Arts and Public Policy (a syllabus)

Little orange roomIn the very early days of this blog, as I was transitioning my research focus from lighting design to arts management, entrepreneurship and policy, I was frequently asked, “Do you miss it?” or, more bluntly, “Where’d your creativity go.” I replied “To a little orange room in a repurposed dorm in Tempe, Arizona” where I was creating curricula for a new undergraduate course in arts entrepreneurship. That led to creating a new MFA program in Arts Entrepreneurship and Management. Since its launch two years ago, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to teach a graduate seminar for third year students in arts and public policy. Over the last several weeks, I have been creating the framework for the course and today completed a syllabus. I am sharing the first draft of that syllabus here. You are welcome – even encouraged — to comment and to suggest additional or alternative readings. (Many thanks to my colleagues across the country who have shared their syllabi with me as models – the best parts of mine are adapted from theirs but, as the saying goes, errors and omissions are totally my own.)


THP598: Arts and Public Policy

Goals and Objectives, or “Is There Such a Thing as ‘Arts Policy’?”

Before we can answer the question, “Is There Such a Thing as ‘Arts Policy’?” we must first answer a host of other questions: What is public policy? How do we define “Arts” as a policy sector? Where are policy decisions made? By whom? What policy tools do these policy actors deploy? Who benefits? Through your work in this class, you will develop an understanding of the relationship between public policy and the arts in the United States so that you can begin to answer these questions in ways that will inform your work as an arts manager, artist, and actor in the arts policy environment. (Please note that the context for our class is confined to the U.S. and occasionally focuses on AZ and the West). In this course you will:

  • Examine the goals, problems, and solutions common to US policymaking as they affect the arts locally, regionally, and nationally.
  • Review the history and central tensions of arts policy and funding in the U.S.
  • Dive deeply into the policy areas articulated by Bill Ivey in his “Cultural Bill of Rights.”
  • Increase your arts policy literacy and currency.
  • Produce a policy brief that demonstrates professional skills in research, analysis, visual literacy, writing and presentation.

Framing, perspective, and advocacy

We each enter this classroom with unique perspectives and opinions. Your policy perspective may result from many factors, including your artistic practice, your faith, the political leanings of your parents, the influence of newspapers and media, and so on. Rather than assuming an advocacy position, this course is designed to provide you with the knowledge and skills to craft an effective argument about arts policy, to make a policy recommendation based on research and analysis and to present that argument professionally and effectively. Thus, the central framing of this course is provided by two contrasting texts: Bill Ivey’s “Arts, Inc.” and Tyler Cowen’s “Good and Plenty.” These two authors take radically different views on the same subject: what is the role of government in arts and culture and what should be the role of government in arts and culture. Bill Ivey was the chair of the NEA under Bill Clinton; Tyler Cowen, an economist, was commissioned by the George W. Bush administration to write “How Government Funds the Arts,” a work that led to the book you are reading for this class. Ivey described himself during a recent visit to ASU as “a Liz Warren Democrat;” Cowen runs a libertarian economics think tank called the Mercatus Center (Google its board of directors if you’re curious). To craft thoughtful and well reasoned policy recommendations requires both careful analysis and an understanding of the multiple viewpoints that may inform decision-making. By reading policy analysis from different sides of the ideological spectrum, you will gain an understanding not only of what the policy issues are, but also how to analyze the policy environment and craft an effective argument. This is not to say that I personally do not have a point of view; I do. The course, however, exposes you to many, not just one.

All this goes to say that all political ideologies are welcome in the course and will be respected. However, if you choose to adopt an advocacy position in class discussion, presentation, or your writing, it must be clearly articulated and supported by fact and analysis. There is an “Advocacy Resources” folder on the course site should you find it useful.

