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About the Inquiry | Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations
A project initiated by

About the Inquiry

The Inquiry seeks to increase awareness of the civic role that arts organisations play, or could play, nationally and in their communities. Through research and consultation we want to develop understanding of what constitutes ‘next practice’ and create a movement of organisations committed to demonstrating it.

The Panel

The Inquiry is supported by an International Reference Group (IRG) and Advisory Panel. The Advisory Panel for the Inquiry comprises arts leaders with a deep knowledge and understanding of how arts organisations demonstrate a civic role, together with leaders from the social, cultural, public and private sectors.
View the panel

Aims of the Inquiry

We want to improve understanding of the role that arts organisations play nationally and in their communities – who they serve and how. In partnership with arts and civic society practitioners we will craft recommendations as to how this role can be strengthened through policy change and practical support.

‘If all of us – as part of our civic role as citizens and as organisations – are individually and collectively engaged in creating culture, we can together create a new culture – truly accessible to all, because it is created by all.’

Stella Duffy, Fun Palaces

Patterns of arts consumption are changing and increasing cultural diversity means that people now relate to the arts in different ways and have higher expectations. Alongside this, there is growing disillusionment with conventional political processes; increasingly innovative ways of engaging people are being developed in other sectors; there is increased devolution and a greater emphasis on local leadership. All of these changes are providing an impetus for arts organisations to play a greater civic role.

Many arts organisations, recognising this, are breaking new ground in demonstrating their commitment to their civic role. However, this work often has a low profile and is under-appreciated. We want to stimulate a debate and work with people and organisations to develop a strong and growing movement of arts organisations that embrace their civic role.

A phased approach

We are planning three phases for the Inquiry. Phase 1 will describe how arts organisations demonstrate their civic role, highlighting inspiring examples, surveying arts organisations and interviewing key influencers. It will provide a basis for identifying the themes or issues that the planned phase 2 will examine in detail. Phase 2 will develop recommendations to support a growth in the civic role of arts organisations. Phase 3 would develop an implementation plan to ensure the initiative makes a lasting difference.

‘In 2016 the challenges facing society can appear chaotic, cruel and unknowable. The arts and culture are uniquely placed to bring the creative imagination to bear on these complex and difficult times, and to enable deeper understanding of who we are in relation to the world around us.’

Dominic Gray, Opera North

Get involved

Please talk about the Inquiry with your colleagues, and sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of this page or follow us on twitter to keep abreast of opportunities to contribute, events and calls for evidence.


About Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (CGF) is an international charitable foundation with cultural, educational, social and scientific interests, based in Lisbon with offices in London and Paris. The purpose of the UK Branch in London is to bring about long-term improvements in wellbeing, particularly for the most vulnerable, by creating connections across boundaries (national borders, communities, disciplines and sectors) which deliver social, cultural and environmental value.