CFP RGS-IBG 2016: Urban Public Arts and Collaborative Production: Revisiting the Role of Universities in the Triple Helix

Urban Public Arts and Collaborative Production: Revisiting the Role of Universities in the Triple Helix

Annual International Conference, London, 30 August-2 September 2016

Royal Geographical Society (RGS) with Institute of British Geographers (IBG)
Sponsored session by the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group (SCGRG)

Conveners: Dr Martin Zebracki (University of Leeds), Dr Saskia Warren (University of Manchester) and Professor Calvin Taylor (University of Leeds)


This session invites scholars across disciplines as well as practitioners to critically discuss the role of universities in arts-based socially-engaged practices. Where consultancy in the public arts was once considered in tension

with academic labour, Triple Helix¹ – that is the nexus between research, industry, and policy – is positioned at the lucrative cutting-edge of the academy vis-à-vis the urban knowledge economy and creative industries. Our focus is on the critical role that universities play within Triple Helix alliances to design and execute arts for public spaces along sculpture, performance, (new) media, heritage, etc. The impact agenda and the stipulations of national and international research council funding agencies have moved away from a culture of patronage. They have substantially formalised the contributions the academy makes, or should make, to wider societies as a core function of academic labour (Pain et al. 2011). As culture concerns a standing agenda item on university management boards, universities are increasingly positioning themselves as leaders within the cultural and creative economy with plural responsibilities to their localities, networks and glocal publics.  This can be understood as universities looking for a wider legitimising narrative,  where culture is a useful focus for narrating local belonging and global outlook.

Expertise and often-voluntary time of academics is expected within governance of culture by institutions, artists, intermediaries and policy-makers. Also, arts and humanities and culture-focused social scientists have

increasingly seen cultural projects as a way of demonstrating the value of academic research, underpinned by the impetus of research funding priorities around knowledge exchange and impact. We strongly encounter such multi-allegiance in numerous community arts projects. Of interest is the mushrooming of public arts events where research institutions and individual academics act as co-conveners, facilitators and co-producers. As large and well-networked institutions, universities can leverage internships and job creation elsewhere. They may have the capacity to deliver skills and training and construct workplace ecologies beyond the lecture theatre. As resonated by participatory geographies (e.g. Macpherson et al. 2014), this raises critical questions about the nature and ethics of co-working and the (potential) impacts among the multiple actors involved in public arts projects.

We invite critical accounts on how universities may speak to the very diverse micropublics that are understood from, firstly, an intersectionality framework (e.g. Gutierreza & Hopkins 2015) that includes considerations of gender, age, ethnicity, class, religion, ability/disability, and so forth, and, secondly, a collaborative research-industry-policy context. We invite abstracts for papers and/or interventions that address issues raised in this call.

Please e-mail a title and abstract (200-250 words) with short author biography to the co-convenors : Martin Zebracki; Saskia Warren and Calvin Taylor before 10 February 2016.  The format of the session will be the presentation of 5 selected papers/interventions each lasting 20 minutes (including 5 mins Q&A).