Category: Past Virtual Study Groups

Content from past Virtual Study Groups, online gatherings to learn and talk together about emerging issues in cultural research.

Comparative Policy of the Response to COVID-19

This virtual study group (VSG) focused on how COVID-19 has disrupted arts and culture research and policy. Date: June 17, 2020 CRN hosted two VSGs over two days. Diversity/Equity/Inclusion and COVID-19: Options for Cultural Research and Public Funding occurred on June 16th. Purpose Cultural researchers, arts agencies, arts organizations, and artists around the globe are grappling with the COVID-19 crisis,… Read more →

Diversity/Equity/Inclusion and COVID-19: Options for Cultural Research and Public Funding

This virtual study group (VSG) focused on how COVID-19 has disrupted arts and culture research and policy.

Date: Tuesday, June 16, 2020

CRN hosted two VSGs over two days. Comparative Policy of the Response to COVID-19 occurred on June 17th.


Cultural researchers, arts agencies, arts organizations, and artists around the globe are grappling with the COVID-19 crisis, how it is affecting the arts field now, and how it will change the future of the field. As an international forum for cultural research practices, CRN is convening the collective brain power of the network to discuss topics relevant to the crisis. Objectives for this conversation are to allow for shared learning, to understand challenges, to share relevant research, and to provide ideas for future research.

This session explored how cultural research and data sources can help public arts agencies make the case for equitable, sustained cultural funding in the post-COVID-19 economy.  What do we know now, where are gaps in knowledge, what do we need to track during/post COVID, to what extent are arts inequities unique and/or reflect larger systems?  How is DEI prioritized in COVID-related arts policy responses, and to what ends?

The session was moderated by David Pankratz (Creative Sector Research). Holly Sidford (Helicon Collaborative), Pam Breaux (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies) will join David and attendees in bringing their perspectives and questions to the conversation as discussants.


Please view notes from the discussion here.


Panel Bios

Pam Beaux joined the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) in 2015. As president and CEO, she works with the association’s board of directors and staff to advance NASAA’s policy and programmatic mission to strengthen America’s state and jurisdictional arts agencies. A native of Lafayette, Louisiana, Pam has held leadership positions at the local, state and national levels. While in Louisiana state government, she was secretary of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism (CRT), assistant secretary of CRT (overseeing its cultural development portfolio), and executive director of its state arts agency (the Louisiana Division of the Arts). During her time at CRT, Pam developed and led Louisiana’s cultural economy initiative and spearheaded the successful UNESCO inscription of Poverty Point State Historic Site (an ancient Indian site) as a World Heritage site. 

David Pankratz retired recently as Research & Policy Director for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council after a 35-year career in research and evaluation in arts policy, advocacy, and management.  Topics of recent research are racial equity and arts funding, impacts of the arts, and individual artists, while his co-edited books include The Arts in a New Millennium.  David also held senior positions for EmcArts, The Independent Commission on the NEA, and the J. Paul Getty Trust.  He has taught for Carnegie Mellon University and earned his Ph.D. in Arts Policy and Administration from The Ohio State University.       

Holly Sidford is Co-Director of Helicon Collaborative, a national consulting firm that works with artists, cultural organizations, foundations and other creative enterprises to make communities better places for all people – more vital, adaptive and just.  Helicon focuses on three themes central to healthy communities:  equity, sustainability and beauty. Holly has 30 years’ experience leading cultural and philanthropic organizations and is nationally recognized for her work in expanding access to arts and culture, enhancing support for artists, and building organizations’ strategic capacity. Before starting Helicon, Holly was the founding President of Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC), a ten-year national initiative to improve support systems for artists. She has held leadership positions at Ford Foundation, The Howard Gilman Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts and Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities.  

Contagious Cities: Facing and Understanding the Pandemic

Are we ready to face the global challenge of Covid-19 pandemic outbreak? Do we know how microbes, migration and metropolises cohabitate or relate to each other? Can we tap into the artistic and cultural creativity to better understand the global infectious diseases or even investigate how they travel across urban and human borders?

The VSG discussed these questions in a live conversation with artists, curators, researchers and cultural producers of the Contagious Cities. This international cultural project was developed by Wellcome Trust in 2018 to mark the centenary of the 1918 flu pandemic that infected a third of the world’s population and killed 50 million people. The VSG will share important insights from the Contagious Cities project, that brought together international curators, artists and scientists through residences across New York, Hong Kong and Geneva to explore how epidemics spread in urban environments.

What do we hope to achieve?

