Cat MacKeigan

Cat MacKeigan wears the many hats of researcher, academic instructor, consultant, arts manager, and facilitator. In her interdisciplinary doctoral research, Cat has used empirical based policy analysis to explicate how public policy coordinates artists’ ways of knowing and doing their work. By mapping the experiences of professional theatre practitioners within Nova Scotia, Canada, Cat takes the conversation of cultural policy and the role of the State beyond funding levels and policy outcomes to uncovered policy externalities on artists’ everyday lives, the associated understood socio-economic value of their work, and the overall relationship between the arts and the State. Her research bridges the gap between artistic practice and public policy interest.

Performing public policy: How provincial arts policy coordinates the understanding of value within professional theatre work

The position of the arts within public policy discourse is problematic. Public officials, academics, and practitioners position arts and culture as drivers for tourism, population growth, social wellbeing, and economic development. As such, Governments have constructed bureaucratic models within public policy to support professional arts activities and drive these socio-economic outcomes. However, policy interest in on the artistic product and associated outcomes. This top-down policy approach, from the position of the State, omits the everyday experiences of arts practitioners as the policy users and drivers for said policy outcomes. Yet, the increasing adoption and application of arts and cultural activities within regional development initiatives warrants governments build an understanding of and actively be cognizant toward these lived experiences. Herein lies the problematic.

In this session, I explicate public policy coordination on how arts practitioners know and do their work. I take-up the artists’ standpoint to situate the implications of provincial public policy on arts practice in Nova Scotia, Canada. The provincial government engages such organizational streams as an arm’s length funding agency, advisory councils, and departmental divisions to provide policy direction and administration. They also provide financial supports to the arts through public grants, project investments, and awards recognition. The externalities associated with these policy structures influence theatre practitioners’ understanding of public sector values and intentions, how practitioners engage in their everyday work, and the coordination of power maintaining an institutionalized distrust across State and arts sector relations. Study results have the potential to provide groundwork to improve intersectoral relations and further methodologies in cultural policy analysis.

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