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A Civic Role for Arts Organisations: Relevance Risks Rewards

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What does it mean to play a civic role? For some arts organisations, it is at the heart of their mission and practice; others think it is not relevant. Communities are questioning whether the public money that arts organisations receive is benefiting local people; there are hard questions to be asked and there are no easy answers.


Following the two year Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) is working with partners across the country to support a series of conferences. Together we will share experiences, discuss, debate and imagine the significance of a civic role for arts organisations and the relevance they hold within their communities. Speakers will share the innovative, sometimes radical, ways in which they are developing their arts organisation's civic role.

Who is this event for?

This is for all those interested in relevance and a civic role for arts organisations: directors, trustees, programmers and staff members of arts organisations and the artists they work with.

People from other fields that work with arts organisations, such as the health and wellbeing sector, the charity sector, universities and government are also warmly welcome.

Where will these conferences take place?

All the conferences will address the same overarching theme of a relevant civic role for arts organisations but each venue will have a specific focus.


  • 10th June, Manchester: 'Partnerships, People and Power Dynamics' (Whitworth Art Gallery)

  • 19th June, Gateshead: 'The Art of Cultural Democracy' (Sage Gateshead)

  • 21st June, London: 'Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls?' (Wellcome Collection)

  • 28th June, Bristol: 'Art: A Catalyst for Radical Change' (Arnolfini)


In the autumn we will be in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The exact dates are yet to be confirmed. Please note the Birmingham conference which was scheduled for June is being postponed to September due to speaker availaiblty.

The events are free but tickets must be booked beforehand (here on Eventbrite) and places are limited. We expect the events to fill to capacity. Please do add your name to the waitlist if the event you want to attend has sold out as we will offer you a space if there are drop-outs closer to the time.

We want the events to be accessible to all. Please do contact us if you have specific access requirements.

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