Status quo and development of arts management and policy research

By REN JUN / 07-04-2024 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

Arts management advances inter-civilizational exchanges. Photo: TUCHONG

Different countries have formulated different arts management policies based on different governance principles and values. Cultural policies and measures based on different governance philosophies and values have different impacts on arts management in practice. Comparative research in related fields can help promote global consensus and inter-civilizational exchanges.  

Western development    

According to research from the “World Cultural Management and Education” project led by Zheng Jie from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the overall development of this field abroad can be understood. Currently, related educational programs are primarily concentrated in Europe and North America, with the mainstream still focusing on traditional arts management and arts administration. Early European curricula were rooted in the traditional humanities, emphasizing art theory, criticism, and history. North American programs lean towards business courses to promote the commercial development of the arts. 

In terms of subject matter, Western “arts management” encompasses both for-profit and non-profit sectors. From the perspective of research, scholars who lean towards the humanities and arts management tend to focus on research in the non-profit sector. Presently, higher education systems in Western countries are inclined to adopt practical approaches guided by societal demands. They flexibly integrate and innovate interdisciplinary technological research, fostering critical reflection in academic research with an open mindset. 

Arts management programs are predominantly housed in the business schools of comprehensive universities, though they are also offered in economics and education faculties. Therefore, in Europe and North America, there is less emphasis on establishing “arts management and policy” as an independent discipline. In the process of teaching and research, emphasis extends beyond providing management tools, setting standards, and showcasing best practices and marketing techniques. Researchers also deepen their understanding of arts and cultural institution management strategies through discussions from various disciplinary perspectives and methodologies. 

This approach provides certain insights for China’s development of disciplines in the context of “new liberal arts.” However, it is crucial to consider the development trajectory in the Chinese context, as well as the issue of how arts management and policy research should respond to China’s unique social needs.

Development in China

In the late 1980s, China faced significant challenges in cultural and artistic reforms, prompting academia to recognize arts management as a viable research subject. The introduction of “arts management and policy research” in China was driven by the strong demand of socialist cultural construction with Chinese characteristics for relevant research outcomes and arts management talent. According to Mao Shaoying from the Shenzhen Research Center of Culture, Sports, Tourism, Radio and Television, typical applied research outcomes began to emerge in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By the mid-1990s, numerous institutions, organizations, and platforms were engaged in related studies. In the 21st century, “cultural think tanks” sprang up like mushrooms after the rain. Under the nation’s all-out efforts to promote the development of cultural undertakings and cultural industries, related research and policy-making issues gradually gained momentum. The awareness of “arts management and policy” and related research trends in China was initially integrated with cultural management and cultural industry management, and has always been inherently related to national cultural policies since the new era.

After entering the 21st century, the disciplinary development and professional construction of arts management have been accelerated. In 2011, after the upgrading of art studies to an independent discipline, arts management was placed under the first-level discipline of art theory, becoming an interdisciplinary and applied theoretical art discipline. In 2016, arts management was officially included in the undergraduate program directory of the Ministry of Education.

The social context in which China’s arts management and policy research develops is significantly different from that of Western countries. Since its inception, it has developed distinct characteristics and pathways from the introduction of Western arts management practices, to conducting research based on local experience around localized system reform. From theory to practice, it has served the development of socialist literary and artistic undertakings. Over the past two decades, China’s arts management and policy research have made significant progress.

Contemporary China is advancing artistic innovation while inheriting fine traditional Chinese culture. With the emergence of new fields and technologies, arts management and policy research must evolve beyond the traditional historical and aesthetic research methods of the humanities. There is a growing need to further expand the empirical and experimental research methods of the natural and social sciences to address practical issues. Establishing an interdisciplinary and comprehensive theoretical framework tailored to the nature of such interdisciplinary research areas has become essential.

Ren Jun is from the Institute of Culture at the Shenzhen Academy of Social Sciences.

Edited by ZHAO YUAN