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Arnolfini - est 1961

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation presents ‘Art: A Catalyst for Radical Change’, as part of UK wide conference series A Civic Role for Arts Organisations: Relevance Risks Rewards.

What does it mean to play a civic role? For some arts organisations, it is at the heart of their mission and practice; others think it is not relevant. Communities are questioning whether the public money that arts organisations receive is benefiting local people; there are hard questions to be asked and there are no easy answers.

Following the two year Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) is working with partners across the country to support a series of conferences. Together we will share experiences, discuss, debate and imagine the significance of a civic role for arts organisations and the relevance they hold within their communities. Speakers will share the innovative, sometimes radical, ways in which they are developing their arts organisation’s civic role.

This is for all those interested in relevance and a civic role for arts organisations: directors, trustees, programmers and staff members of arts organisations and the artists they work with.
People from other fields that work with arts organisations, such as the health and well-being sector, the charity sector, universities and government are also warmly welcome.

Where will other conferences take place?

All the conferences will address the same overarching theme of a relevant civic role for arts organisations but each venue will have a specific focus.

 – 10th June, Manchester: ‘Partnerships, People and Power Dynamics’ (Whitworth Art Gallery)

– 13th June, Birmingham: ‘Flagship Cultural Events: Risks and Rewards’ (Birmingham Repertory Theatre)

– 19th June, Gateshead: ‘The Art of Cultural Democracy’ (Sage Gateshead)

– 21st June, London: ‘Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls?’ (Wellcome Collection)

– 28th June, Bristol: ‘Art: A Catalyst for Radical Change’ (Arnolfini)

In the autumn we will be in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The exact dates are yet to be confirmed.

We will release details of the speakers at each event closer to the time.


The events are free but tickets must be booked beforehand) and places are limited. We expect the events to fill to capacity.

We want the events to be accessible to all. Please do contact us if you have specific access requirements.