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Audiences: Communities, Participation and Learning


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Assessment: 5000-word critical essay (100%)

Module description

This module focuses on exploring present-day audiences and how they have contributed to changing and redefining public institutions. Although organisations and audiences are often referred to as autonomous entities, they have a dynamic relationship that contributes to the constant redefinition of the art institution’s physical, social and symbolic boundaries.

Arts organisations and museums are under constant pressure and have been called upon to address the needs and expectations of various audiences since the late-20th century. Communities and groups that have been excluded or have felt little to no engagement with them have challenged the organisation’s role as educational body and provider of artistic experiences. How and why are audiences redefining and reshaping their communities, artist’s work, organisations and cultural institutions today?

In this module, we examine ways in which artists, arts organisations and museums attempt to balance their roles with the needs and expectations of various audiences, publics and communities prioritising different ideological, political and social agendas.

Indicative module content

  • Defining audiences
  • From community to audience
  • Audience research/participation
  • Perspectives on learning, participation and engagement in and out of the institution
  • Interpretation
  • Activism and the counter-institution
  • The venue phenomenon
  • Communities of interest and collections
  • Artists negotiating the boundaries
  • The audience’s museum
  • Community development
  • Placemaking