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Partnership Project with ENGAGE

Engagement Network is a partnership programme between engage, the National Association for Gallery Education and Visual Arts South West. The programme aims to contribute to some of Visual Arts South West’s key objectives:

  • Developing better understanding of audiences and extending reach.
  • Supporting and developing excellence in artists and arts organisations.
  • Empowering the sector with greater skills and knowledge.
  • Providing greater opportunities for networking, partnership working and collaborative projects, including engagement with wider networks nationally and internationally

 The 6-month pilot project proposes to investigate the development of artists’ practice in social engagement through collaborative research between an artist, an arts organisation and a university. The aim is to place artists at the centre of research around how the visual arts sector addresses key issues in audience development and engagement.

Engagement Network is now seeking proposals from artists with significant experience of working in a socially engaged context, to undertake a residency with a visual arts organisation in the South West.

During January to June 2013 two artist residencies with two organisations will run in parallel, each developing and testing key research questions to examine ways of creating a dialogue between the artist, the organisation and audiences, whilst considering what contribution an artist might make to address issues of audience engagement. Areas of enquiry that might inform a backdrop to more specific research questions could include: What does it mean to ‘participate’? What are our expectations of audiences to engage the visual arts? To what extent does an active involvement with the making of art inform experiences of art? How do the physical spaces of the arts organisation influence a visitors’ experience? How can we be more creative in how we understand who audiences are and what their motivations are to attend and participate?

Ongoing reflection and evaluation will be key to this programme. Residency artists should take a reflective approach to the development of the research and, in addition, the artist and the organisation will be partnered with a regional university to support and define the evaluation framework.

Learning from this programme will be shared across wider visual arts networks through engage and VASW. The residencies will be complimented by four learning cells - discussion and dissemination events at different venues across the SW region. Each event will create the opportunity for a wider pool of arts practitioners, including early career and more experienced artists, gallery educators, writers, curators, researchers and directors to meet and explore the programme’s ongoing findings. Successful residency applicants will be required to contribute to these cells by sharing their practice and experiences. Each learning cell will explore elements of audience engagement and critique current language and methodologies around the sector’s approach to audience development. The events will aim both to strengthen and feed into the ongoing research and act as a professional development opportunity for emerging practitioners. The specific content of these events will be defined as each residency progresses, in order to be responsive to findings and questions as they arise.

For the pilot project there are four organisations for potential collaboration: Arnolfini, Bristol, Plymouth Arts Centre, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange, Penzance and Spacex, Exeter. Artists are invited to propose to work with a particular organisation that relates to their location or concerns, or this can be established in negotiation with Engagement Network once artists’ proposals have been submitted.

To apply please submit an outline proposal (maximum 800 words) stating your interest in how artists might better contribute to developing and engaging audiences. You should outline how you would approach this opportunity, how you would record your findings and detail how this opportunity would develop your practice.You should also include information about your experience and understanding of audience engagement and an indication of possible research questions you’d be interested in developing.

Applications should be accompanied by an artist CV and web links for your practice.

Artist fee: £1800 to cover the equivalent of £180 per day for 10 days during January to June 2013.

Deadline for applications is Monday 26th November 2012

Interviews will be held at Arnolfini, Bristol on Wednesday 5th December 2012 (Please keep this day free if you intend to apply).

Please send proposals to Kirsty Lowry, Engagement Network Coordinator:



Quality of Experience

What is Quality of Experience in the Arts, and how do we measure it? This study unpacks and conceptualises Quality of Experience. Research and delivered with Annabel Jackson Associates, in partnership with Arnolfin with additional support from Plymouth Arts Centre, Newlyn Art Gallery & Exchange and Spike Island the conceptualisation paper can be found here >>

We will be testing out the concepts suggested in the paper through a methodology study over the next year. More information about this programme will be available soon.


'Understanding Audiences': The Findings

12 Visual Arts Organisations from the South West took part in an Audience Benchmarking project delivered by Audiences South West in partnership with Turning Point South West. Having delivered an initial series of training for front of house staff in data capturing, each organisation used a questionnaire to gather audience information. 

The South West captured a huge amount of data, and the project revealed a great deal about who the audiences are, their demographics and some interesting possibilities for harnessing this information to enhance the delivery and promotion of visual art in the region. 

Headline Findings

  • 70% female attendance to 30% male attendance
  • Age groups 45-54 & 55- 64 make up 43% of audiences
  • 44% of audiences ticked the self description box ‘Wealthy Achievers’
  • 60% of audiences spent between 1/2 hour and 1 1/2 hours at the venue
  • 50% had visited at least once in the last 12 months
  • 66% described themselves as knowledgeable about visual arts, and 40% were involved in the arts sector (either as artists, teachers, students or professionally)
  • 45% have bought contemporary art, and 41% would consider buying contemporary art

Final National Report

The South West is one of five regions delivering this project, which has been enabled by Audiences UK and the Arts Council England. The project seeks to determine how data captured can be sustained by visual arts organisations and what value that data has to individual organisations and to the sector as a benchmarking standard of engagement. The benchmarking report created by Audiences London which analyses and compares national visual arts audiences is available to view here>>

Understanding Audiences - the findings and how they can be used

Wednesday 30th May, 2 - 4pm, The Brewhouse, Taunton: Free Seminar

Audiences London Plus are holding a seminar for Visual Arts organisations in the South West that would like to learn from these findings. Within the seminar Project Manager's Emily Bull and Jim Brewster will discuss the results and help build practical ways for organisations in the region to utilise them in a way that enhances audience engagement. To book a place on the seminar please email