A Practice-Based Exploration of Individual Philanthropy in Contemporary Arts and Crafts: An Abstract
This research speaks to the new funding challenges in the British contemporary arts and crafts sector. Historically, the UK arts sector has relied on funding from Arts Council England (ACE). However, many organizations have witnessed either funding stabilization or reduction for the 2018–2022 period. Nonprofit arts organizations are increasingly asked to diversify their fundraising strategies and capture income from private sources. The UK has a strong culture of voluntary charitable donations; individual donations to charities totaled £9.7 billion in 2016, with no negative impacts arising from Brexit (CAF 2017). Nevertheless, this public goodwill is directed at essential welfare needs rather than the arts. While UK private investment in arts and culture has increased in the last 3 years (including investment from trusts and foundations), new data suggest individual donors favor the largest, London-based visual arts organizations over their regional counterparts (MTM 2017).
Thus, this research explores regional, low-to-medium net-worth philanthropy and is framed by a practice theories lens (Reckwitz 2002; Schatzki 1997). Using an interpretive approach including 22 in-depth interviews, data reveal thematic categories addressing nexus of activities and their interconnections in philanthropic practice, as well as the understandings, procedures, and engagements in such a practice.
Findings illuminate low-to-medium net-worth art philanthropy, including the ways in which norms and the donation environment come into play in fostering certain types of philanthropic goals, meanings, and actions and not others. By analyzing philanthropy as a practice that encompasses both cause-based and arts support—while distinguishing between these two sets of actions—focus is placed on philanthropic processes: how such actions are learned, discussed, acted upon, and encouraged in social life, and how they might be dependent on the complex circumstances circumscribing philanthropy (Wheeler 2012; Everts et al. 2011). This theoretical perspective affords the possibility of thinking about philanthropic nudging through the social embeddedness of action, rather than just through attitudes and behavioral intentions (Warde 2013). Low-to-medium net-worth individual donations to the arts are still a challenge due to historical, political, and normative factors. As the UK government reduces arts sector funding, there will be an increasing need to communicate this openly to the public, so that individuals can start considering arts organizations within their evoked set of philanthropic beneficiaries, particularly in cases of regional arts organizations.
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