The crucial question common to the entire cultural sector, both cultural industries and supported sector (a false dichotomy in our view), is democracy and freedom of expression. The role of cultural policy is to ensure this, creating the space for different types of cultural expression, including local, regional and national cultural identities, which may not play to a global market, and may never make big bucks (Galloway and Dunlop, 2007, p. 29]

How we will learn together (requirements):

You will achieve the learning objectives for the course by: reading and reviewing published materials; listening, asking, and answering questions in class; finding new resources; compiling materials in a literature review; conducting research; arguing persuasively in writing; and making formal presentations. This is a graduate seminar, thus attendance and active participation in class discussion is expected at every session and counts for 20% of your course grade. Reading is due on the dates listed on the schedule that follows. In order to actively participate in class discussion you are expected to complete all the reading prior to class and are encouraged to take reading notes. If you do not do the reading and participate in class discussion, your grade will be negatively affected. Yes, there is reading due the first day of class, August 26.

  1. Online discussion in lieu of 9/2 class. 10%. By Monday 8/30 noon, post a link to a press release or news item published in the preceding week that you think is important vis a vis US arts policy. Briefly summarize the issue and explain why you think it is important. By Wednesday 9/2 noon, post a response to each of your classmates postings, articulating why you agree or disagree with what they have said. By Friday 9/4 at noon, respond to each of your classmates on your thread. I will participate in this virtual class as well, posting material and responses.
  2. Discussion leadership and literature review. 30%.  In “Arts, Inc.” Bill Ivey expands on his “cultural bill of rights,” across six policy areas, listed in the schedule following. You will each lead one of the “deep dives” into these. Doing so necessitates not only leading discussion based on the required reading, but also conducting significant background research on the policy area under discussion. You are required to present the context for discussion to the class, lead the discussion, and follow up with a comprehensive literature review two weeks after your deep dive presentation. The lit review should be 10-15 pages in length (with roughly twice that number of references), be thoroughly researched and formatted according to the most recent APA style guide. Note that each student will have a different due date for their literature review based on the date of their discussion leadership.
  3. Policy brief. 40% In each of his six main chapters, Bill Ivey identifies a policy problem, articulates who the stakeholders are, and poses a policy solution. For your final project, you will do similarly: identify a policy problem; summarize relevant literature; identify the stakeholders, policy actors, and agencies involved; gather statistical data to support your argument [you are not expected to gather primary statistical data, but are expected to find the data you need in order to craft your argument]; interview actors in the policy space of interest; make a policy recommendation. You are expected to: submit a proposal for approval; make a presentation to the class during the last class meeting; submit a completed policy brief via email – in one PDF file on Wednesday December 9, by noon. Student work will be shared with the class on the course site. Your final submittal should both read well and look good. You will be reading examples of policy briefs periodically throughout the semester and these should serve as examples for both content and form. Clear visual presentation of data is expected.

Written materials should adhere to APA style for in-text citations and reference lists. I take academic integrity very seriously. Although you are expected to synthesize previously published work, the work you submit must be your own. Students who violate ASU’s academic integrity policy in any way will receive a grade of XE for the course and risk expulsion from their graduate program.

Required Texts:

  • Bonin-Rodriguez (2014). Performing Policy: How Contemporary Politics and Cultural Programs Redefined U.S. Artists for the Twenty-First Century. London: Palgrave McMillan
  • Cowen, T. (2010). Good and Plenty: The Creative Successes of American Arts Funding. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Ivey, B. (2010). Arts, Inc: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights. Berkeley CA: University of California Press

Additional articles, research reports, and policy briefs on Blackboard. 

All three books are on reserve in the Haydn Library. Cowen is available through ebrary.

STAY INFORMED! The policy environment for the arts is informed by the past, but exists in the present. Relevant material will be found in the following media outlets – and more:

Weekly Schedule.

Subject to change, especially as guests become available; there will be guests.

Reading that is not from the required books can be found on the course blackboard site.

WEEK 1 – August 26.

Course introduction and expectations

What is policy?

What is cultural policy?

  • Bedoya (2004). US Cultural Policy, It’s Politics of Participation, Its Creative Potential. National Performance Network.
  • Mulcahy (2006). Cultural policy: Definitions and theoretical approaches. Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society (JAMLS)
  • Kidd (2012). Public culture in America. JAMLS

Conceptual grounding: Public and Private

  • Wyszomirski (2002), Raison d’Etat; Raisons des Artes. in Cherbo and Wyszomirski (eds) The Public Life of the Arts in America.

How is “arts policy” the same as and different from “cultural policy”

WEEK 2 – September 2

Virtual discussion: current events in arts policy. See discussion posting requirements above and get started on your reading for Week 3.

