valuing the arts: theorising and realising cultural capital in an australian city

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  • 296

    Geographical Research

    September 2006


    doi: 10.1111/j.1745-5871.2006.00403.x

    Blackwell Publishing, Ltd.

    Original Acticle

    Louise Johnson: Valuing the Arts

    Valuing the Arts: Theorising and Realising Cultural Capital in an Australian City


    School of History, Heritage and Society, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria 3217, Australia. Email:

    Received 22 September 2005; Revised 11 May 2006; Accepted 16 May 2006


    For those who make and admire artistic works, there is no question of theirvalue. However, for others interested in economic development, the value of thearts is often more tangential, contested and questionable. While the post-modernworld of consumption and spectacle suggests to some academics and governmentsthat the arts and cultural industries are the way of the future, others remainsceptical about their social and economic value. This is a theoretical as well asa practical issue this paper explores by offering a reconceptualisation of PierreBourdieus concept of cultural capital as a way of re-assessing the value of thearts. The paper then applies this framework to quantify and qualify the value ofthe arts in one regional city in Australia Geelong in Victoria focusing on thework of two artists. The aim is to describe the interconnected processes bywhich the arts generate cultural capital in the form of confidence, image, indi-vidual well-being, social cohesion and economic viability. The analysis alsohighlights the ongoing power relations which prescribe artistic production, cir-culation and valuation. The implications of such a rethinking and application gowell beyond one city and region to other places grappling with the relationshipbetween artistic production and urban well being. By focusing on the broad-ranging process by which artistic value is created for individuals, groups, pro-fessionals, communities and governments, a model becomes available for otherplaces to use in realising their cultural capital.




    cultural capital






    social capital




    urban image


    The cultural industries are seen by many as thefuture, mobilising creativity to regenerate urbanlandscapes, enliven moribund manufacturing eco-nomies and rebuild social relations torn asunderby years of restructuring (for example, Ryan,1992; Bianchini and Parkinson, 1993; Landry andBianchini, 1995; Scott, 2000; Florida, 2002).While there is much excitement and glamourassociated with artistic activity, just how the artsand related cultural industries generate value forthe individuals concerned, for their communitiesand their regions, is not always clear. For those

    who are involved in the arts, who make andadmire artistic works, there is no question oftheir value. However, for planners, politiciansand others interested in economic development,community capacity building and urban re-imagining, the value of the arts is not alwaysobvious and may well be questionable (forexample, Harvey, 1989; Zukin, 1991; Deutsche,1996; Hannigan, 1998).

    This is a theoretical as well as a practicalissue which this paper will explore by initiallydefining terms and overviewing the contributionof the creative arts to Australia. Such an exercise

  • L. Johnson:

    Valuing the Arts


    2006 The AuthorJournal compilation 2006 Institute of Australian Geographers

    confirms the need to go beyond a purely eco-nomic appraisal of the arts. The next sectiontherefore reconceptualises Pierre Bourdieusnotion of cultural capital as a more realistic wayof thinking about the value of the arts. The finalpart of the paper will apply the model to thegeneration and realisation of cultural capital in aplace. This will involve quantifying but alsoqualifying the value of cultural capital in oneregional Australian city Geelong in Victoria and will focus on the context and work of twoartists. Unpacking case studies of creating cul-tural capital in one place indicates the broadrange of value the arts generate in terms ofconfidence, image, individual well-being, socialconnection and economic vitality. The analysisalso highlights the importance of the processesby which value is ascribed and how this relatesto a range of time and place specific powerdynamics circulating around institutions, net-works, class, gender and post-colonial positions.The implications of such a rethinking and appli-cation go well beyond one city and region toother places grappling with the relationshipbetween artistic production, social well-being,urban regeneration and economic development.

    What are the Arts?

