May 2012. Vol. 16, No. 2. – Inspiring Vision and Practice: CultureWork, a leading voice for arts and cultural management praxis

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Fifteen years ago this spring, CultureWork: A Periodic Broadside for Arts & Culture Workers published its first article in a new innovative online journal. Since 1997,  CultureWork has filled a significant role, inspiring and familiarizing arts and cultural sector leaders, learners, educators, and policy makers on current social, economic, political, technical, and ethical contexts in which the arts flourish. As we continue looking towards the future, we seek to strengthen CultureWork’s role as a publication forum for fruitful dialogue and current professional development within the field of arts management.  In collaboration with academics and professional authors CultureWork will continue supporting meaningful conversations and opportunities for exploring contemporary arts management praxis.

In this issue of CultureWork we take a moment to look back and reflect on the publication’s past.  As part of this reflection we celebrate the legacy and history of arts management practice upon which we have focused. Over its 15 years of publication, CultureWork has consistently shared relevant, timely work from within the field of arts and cultural management, including emerging research and practical advisories.

Featured are introductory remarks by Doug Blandy, advisor and initial director of CultureWork; an interview with Risa Bear, first editor and web publisher of the journal; and supporting remarks from Maria Finison, editor from 2004-2005. As current editors, we comment on our tenure as well as goals for the future of the journal.


Julie Voelker-Morris
Robert Voelker-Morris

CultureWork printers logo in different colorsIntroduction

From the 16th century to the middle of the nineteenth century many people learned about important events and political issues of the day by reading single sheet broadsides posted in public places or buying them from vendors for pennies. Sometimes they were designed to be folded into pamphlets or chapbooks. As street literature they were significant to communicating and shaping public opinion. During the American Revolution broadsides were an important source of information on the issues motivating the revolution as well as news on the course of the military engagements associated with the uprising. Important documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, appeared as broadsides. In these regards, broadsides were a type of social media having a similar effect to Twitter and Facebook on the Arab Spring.

Broadsides were my inspiration in 1996 when I began to conceptualize an online signature publication for the re-opened Institute for Community Arts Studies (now the Center for Community Arts and Cultural Policy) at the University of Oregon. Seed funds from the Vice-President for Research in association with the new graduate program in Arts and Administration Program permitted a renewal of the Institute. I believed that one of the ways that the Institute could best serve the field of community arts was through a readily available online publication addressing important, sometimes on the cultural edge, issues and topics of the day. Titled CultureWork, the first issue of this electronic broadside appeared in May 1997. Authored by me, this first issue addressed the analysis of websites for users with disabilities. Since that first issue, CutureWork has continued to publish advisories important to making the arts and culture accessible to all people. Including this issue, a total of 56 and three special issues have been published.

CultureWork has been fortunate in its editors. Richard Bear, now Risa Bear, was CultureWork‘s first editor (1997-2004). For me, Risa embodied the values I associated with the publication. She was very well read across multiple disciplines, was a poet, a printer and typographer, and a keen political observer and analyst. Under her editorship the publication established its focus. Bear was followed by Maria Finison (2004-2005). Finison, a graduate student in the Arts and Administration Program, brought to CultureWork her interest in alternative publications, arts advocacy, and progressive politics. Under her editorship CutureWork published important advisories on expressive arts hospital programs, assessment and evaluation of cultural programs, and a call to action for creative workers to be involved in policy making and economic influence. Maria was followed by the current editors Julie Voelker-Morris and Robert Voelker-Morris (October 2005-present). Under their editorship CultureWork has maintained its edge while simultaneously sophisticated its overall editorial process. Remarkable to their editorship are the efforts they have made in securing authors of note as well as working with newly graduated students from the Arts and Administration Program to translate their cutting edge research into advisories.

Surveying the advisories published over the past fifteen years is a satisfying experience. As a senior scholar with the Center for Community Arts and Cultural Policy, I am honored to be associated with the topics, authors, and editors associated with CultureWork. I know that the people associated with this publication are shaping an arts and culture sector that is fully accessible to all. That this publication has endured for fifteen years speaks to this dedication. My congratulations to the current editors for bringing CultureWork to this milestone.

-Doug Blandy, March 30, 2012

[Below see an interview from April 23, 2012 with Doug Blandy about his work with and his vision for CultureWork.]

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