Operating grants: The “participation” function in the arts

The audience is central to participation. More specifically: “Its involvement in creating art and producing meaning”. There are specific processes for this, with specific results and specific attention points. How to focus on participation? And (how) can you combine it with other functions?

Grounded involvement

Participatory work in the arts, i.e. actively involving the audience (* see asterisk) in culture. And in such a way that your audience (* again that asterisk) contributes to art. 

Contribute to art? That could be new art: creation and also forms of co-creation. This can also be a (more) in-depth experience of existing art. In other words: “Involving the audience in the creation and meaning production of art.”

Audience *

The audience? Ah, here comes the asterisk. That’s all who are not professional artists. Think of those who attend exhibitions, museums, concerts and theatres. But also: amateur artists. And specific target groups. 

Because… attention needs to paid to social and cultural diversity. At least if it’s relevant.

How? ‘It’s clear that you can’t readily set up such trajectories. For this you need a clear vision. Well thought-out concepts, methods, process guidance.

Specific criteria for participation

If you opt for participation, the assessment committee will look at a number of specific sub-criteria:

  • The quality of the participatory concepts and methodologies with attention, if relevant, to social and cultural diversity 
  • The quality of the process and, if relevant, the way you search for, select and follow up participants 
  • The quality of the intended result or end goal

The assessment committee reviews this entire list. It also links the criteria to other elements in your application. Think of collaboration with professional artists and organisations. So make sure your budget reflects your artistic plans and also any collaborations

Note, the function chosen determines the minimum and maximum percentages. If you stick only to participation, you have to contribute 7.5 percent of your own resources. If you combine participation with production and/or presentation, this becomes 20 percent.

Practical examples

Need a better perspective on participation? The Department of Culture’s Participation Framework allows you to view in a grid what participation is and is not. This helps in the case of possible confusion with public outreach, because this is a task that previously was dealt with under production and presentation

At the same time, participatory art practices are by no means limited to what is defined in the Participation Framework. Organisations that focus solely on participation interpret this in very different ways. As long as the process and the participants are the most important starting point.

Process more important than the product? Then you have to be flexible. If you leave it up to the participants, it’s impossible to know in advance which artistic techniques they want to use. Or what result they want to achieve.