The VSG aims to inform and educate a wider community of cultural researchers, artists, academics and creative workers on the key questions of pandemic diseases to share support and solidarity in the midst of the global spread of the Covid-19. It intends to expose and promote a creative and artistic intake on the crucial issues of the pandemic physical, social and cultural impacts upon urban communities. 

The Panelists

  • Moderator: Dr Natalia Grincheva
  • Ken Arnold – Creative Director at Wellcome (London, UK)
  • Sarah Henry – Chief Curator and Deputy Director at the Museum of the City of New York (New York, USA)
  • Ying Kwok  – Curator of Contagious Cities: Far Away, Too Close at Tai Kwun Contemporary (Hong Kong, China)
  • Matt Adams – Co-founder of Blast Theory (London, UK)
  • Dr James Doeser – Freelance cultural researcher (London, UK)
  • Ken Arnold – Creative Director at Wellcome (London, UK)

Suggested Pre-Reading:

1918 influenza: the mother of all pandemics

These are the best run cities in the world

WHO Healthy Cities


Contagious Cities (radio series) 

A strange new world? Not really

Mariam Ghani on her film Dis-ease

Blast Theory’s blog on pandemics and public health

Sarah in Intelligencer

The Lancet: COVID-19 and the anti-lessons of history 

New Statesman – The contagious power of fear: why some believe that panic is a virus

Cultural Democracy and Cultural Equity: reflections on debates in the UK and USA

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

3:00pm EST (North America)
You can register for the event at the following link:

‘Cultural Democracy and Cultural Equity: reflections on debates in the UK and USA’

What the VSG is about?
This VSG will explore the terms ‘cultural democracy’ and ‘cultural equity’, addressing how they are used by different and disparate communities of academics, arts administrators, funders and policymakers in the UK and USA. 

We are keen to understand whether these terms – and the ways in which they are put to work in the cultural sector – share any similarities in terms of use, history, power and problematics. Are we fighting the same fight? Do we share the same problems? Are these issues organisational, structural, ideological? How can practitioners, advocates and academics share with, and learn from, one another in pursuing these ideas to better facilitate action, impact and change?
What do we hope to achieve?
We hope for this to be the beginning of a much longer and wider conversation. Think of this VSG as an invitation to engage in conversation with academics, practitioners and other interested parties and to see whether you want to come along for the ride. This isn’t intended to be a teaching session, but we want very much to be sure that the discussion takes a long view, backward, forward, and enables comparative debate to begin.

As an initial outcome of this session, we’d like to invite you to join us in future relationship/network building, information and resource sharing via an informal coalition of interested people. We’ll ask you to input into how this might best be achieved. Anyone keen to stay in touch, talk more, share more and (possibly) participate in future project activity can respond via the post-event email.

Suggested Pre-Reading:
Hadley, S. & Belfiore, E. (2018) Cultural democracy and cultural policy, Cultural Trends, 27:3, 218-223.

Comparative Overview of National Cultural Data Sources

September 5, 2019, 5:00pm – 6:00pm EST (North America) September 6, 2019, 7:00am – 8:00am  AEST (Australia) About the Event Panelists from the Australian Council for the Arts, Canada Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts (United States) will provide a general overview of the arts and cultural support structure in their respective countries. The discussion will focus… Read more →

Demystifying Museum Soft Power: Geo-visualising Museums’ Influence

The Cultural Research Network hosted a Virtual Study Group called “Demystifying Museum Soft Power: Geo-visualising Museums’ Influence”. This VSG shared key findings of a research project that has sought to define, explain and deconstruct the ‘soft power’ of museums. Spanning museums’ contributions to place branding, urban regeneration and the development of tourism, the concept of ‘soft power’ is an increasingly valuable metric for the museum sector, providing a unique set of insights.

(Demystifying Museum Soft Power: Geo-visualising Museums’ Influence from Cultural Research Network on Vimeo)

The presentation will aim to demonstrate the pilot version of the award-winning dynamic web application that was developed in partnership with Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). The app Museum Soft Power Map, enables users to explore a geographic spread of ACMI’s cultural resources and social outputs. Multiple layers across several datasets visualise ACMI’s cultural collections, online audiences, international partnership networks and the impact of traveling exhibitions. Plans are now underway for this pilot to be further re-designed in collaboration with museums around the world.

This interactive VSG will encourage experimentation, networking and a collaborative exploration of what museum ‘soft power’ is and how it can be measured and analysed.  Find out more about this project on the Digital Studio’s website or view the pilot version of the Museum Soft Power Map.

