Evaluating arts impact on campus and community

Discomfort isn’t something anyone usually seeks out but it can be a great teacher, a recent evaluation of UTS ART Live found.

On a quiet evening in October, Carmel Foley and Deb Edwards, associate professors at UTS Business School, took a tour of UTS’s Broadway campus. Designed to highlight the ways university spaces are experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community, the Queer Tour also pulled something else unexpectedly into focus for Carmel: herself.

“I found it challenging to be in this group where we were going and doing all these designated ‘Queer’ things – it felt like the rest of UTS was looking at us,” she says. “I was surprised at how awkward and uncomfortable that was. It was eye-opening.”

She wasn’t alone in this, four in five of her fellow tour participants experienced a “light bulb” or “ah-ha” moment that changed or deepened their understanding according to the survey she and Deb conducted with them after the tour.

“At the same time, people really wanted to tell us what they thought, how they felt,” says Deb. “It’s a testament to UTS ART Live that people were so engaged that they wanted to share their experiences with us.”

Participants in collage workshops with renowned artist, Deborah Kelly, were also surveyed and interviewed as part of the evaluation.

Tied to UTS’s efforts to get more women into the traditionally male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM), the Deborah Kelly workshops explored how gender stereotypes have shaped and continue shape these disciplines. And it wasn’t just about participating on the day – artwork produced during the workshop will be used to promote future gender equity initiatives at UTS.

Longer term, both Carmel and Deb hope the positive results of the evaluation can contribute to a more vibrant and connected campus community.

“We found that ART LIVE events made people feel they were part of, that they really belonged to, a diverse community on campus,” says Carmel.

“On a personal level we learned a lot from participating, particularly about the painful parts of normative spaces and what it’s like when you don’t seem to fit into them. The more people that understand that the better.”

Both researchers hope that the evaluation can be used to support continued funding for UTS ART Live, giving others the opportunity to engage – not only with ideas but with each other – in new ways.

“UTS ART believed that their programs and their work were having impact but they didn’t know how to document that. The evaluation was about helping them to demonstrate the power of what they were doing in an academically rigorous way,” says Deb.

The UTS ART Live evaluation was undertaken with funding from the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion’s Social Impact Grant scheme.

The Problem

While believing their programs were having an impact on the university community, the team at UTS ART Live didn’t have an academically rigorous way to measure this.

The Response

Using a mix of surveys and interviews, Carmel Foley and Deb Edwards, associate professors at UTS Business School, evaluated the UTS ART Queer Tour and Deborah Kelly collage workshops in terms of audience response.

What helped accomplish this?

The evaluation was a first-time collaboration between the business faculty and UTS ART – a pairing that wouldn’t have been possible without the input of the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion.

What has changed as a result?

The evaluation will be used to support continued funding for UTS ART Live, giving others the opportunity to engage – not only with ideas but with each other – in new ways.

Download full case study

Impact Area

Expertise

Beneficiaries

UTS Faculty or Unit

Organisers

Interviewee

Carmel Foley, Associate Professor, Management Discipline Group
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Interviewee

Deborah Edwards, Associate Professor, Management Discipline Group
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