Jennifer Budney, PhD candidate at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy has been awarded the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), totaling $105,000 over three years. Budney’s research looks at how the policies and practices of public art museums affect innovation and particularly the museum’s engagement with culturally and economically diverse audiences.
“Canadian public art museums cater to predominantly white, well-educated and affluent people, even as our cities’ populations rapidly diversify,” says Budney. “Although I believe that these organizations have the potential to be powerful engines for personal and social development, including cross-cultural and cross-political dialogue, they won’t be so long as they reach such limited audiences.” Prior to starting her PhD, Budney worked for 8 years as a curator in public art museums, as a program officer at the Canada Council for the Arts, and as an arts journalist.
There is growing pressure on art museums and all cultural organizations to democratize their programs. Yet even in the face of mounting layoffs, funding cuts and greater polarization of populations, art museums have not moved in any major way to alter their organizational approach. Budney believes that the choices a museum makes in what it chooses to exhibit and how it chooses to target and engage audiences is critically important. Other factors that influence the volume of art audience attendance include accessibility to public transport, proximity to cultural hubs and affordability. A trend of declining attendance indicates that art museums are not innovating in this area at a rate that is in step with changes in the larger society. Her hope is that further examining decision-making processes and resource allocation in mid-sized art museums will lead to better organizational priorities and strategies for art museums and their funders. In Canada, 48 to 62 per cent of funding for art museums comes from public sources.
"Jen's unique combination of real-world experience and academic background will enable her to develop some critical insights into this important public policy issue," says Murray Fulton, Budney’s supervisor and JSGS professor. Fulton notes that Budney’s work may offer a significant contribution to the literature on why organizations such as museums and galleries have trouble making the changes they need to remain relevant.
For more information, contact:
Erica Schindel, Communications and Marketing Specialist
Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy
University of Saskatchewan