    Defining and appraising the value of the arts inAustralia has undergone a transformation overthe last 30 years. In the 1970s the arts weredeemed to have intrinsic value, enriching tothose individuals involved and vital to definingas well as entertaining the nation. As timewent on, the arts were increasingly viewedas an economic sector until finally the creativearts were located within the Cultural or Crea-tive Industries, a key driver of an emergingknowledge economy. Such a shift has beenechoed in a number of other countries such asthe United Kingdom (Donnovan and Middleton,1987; Myerscough, 1988; Hall and Hubbard,1998; Hall, 2000), Spain, France, Italy (Bianchiniand Parkinson, 1993; Gomez, 1998; Power,2002), Canada (Toronto Culture, 2003; Bain,2004), the United States (Levine, 1992; Wagner

    et al

    ., 1995; Hannigan, 1998) and Singapore(Chang, 2000; Renaissance City Report, 2000;Chang and Lee, 2003). This move to locate thecreative arts within a broad and expanding eco-nomic sector can be read in a number of ways:as indicative of a structural shift towards amore symbolic economy (Caves, 2000; Scott,2000; 2001; Hesmondhalgh, 2002), but also as aresponse to a neo-liberal politics demanding

    economic returns on government investment inthe arts. Such an imperative to quantify the eco-nomic value of the arts has spurred the creationof a whole new sub-discipline of Economics. ThusCultural Economics has applied neo-classicalassumptions to provide quantified data on artisticemployment, investment, output and linkages togovernments and bureaucrats as they grapplewith assessing the value of the arts (for example,Trowse, 1997; Throsby, 2001).

    Since its inception the Australia Council, asthe primary government-funded body support-ing the arts, focused on supporting the creativearts performance, music and the visual arts(Throsby and Withers, 1984). In so doing thisbody affirmed what was traditionally regardedas


    arts. Over the 1980s, however, as the neo-liberal political agenda meshed with the emer-gence of new economic sectors, the focus of theCouncil and various Federal and State artsbureaucracies became

    The Arts Industry

    : a set ofactivities which contributed to Gross NationalProduct, employed workers and produced com-modities for sale. This involved a way of think-ing about the arts which drew direct parallelswith other economic sectors. In more recent dis-course, dating from the 1994 Creative Nationpolicy of the Keating Federal Government, theemphasis became the

    Cultural Industries

    . Thisterm refers to that sector of the economy organ-ised around the production and consumption ofcultural goods and services, ones which includebut go well beyond the creative arts to includezoos, parks and gardens, publishing and theirretail intermediaries.

    In 2001, the Australian Bureau of Statistics(ABS) defined the Cultural Industries ascomprising:

    printing and publishing (including news-papers, books and periodicals);film, video, radio and television;libraries and museums (including zoos, parksand gardens);music and theatre production; andretail and support services to these activities(such as recording studios, book and maga-zine wholesaling, recorded music retailing,video hire outlets and photographic studios).

    In census tabulations, the ABS identified Artistsand Related Professionals as comprising twogroups: a core of actors, dancers, artistic directors,authors, designers and illustrators, film, televi-sion and stage directors, musicians, photographersand visual arts and craftspersons. They also in

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    some analyses define a group of Arts-relatedoccupations which includes architects, artsteachers, book and script editors, copywriters,journalists and media presenters (ABS, 1997;2001a). All thereby become workers in the cul-tural industries. Such a category is boostedfurther when broadened to include the CreativeIndustries all of those above, plus fashion,advertising and interactive leisure software.Collectively, these are activities which have theirorigin in individual creativity, skill and talentand which have the potential for wealth and jobcreation through the generation and exploitationof intellectual property (CITF, 2001; Gibson

    et al

    ., 2002). Internationally and locally, thesecultural industries are seen as


    sector whichis driving the post-modern future integral tothe expanding service sector with the potentialto transform derelict industrial precincts, createnew classes and play a central role in community-restoring social interactions (Harvey, 1989;Landry and Bianchini, 1995; Florida, 2002;Hesmondhalgh, 2002; Comedia, 2003)

    Economic value of the Arts

    What then is the value of such activity? Sincethe designation of the creative arts as a culturalindustry in Australia, the economic contributionof the sector has been systematically measuredby the Statistics Wor