The VSG will be led by Dr Natalia Grincheva, Lead CI and Conceptual Designer of the digital mapping system. Dr Grincheva is a Research Fellow in the Research Unit of Public Cultures at the University of Melbourne. She is a dedicated scholar with internationally recognized expertise in contemporary museology and cultural diplomacy. Her publication profile includes over 30 research articles, book chapters and reports published in prominent academic outlets.  She is the holder of numerous academic awards and fellowships, including Fulbright (2007-2009), Quebec Fund (2011-2013), Australian Endeavour (2012-2013), SOROS (2013-2014) and others.

Guest speakers:

Gail Dexter Lord is one of the world’s foremost museum and cultural planners. Co-founder and President of Lord Cultural Resources, her clients include the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Ottawa’s National Holocaust Monument, the National African American Museum of History and Culture, and the Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, just to name a few. She has co-authored the bestselling book “Cities, Museums and Soft Power” which redefines soft power for the urban age and designs new roles for cultural institutions; and the “Manual of Strategic Planning for Cultural Organizations”Gail is a Member of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters in the French Ministry of Culture, and holds an Honorary Doctor of Letters from McMaster University.

Seb Chan is Chief Experience Officer at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. He is responsible for holistic experience design and oversees teams responsible for experience & digital, ICT, as well as the museum’s collections, digitisation & digital preservation programs. Prior to this he led the digital renewal and transformation of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York (2011-2015). He has also worked as a museum consultant with institutions across North America, Europe and Asia. His work has won awards from American Alliance of Museums, One Club, D&AD, Fast Company and Core77.

Chris Harris is Head of Exhibition and Touring at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Since 2005 he leads ACMI touring program and exhibition design and production teams. Chris has produced many of the museum’s most loved exhibitions, ranged from imported popular culture hits such as Hollywood Costume and Tim Burton: The Exhibition, to major ACMI developed exhibitions, such as Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto, Candice Breitz’s The Character and Yang Fudong’s Filmscapes or the permanent one – Screen Worlds. Most recent major exhibits include DreamWorks Animation, Game Masters and Wonderland, launched in April 2018.

Eliza Coyle is Community Programs Officer at Yarra City Council Libraries, where she designs, plans and implements innovative and communal led events and long-term collaborative projects. Eliza has also served as a Researcher on the project Deep Mapping: Harnassing Museum Soft Power, a collaborative practice-based research between the University of Melbourne and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Her research tasks for the project included mapping ACMI international blockbusters and coordinating the team of 5 creative writing interns working on the digital story-telling component of the mapping system.

Strategic Planning and Financial Health for Arts Organizations: Overview and Case Study

Tuesday, October 9th at 2pm EST (United States and Canada)
SMU DataArts Director Zannie Voss will share findings from the newest report detailing the financial health of arts organizations in the U.S. through an examination of working capital. Appalshop Financial Director Daryl Royse will discuss how the findings inform the organization’s strategic planning process. A comprehensive question and answer session will follow the presentations.
Dr. Zannie Voss is a recognized authority on arts management and patronage. She is director of the newly merged SMU DataArts (, and was founding director of SMU’s National Center for Arts Research.  Prior to joining the SMU faculty in 2007, she was a professor in the Department of Theater Studies and an adjunct professor in management in the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, where she also served as producing director of Theater Previews at Duke, a professional theater company dedicated to the development and co-production of new works. She is co-author of numerous scholarly publications in top marketing and management journals, the book Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play, published by Theatre Development Fund, and Theatre Facts for Theatre Communications Group for the past 20 years.
Daryl Royse joined Appalshop in February of 2017 as Financial Director. He is a native of Flemingsburg, Kentucky, and graduated from Georgetown College with degrees in Accounting and English.  After pursuing graduate work at Morehead State University in English and Music Education, he moved to Lexington, Kentucky, focusing on his professional career in Accounting.  During this time, Royse also served over 15 years on several LGBT non-profit boards, including Moveable Feast Lexington, the Lexington Pride Festival committee, and the Imperial Court of Kentucky.  Much of this work was to increase access to basic services, promote equality and fairness, and facilitate community awareness.  Building on previous small business ventures in the hospitality industry, Royse relocated to Whitesburg in the fall of 2015 and, with his husband Brad Shepherd, opened Heritage Kitchen, an American comfort food restaurant.

Everything you (n)ever wanted to know about theory of change: an advanced workshop on theory of change applications in the arts

With the support of the Cultural Research Network, Ian David Moss and Dr. Kim Dunphy organized a Virtual Study Group to present different perspectives and applications of theory of change.

