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Quality of Experience in the Arts: A Discussion Paper

November 12, 201412 November 2014

Arts participation and engagement

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This English report attempts to provide a conceptualization of the quality of arts experiences that is flexible (i.e., relevant to various contexts, art forms, and levels of audience familiarity with the arts) and “meaningful in the context of Arts Council England’s role and philosophy”. The authors argue that, alongside an emphasis on accountability, a structure for learning could be an important component of an arts council’s activities. In addition to quality of experience, a learning evaluation system could include value for money, organizational strength and resilience, as well as artist development.

The authors found that “there is a rich literature on the value of the arts, but very little directly concerned with conceptualising quality of experience in the arts”. They therefore looked to work done in fields such as museum studies, tourism, and business and found some common themes regarding possible determinants of quality of experience: “relevance, newness, welcoming environment, appeal to the senses, active involvement, social interaction, openness to interpretation, and critical dialogue”. The authors recognize that some of these determinants “pull in different directions”.

For arts participants, some characteristics of high-quality experiences include “high attention, altered emotional state, personal meaning, intellectual stimulation, sharing of experience, feeling of connection to those delivering or sharing the experience, memorability and desire to repeat or extend the experience”. Coherence and authenticity are not among these elements, as the authors argue that they may be “too limiting to apply to the arts”.

The paper concludes that “quality of experience is affected by the psychology of the individual and includes reflection after contact with the art work”. The authors’ draft model of the arts experience involves the arts experience itself (which is affected by the environment, people, information, content, artistic quality, and context), the timeframe before the arts encounter (including expectations, motivations, knowledge, interests, awareness, and needs), and post-encounter elements such as recall, conversation, inspiration, use, and further contact.

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