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Book review: Glogner-Pilz and Foehl, Handbuch Kulturpublikum (Handbook of Cultural Audiences)

Review by Prof. Dr. Patricia Dewey Lambert. The research topic of public participation in arts and culture is garnering ever-increasing international attention. A recent contribution to the international literature in this field is the German Handbuch Kulturpublikum: Forschungsfragen und -befunde, edited by Patrick Glogner-Pilz and Patrick S. Foehl (Handbook of Cultural Audiences. Research questions and findings). Comprised of chapters by 24 of today’s leading German scholars, this innovative resource provides a veritable encyclopedia of insight into the contemporary state of theory, methods, and practice in this field of research in the German-speaking countries of Europe. The contributors to this volume also systematically position their research on cultural participation and arts audiences within emerging international approaches to the field, thus offering the reader deep insight into what is a uniquely German scholarly lens. 

Handbuch Kulturpublikum contains 21 chapters grouped together into three major parts: “foundations,” “research questions and findings,” and “perspectives”. The introductory chapter by Glogner-Pilz and Foehl nicely orients the reader to the major objectives and structure of the text as a whole, emphasizing that this book is meant to serve as a basic comprehensive resource for research on arts and culture publics (audiences), to synthesize the state of current research in the field, and to inspire future empirical research on relevant topics. The editors similarly contribute an excellent introductory chapter, titled “Spartenuebergreifende Kulturpublikumsforschung” to the second section of the book, in which renowned scholars present the current state of research on German audiences for arts disciplines ranging from theater to music, cinema, museums, radio, television, music schools, amateur arts, and cultural tourism. International readers may find the third section of the book to be most relevant to scholarship evolving in other regions of the world. Within the “Perspektiven” section, contributors Volker Kirchberg and Robin Kuchar provide an outstanding concise overview of the state of international and comparative research on public participation in the arts, and contributors Birgit Mandel and Thomas Renz, in their chapter on “Neue Anszaetze der Kulturnutzerforschung”, offer excellent suggestions for articulating a future research agenda for the field. 

In reading Handbuch Kulturpublikum, one is struck by a fundamental shift taking place in German cultural policy and arts management research, likely due to changing public priorities and cultural funding patterns. For decades, arts managers elsewhere in the world have envied the comparatively lavish public funding of the arts in the German-speaking countries. With changes in German public policy and funding streams, cultural administration is now shifting from its former focus on the arts product and supply to a new emphasis on public engagement in the process of arts and culture and increasing demand for and participation in cultural experiences and services. Indeed, these trends are evident throughout the Western democratic states, and with so much policy transfer and learning from abroad taking place, it is no surprise that German-speaking scholars are grappling with issues identical to those addressed internationally – albeit in a distinctly German approach.

With the major demographic shifts taking place in the world’s advanced economies (aging population, new immigration patterns, growing ethnic minority groups, etc.) as well as changing leisure behavior patterns and ever-increasing competition for consumers’ leisure-time and discretionary spending, cultural administrators can learn a great deal from international perspectives. Handbuch Kulturpublikum offers insight into a society where significant scrutiny of public funding and the rise of coercive philanthropy and sponsorship is leading to massive change in how arts and culture institutions measure and account for their impact on the public. 

The contributors to this volume refer to extensive international scholarship as well as the history of relevant German sociologically-, evaluation-, and marketing-based research that informs the current state of the field. Throughout the chapters, one sees an ever-prevalent tension of the global and the local, as international theories and approaches are adapted for the German context.  Ultimately, this tension reveals the same outcome that is found in other regions of the world: an increasing localization of cultural policy and cultural administration. As the participation of arts audiences (cultural publics) becomes more fragmented, decentralized, and localized, community cultural engagement policies and practices must follow. And, as demands for public accountability for arts and culture institutions continue to increase, one can expect that the approaches to program evaluation discussed in the chapters by Reinhard Stockmann and Vera Hennefeld and by Michael Wimmer will become crucial to arts leaders’ practice throughout Germany and Austria. 

The contributors provide multiple excellent frameworks for studying, categorizing, and analyzing arts and culture publics in the German-speaking countries. While these chapters offer international researchers great insight into some cutting-edge research taking place in Europe, this reviewer was particularly intrigued by the chapters on “Soziokultur” (Tobias J. Knoblich) and “Breitenkultur” (Doreen Goetzky). These two chapters implicitly address how Germany’s sociocultural movement of the 1970s (“Kultur fuer alle”) has evolved into its contemporary manifestation. With the international trend toward localized cultural participation, as well as increasing public demand for public funding to support instrumental goals of arts and culture (such as social or educational outcomes), it is fascinating to see how German scholars are re-engaging Germany’s decades-long experience in the sociocultural sphere as a key dimension of emerging cultural policies and programs.  

With Handbuch Kulturpublikum, editors Patrick Glogner-Pilz and Patrick S. Foehl have contributed an extraordinary resource to scholars and practitioners seeking to understand public participation in arts and culture.  This reviewer hopes that the selection of topics included in this volume will serve as an inspiration and exemplar for similar book projects to take place in other regions of the world.

 

This review has first been published in Kulturpolitische Mitteilungen I/2016 by Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft (German Society for Cultural Policy).

Author/Source: Author: Prof. Dr. Patricia Dewey Lambert Director, Arts and Administration Program and Center for Community Arts and Cultural Policy University of Oregon, USA
Management Topic: Marketing & Communication
Cultural Area: General
Submitted by editor-in-chief on Mar 29, 2016