PowerPoint Slides

Theory of change is a framework and methodology for articulating how and why a desired change or outcome can be expected to happen. It originated in the field of evaluation in response to the challenge of understanding causal factors that lead to desired community change. In the decades since, theories of change have gained widespread adoption in fields outside the arts, to support program developers and managers to be clear what they are doing and why. Even so, many arts funders, organizations, and practitioners have yet to make use of this tool, despite seeking and spending public and philanthropic resources on the basis of change they seek to instigate or support.

In this hybrid workshop/discussion, presenters Ian David Moss and Kim Dunphy will share insights from their experiences using theory of change as researchers and advisors to cultural organizations, in different countries and professional contexts. Kim and Ian will discuss innovations in theory of change methodology and use that they have encountered or pioneered and welcome a lively dialogue with audience members throughout. The session is primarily aimed at researchers and others interested in introducing or deepening the use of theory of change into their practice.


Chair/Moderator: Dr. Natalia Grincheva, Research Fellow, Research Unit in Public Cultures, University of Melbourne.


Ian David Moss one of the US arts sector’s leading practitioners of theory of change.  As a consultant working with grantmakers, government agencies, and impact investors, he specializes in the alignment of evidence and strategy within large institutions and across complex ecosystems. Over the past decade, strategic frameworks that Ian helped create have guided the distribution of nearly $100 million in grants by some of the largest arts funders in the US. Ian was also a significant influence guiding Cincinnati-based ArtsWave in aligning $10 million/year in regional arts funding with a transformative new focus on impact. ArtsWave is still using a version of this framework to drive its grantmaking seven years later. Ian is the founder of Createquity, a think tank and online publication investigating the most important issues in the arts and what we can do about them, as well as the Cultural Research Network. He holds BA and MBA degrees from Yale University and is based in Washington, DC.


Dr. Kim Dunphy is a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne (Australia)’s, Creative Arts Therapy Research Unit. Her research interests focus on change that can be effected through arts participation and how that can be understood and measured. Recent publications include chapter in Oxford Handbook of Community Music on theorising arts participation as a social change mechanism, her PhD thesis on the participatory arts in social change in Timor-Leste and co-edited collection Making Culture Count: the politics of cultural measurement (Palgrave, 2015) including her chapter proposing a holistic approach to evaluation of outcomes of arts engagement. Kim also works as consultant for the Cultural Development Network (CDN), Melbourne, Australia, an organisation that supports local government to assist local communities to make and express their own culture. CDN leads a national project across Australia on cultural development planning, where arts agencies, including state and local governments, are supported to develop theories of change for their arts program delivery and funding programs.

Open and Public Data in Arts Research

On September 26th, the Cultural Research Network Steering Committee member W.F. Umi Hsu organized a Virtual Study Group to explore open data sources in arts research.


Open and Public Data in Arts Research from Cultural Research Network on Vimeo.


Arts and cultural data have been made available than ever. This Virtual Study Group explores the affordances of data sharing and public data in applied arts research. These emerging data practices result in research events like the Arts Access Datathon and tools such as open data portals, public art archive, open source cultural heritage work (Loca Preservation School), data-informed policy map (CultureBlocks), and arts programming (e.g. placemaking and public art, ex. Monument Lab). They provide open and potentially collaborative modalities for research in government agencies, public-sector/nonprofit arts research, and artist-driven projects in social practice and creative placemaking. This VSG features speakers who are arts researchers forging new paths with practices in related fields such as civic technology, digital design, and digital cultural heritage.


  • Monument Lab: Laurie Allen
  • CultureBlocks: Lindsay Tucker So
  • Open data in historic preservation: Eli Pousson

Produced and moderated by W.F. Umi Hsu (CRN Steering Committee Member; Digital Strategist, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs)

Arts Indexes

On July 25th, the Cultural Research Network Steering Committee arranged a Virtual Study Group  to explore the concept of Arts Indexes.

There are currently a mix of Arts Indexes (or Indices) in operation around the world. The NEA has indicators for livability. NCAR has an arts vibrancy index. The Canadian Index of Wellbeing has a cultural element as well. There is an Arts Index devised by the National Campaign for the Arts in the UK which is inspired by the one produced by Americans for the Arts. Indexes and Indicators have also been used by the cities of Chicago or Denver, to name but two.

In this VSG, Zannie Voss introduces the NCAR approach and we broaden out the discussion to include David Brownlee from the National Campaign for the Arts in the UK to ask in what ways these tools are useful, as analytical devices as well as political or advocacy prompts.

This VSG was produced by James Doeser and Jennifer Armstrong.


To view the entire webinar, please click below:

CRN Virtual Study Group: Arts Indexes from Alan Brown on Vimeo.