while others will rewrite their mission statements and launch entirely new initiatives. Time has shown that the art forms themselves are robust enough to accommodate new approaches to presentation and audience involvement. But art evolves in the hands of artists, curators and the institutions that fund their work. Will they see participatory practice as the dumbing down of the legacy of professional artistic production, or will they see it as a necessary complement? Arts groups who wish to expand their impact and garner additional community support will need to reconsider their role in the larger ecology of cultural literacy, participatory arts practice and professional production. Signs of a vibrant culture of active participation are all around us.

Resource type: Research | Published: 2013