Careful and Curious: A Transformative Ethos for Artistic Evaluation

Vahri McKenzie, Denise Thwaites, Cathy Hope


The logic of government subsidy recognises that there are forms of value not suitably captured by exchanges of the free market. Yet there remains a growing impetus for arts organisations and individual artists to measure and articulate the specific value of their practices through formal processes of evaluation. In the context of government subsidy, evaluation typically misses opportunities to capture unforeseen insights that artists and communities may articulate through alternative forms of evaluation. This article offers a conceptual discussion and illustrative example of how more open and exploratory evaluation methodologies may intersect with existing government frameworks. We draw on the work of feminist economists J.K Gibson-Graham and Marilyn Waring, alongside Maria Puig de la Bellacasa’s “triptych of care as ‘ethics-work-affect’” (2017, 13) and Perry Zurn’s understanding of “feminist curiosity” (2021, 1). We demonstrate our model’s application in the case of the ACT Government’s Creative Recovery and Resilience Program and their piloting of the Cultural Development Network evaluation framework, reflecting upon the potential of evaluation as a process that generates value itself by developing a language of possibilities for artists and communities (Gibson-Graham 2006). Our evaluation approach is careful in that it values care, and curious in that it is committed to experimental and creative-centred methods adopted across project design, delivery and evaluation. Rather than a literal framework to adopt, our creative response to existing evaluation tools and instruments advocates with the “transformative ethos” (Puig de la Bellacasa 2011, 100) of a careful and curious approach to evaluation.


Cultural value; Evaluation frameworks; Care; Feminist theory; Cultural Development Network

Full Text:



ACT Government. 2022. “Creative Recovery and Resilience Program Supports Local Artists.”

artsACT. n.d. “Creative Recovery and Resilience Program.”

———. 2022. Canberra: Australia’s Arts Capital – Arts, Culture and Creative Policy 2022–2026. Canberra: ACT Government.,-Culture-and-Creative-Policy-2022-26.pdf

Bakhshi, Hasan, and Stuart Cunningham. 2016. Cultural Policy in the Time of the Creative Industries. London, UK: Nesta.

Baumol, William, and William Bowen. 1993. Performing Arts, the Economic Dilemma: A Study of Problems Common to Theatre, Opera, Music, and Dance. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Gregg Revivals.

Blecker, Robert A., and Elissa Braunstein. 2022. “Feminist Perspectives on Care and Macroeconomic Modeling: Introduction to the Special Issue.” Feminist Economics 28, (3): 1–22.

Bradbury, Hilary. 2015. “Introduction.” In The SAGE Handbook of Action Research (3rd Ed.), edited by Hilary Bradbury. London, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate. 2022. CBR Switched On – ACT’s Economic Development Priorities 2022-2025. Canberra: ACT Government.

Coffey, Amanda. 2006. “Participant Observation.” In The SAGE Dictionary of Social Research Methods, edited by Victor Jupp. London, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Creative ACT. 2022a. “Writers in Residence.”

Creative ACT. 2022b. “A Transformative Cross-sector Residency.”

Cultural Development Network. 2019.

———. “Evaluate Outcomes.” Accessed January 11, 2023.

———. 2019. “Step by Step Guide.” Accessed January 11, 2023.

———. 2019. “5: Theory of Change.” Accessed January 11, 2023.

Cunningham, Stuart. 2002. “From Cultural to Creative Industries: Theory, Industry and Policy Implications.” Media International Australia 102, (1): 54–65.

Cunningham, Stuart, and Greg Hearn. 2014. “Creative Work Beyond the Creative Industries: Innovation, Employment and Education.” In Creative Labour and its Discontents: A Reappraisal edited by Greg Hearn, Ruth Bridgstock, Ben Goldsmith, and Jess Rodgers, 25–46. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Daykin, Norma, and Tim Joss. 2016. Arts for Health and Wellbeing: An Evaluation Framework. London, UK: Public Health England.

Department of Communications and the Arts (Australia). 1994. Creative Nation: Commonwealth Cultural Policy.

Dunphy, Kim, John Smithies, Surajen Uppal, Holly Schauble, and Amy Stevenson. 2020. “Positing a Schema of Measurable Outcomes of Cultural Engagement.” Evaluation 26, (4): 474–498.

Gattenhof, Sandra, Donna Hancox, Helen Klaebe, and Sasha Mackay. 2021. The Social Impact of Creative Arts in Australian Communities. Singapore: Springer.

Gibson-Graham, J.K. 1996. The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It). Oxford and Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers.

