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WÜRTH Chair of Cultural Production

Research Projects

Measuring the immeasurable: A contextualized empirically-based model for evaluating the performing arts

Project Description

The evaluation of performance plays a prominent role in arts management research and practice. Not only public and private funding agencies are increasingly interested in measuring the results of the arts and cultural activities they support; there are also many internal motivations for an organization or a program to allocate resources to evaluation. In the arts and cultural sector these issues are particularly challenging because performance measurement in art and cultural organizations (ACOs) involves a complex balancing act between the entangled and often conflicting goals of aesthetic purposes and market imperatives (Lampel et al 2000). Research in the performance measurement and evaluation of arts and cultural activities has not only focused prevalently on instrumental and methodological issues (Galloway 2009; Chiaravalloti & Piber 2011; Badia & Donato 2013), the arts management literature tends to be normatively driven (Turbide & Hoskin 1999; Donato 2008; Turbide & Laurin 2009; Zorloni 2012). In addition, the artistic context as well as the broader cultural and social environments in which evaluation of ACOs take place had not been thoroughly investigated. Decontextualized approaches inherent to the longstanding positivist research tradition in the evaluation of the arts assume that similar practices can be applied to different contexts, thus neglecting the role of human agency in the evaluation process. However, the act of measuring, as a social construct, is never value-neutral but always embedded in a special context (Wimmer, 2004). Against this background, the aim of this doctoral thesis is structured along the following three key objectives: 1. Analyze the body of research in the performance measurement and evaluation literature across and against artistic disciplines, institutional settings as well as across countries/regions. 2. Investigate how evaluation is being practiced in performing arts organizations in order to develop an empirically-based model for the evaluation of the performing arts that is derived from the field itself and thus is contextualized within its specific organizational and broader societal environments. 3. Test the proposed model in the field and critically appraise its internal and external validity. The research design takes an interdisciplinary approach that can be structured around the above mentioned key objectives. First, a meta-synthesis will be conducted. The intention is far from aggregating data for comparison of study results. The purpose is to contrast approaches and learn from different studies in the hope of identifying patterns among research traditions, artistic disciplines, institutional setting, countries, or any other interesting relationship that may come to light. Second, following a multi-methodological approach to qualitative data collection and interpretation, in-depth fieldwork will be undertaken. In order to gather the greatest possible amount of insights about how evaluation is being practiced in the performing arts, three cases will be chosen on the basis of their richness of information content. Third, the proposed model will be validated by testing it in a real-life situation. The development of the model attempts to advance the theoretical understanding of evaluation in the performing arts, as it provides a framework that captures its contextual complexity. Following the idea of “managing according to nonmanagerial ways of managing” (Zan, 2006), the proposed model contributes to the body of knowledge in arts management as it attempts to offer an alternative to management mainstream approaches. The originality of the methodological approach lies in using research traditions that emphasize the intrinsic aspects of the individual experience.


Project Duration

from 01.01.2015 through 31.12.2018

Project Head

Prof. Dr. Martin Tröndle

Project Execution

Leticia Labaronne