WEEK 3 – September 9

Policy process

  • Stone (2002), Introduction and Chapter 1 in Policy Paradox

Policy types

Where does policy “happen?”

Policy actors

The concept of “public value”

  • Moore and Moore (2005). Creating Public Value Through State Arts Agencies, 9-80.

The artist in the US policy environment

  • Bonin-Rodriguez (2015), pp 1-49

Policy tools and targets

  • Schneider and Ingram (1997). Excerpt from Social constructions of target populations. Excerpted from Policy Design for Democracy

 Guest: Jaime Dempsey, Deputy Director of the Arizona Commission in the Arts, on the policy process.

WEEK 4 – September 16

Where, what, and how, continued.

Background: the economics of arts and culture;

  • Excerpt from The Arts and Public Policy in the United States,
  • Excerpt from Performing Arts – The Economic Dilemma
  • Excerpt from The Subsidized Muse
  • Rand Foundation Gifts of the Muse (entire document)
  • NEA (2012). How the United States Funds the Arts, 3rd edition.

No class September 23 – Yom Kippur

WEEKS 5 through 11: DEEP DIVES into the policy “problems” or “Cultural Rights” Ivey identifies. Your written lit review is due two weeks after your discussion leadership.

September 30: Heritage

  • Ivey, pp 1- 56 (introduction and chapter 1)
  • Cowen, pp. 1-30
  • Rosenstein (2006). Cultural heritage organizations. Urban Institute.

Guest TBD

October 7: Artists

  • Ivey, pp. 57-93 (Ch 2)
  • Cowen, pp. 31-64
  • Urban Institute. Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structure for US Artists
  • Jackson, MR (2004). Investing in creativity [this is an article in JAMLS about the report above, written by its primary author]
  • Bonin-Rodriguez, pp. 107-126

October 14: A Creative Life

  • Ivey, pp. 94-123 (Ch 3)
  • Novak-Leonard et al (2015). Cultural Lives of Californians. NORC.
  • NEA (2014). A Decade Engagement in the Arts
  • Alvarez (2005). There’s Nothing Informal about It.
  • Tepper, S. and Y. Gao (2008). Engaging art: What counts?” in Tepper and Ivey (eds) Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America’s Cultural Life

October 21: America, Art, and the World

  • Ivey, pp. 124-154 (Ch 4)
  • Nye (2008). Public Diplomacy and Soft Power
  • Grincheva (2010). US Arts and Cultural Diplomacy, JAMLS

Guest TBD

October 28: Lasting value

  • Ivey, pp. 155-183(Ch5)
  • Cowen, pp. 101-132
  • Bonin-Rodriguez, pp. 71-89

November 4: Strong Responsible Institutions

  • Ivey, pp. 184-221
  • Cowen, pp. 65-100
  • Reidy, B (2014). Why Where? Because Who. AEA Consulting/Irvine Foundation

Coda: The Role of Government

  • Ivey, pp. 222-296
  • Cowen, pp. 133-152

November 11 – VETERANS DAY

DUE via email: Final project proposal

WEEKS 12-13 Arts Policy “hot topics”

November 18: Creative Placemaking, Creative Cities, Community Vibrancy

  • Markusen and Gadwa-Nicodemus, Creative Placemaking. NEA [this is review for students who have taken THP551]
  • Bedoya (2013). Placemaking and the politics of belonging and dis-belonging. GIA Reader
  • Nicodemus (2013). Fuzzy vibrancy. Cultural Trends
  • Tucson/Pima Arts Council. Place Report
  • Rushton (2015). Cultural districts and economic development in American cities. Poetics
  • Reference: Community development investment review: Creative Placemaking. San Francisco Federal Reserve.

Guest TBD

November 25: “Arts and Economic Prosperity” and its role in arts advocacy

  • Americans for the Arts. Arts and Economic Prosperity IV
  • Topos Partnership (2010). The Arts Ripple Report
  • Hawkins (2012). Leveraging the power of individuals for arts advocacy. JAMLS

Guest: Rusty Foley, executive director of Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts


December 2: Final presentation of policy brief


DUE December 9 noon: Final Policy Brief

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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