Hennekam, Sophie, and Dawn Bennett. 2017. “Creative Industries Work Across Multiple Contexts: Common Themes and Challenges.” Personnel Review 46, (1): 68–85.

Hill, Leslie, and Helen Paris. 2021. Curious Methods: Devising Theatre and Performance. Bristol, UK: Intellect.

Klugman, Craig M. 2019. “Introduction: Raising Health Humanities.” In Research Methods in Health Humanities, edited by Craig M. Klugman and Erin Gentry Lamb. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Kuku, Paul, Carolina Quintana, Amy Shelver, and Marisa Henderson. 2018. Creative Economy Outlook: Trends in International Trade in Creative Industries. New York, NY: United Nations.

Lee, Hye-Kyung. 2022. “Rethinking Creativity: Creative Industries, AI and Everyday Creativity.” Media, Culture and Society 44, (3): 601–612.

Li, Qi. 2018. “Data Visualization as Creative Art Practice.” Visual Communication 17, (3): 299–312.

McTaggart, Robin. 1999. “Reflection on the Purposes of Research, Action, and Scholarship: A Case of Cross-cultural Participatory Action Research.” Systemic Practice and Action Research 12, (5): 493–512.

Meyrick, Julian, Robert Phiddian, and Tully Barnett. 2018. What Matters? Talking Value in Australian Culture. Clayton, Australia: Monash University Publishing.

Meyrick, Julian, Tully Barnett, Heather Robinson, and Matt Russell. 2019. “What’s the Story? ‘Credible’ Narrative in the Evaluation of Arts and Culture.” The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society 49, (6): 375–388. DOI: 10.1080/10632921.2019.1646176

Millner, Jacqueline, and Gretchen Coombs. 2022. Care Ethics and Art. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

O’Connor, Justin. 2016. After the Creative Industries: Why we Need a Cultural Economy. Strawberry Hills, NSW: Currency House.

Phiddian, Robert, Julian Meyrick, Tully Barnett, and Richard Maltby. 2017. “Counting Culture to Death: An Australian Perspective on Culture Counts and Quality Metrics.” Cultural Trends 26, (2): 174–180.

Price, Aaron C., and Lauren Applebaum. 2021. “Measuring Welcoming and a Sense of Belonging in Museums.” Curator: The Museum Journal 65 (1): 135–160.

Puig de la Bellacasa, Maria. 2011. “Matters of Care in Technoscience: Assembling Neglected Things.” Social Studies of Science 41 (1): 85–106.

———. 2017. Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Rich, Kate. 2023. “Radmin”, Fo.AM.

Rowe, David, Greg Noble, Tony Bennett, and Michelle Kelly. 2016. “Transforming cultures? From Creative Nation to Creative Australia.” Media International Australia 158 (1): 9–10.

Santos-Duisenberg, Edna dos, Sudip Ranjan Basu, Shang Li Cheng, Sharon Khan, Carolina Quintana, and Julia Costa Souto. 2010. Creative Economy Report 2010: Creative Economy—A Feasible Development Option. New York, NY: United Nations.

Smith, Hazel, and Roger T. Dean. 2009. “Introduction: Practice-led Research, Research-led Practice—Towards the Iterative Cyclic Web.” In Practice-led Research, Research-led Practice in the Creative Arts, edited by Hazel Smith and Roger T. Dean, 1–38. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.

Strober, Myra H. 2011. Interdisciplinary Conversations. Challenging Habits of Thought. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Waring, Marilyn. 2016 [1999]. Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth (2nd Ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Weiss, Carol. 1995. “Nothing as Practical as Good Theory: Exploring Theory-Based Evaluation for Comprehensive Community Initiatives for Children and Families.” In New Approaches to Evaluating Community Initiatives, edited by James P. Connell, Anne C. Kubisch, Lisbeth B. Schorr, and Carol H. Weiss. Washington, DC: Aspen Institute.

Wheatley, Daniel, and Craig Bickerton. 2017. “Subjective Well-being and Engagement in Arts, Culture and Sport.” Journal of Cultural Economics 41: 23–45.

Wilsdon, James, Liz Allen, Eleonora Belfiore, Philip Campbell, Stephen Curry, Steven Hill, Richard Jones, Roger Kain, Simon Kerridge, Mike Thelwall, Jane Tinkler, Ian Viney, Paul Wouters, Jude Hill, and Ben Johnson. 2016. The Metric Tide: Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Zurn, Perry. 2021. “Feminist Curiosity.” Philosophy Compass, 16 (9): 1–10.


  • There are currently no refbacks.