Global performers’ impact study is just the curtain raiser

Posted on 08 Aug 2023

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, SmartyGrants

EFFS A Womb of Ones Own Credit David Montieth Hodge 2019
A partnership between SmartyGrants and artist organisations in two countries aims to boost artists' careers and develop markets for their work. Picture: David Montieth-Hodge/Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

SmartyGrants is going backstage to boost artists’ careers in Australia and the United Kingdom.

In a global first for measuring the value of performing arts, SmartyGrants is providing expertise and SmartyGrants access to both the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society and Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM).

Both arts organisations help artists to find new audiences in their own countries and across the world through festivals and special events.

The 18-month research project will measure the effectiveness of those events in showcasing the work of artists. The project will also measure whether those events help boost artists' careers, and extend the market for their work.

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Participants at the APAM Gathering in Melbourne in 2023. Picture: Sarah Walker

The events in question include the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe – which is the world’s biggest arts performance festival and arts market – and APAM Gatherings at festivals across Australia, such as Melbourne’s recent RISING festival in June 2023.

In a new use of the SmartyGrants system, participating artists will be tracked through longitudinal surveys. Incentive payments are expected to boost involvement.

It is expected the study will be able to measure career progression, effects on income, levels of reach and influence, and extended networks and collaboration.

The project will also help fine-tune the SmartyGrants Outcomes Engine, which allows grantmakers to track impact by matching activities to a measurement framework.

Extending the international collaboration, the project has won the backing of the British Council for the project.

APAM’s director Catherine Jones said anticipated the project would “develop a rolling mechanism for measuring the impact of participation in APAM and other market platforms, while also providing artists with a tool for reflection on their artistic practice and market development objectives.”

Ms Riley said the findings of the research project would have applications to artists and festivals globally.

“Once we can demonstrate what's possible with this pilot, we’re hoping that more arts organisations and artists around the world will gain access to these powerful tools for good.”

The concept of using SmartyGrants to measure the impact of arts practice was first conceived several years ago in an Eisenhower Fellowship collaboration between SmartyGrants executive director Kathy Richardson and Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy.

“Shona and I are both proud Eisenhower Fellows and we’re delighted that the unique connection we forged during our 2014 innovation fellowship keeps paying dividends,” Ms Richardson said.

“We’re confident this project will help us fulfill the fellowship aims of having a positive global impact.”