Deborah Stevenson and David Rowe

Deborah Stevenson and David Rowe

Over the last decade the number of Australians engaging in paid or unpaid cultural activities has increased by over 50 per cent, despite falling attendances at more traditional arts forms such as ballet, theatre and classical music.

Professors Deborah Stevenson and David Rowe from the Institute for Culture and Society are working with councils and cultural organisations across Sydney to understand how Australians now choose to engage in cultural activities.

Deborah and David are leading researchers in Western Sydney University's cultural studies discipline – which received an ERA 5 ranking, which means it was rated "well above world standard" in the latest Excellence for Research in Australia (ERA) report. An ERA 5 ranking is the highest ranking possible.

Together with their colleagues from across the University, they are conducting research that not is not only making a difference across the Greater Western Sydney region, but nationally and internationally.

"Through a case study of the cultural economy of Greater Western Sydney, the project is examining employment and professional development in the cultural sector; the importance of networks and practitioner communities; the spaces in which artists and cultural workers operate, and the resources and services critical to the 'new' cultural economy," Deborah says.

By closely looking at the way that artists live and work, especially in Australia's multicultural heartland of Western Sydney, Deborah and David will deliver data that policymakers need to change their approach to Australian cultural policy.

Deborah says this unique new look at Australia's changing cultural frontier uses surveys, interviews, field research, and existing databases to paint a complete picture of art and cultural practice in Sydney.

"By taking stock of Australia's artists, including their use of new digital technologies to reach their audiences more easily, Deborah and David are helping governments respond rapidly as they adapt to the new realities of art in Australia," she says.