What is Cultural Policy?

June Kim is a first-year MAAA student at SPEA. She is a member of the Cultural Policy and Management Alliance. Interested in bringing music to public spaces, she created Rush Hour Music Series, a monthly performance series held in the downtown Bloomington Transit Center.

Interested in learning even more about this event and hearing what experts from the field have to say about it?  The Cultural Policy and Management Alliance has provided audio of the event in its entirety. Check it out!


If I asked you to describe health policy, education policy, or environmental policy, it’s likely that you would not have to think twice about it. But, what would you say if I asked the same about cultural policy? It might not be as intuitive (definitely was not for me), and so CPMA’s first event was born. The newly founded student group, Cultural Policy and Management Alliance, organized the event around the question: What is Cultural Policy? 


Two of our professors at SPEA, Dr. Joanna Woronkowicz and Dr. Michael Rushton, were invited to share their expertise and guide us through this question. They covered a variety of topics from how they define cultural policy, what resources are available to learn more about it, how the new White House administration will affect the field, and how it functions differently on local, regional, and national levels.

Joanna, Katie Skayhan, Rushton

L to R: Joanna Woronkowicz, Katie Skayhan (moderator), Michael Rushton

What is Cultural Policy? started off with this precise question. When we asked Dr. Woronkowicz what cultural policy means to her, she referred to Paul DiMaggio, co-founder of The Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at Princeton University. She described it as “governmental policies, or the lack thereof, that help regulate the production in the cultural marketplace.” She focuses on the “lack thereof” portion when she personally thinks of cultural policy, as this particular mindset gives her the freedom to study how governmental policies affect cultural and arts production that is distributed among the people.

Dr. Rushton gave a similar definition and added how government policies can encourage the arts through grants and educational policies, as well as how they can regulate the arts on the grounds of freedom of expression, copyright, and international trade.


Brad Schiesser MAAA ’17


L to R: Steph Gerbick, Melissa Segarra, Joanna Woronkowicz, Michael Rushton, Katie Skayhan, June Kim, Pia Chaib

They also  listed resources and authors on cultural policy that would be informative to those of us who would like to learn more about it:

Dr. Joanna Woronkowicz’s recommendations (those who defined the field):

  •      Paul DiMaggio
  •      J. Mark Schuster (U.S.-based scholar writing about how we should approach cultural policy)

Dr. Michael Rushton’s recommendations (those who are currently talking about it):

  •      artsjournal.com
  •      Dave O’Brien (book on cultural policy, especially interested in class, race, and gender in arts production)

In discussing the threat of eliminating the NEA, made by the new White House administration, they both made the point that it is not only about funding, but also a political signal and statement about the arts and small government. I won’t name names, but they did disagree on whether they predict the NEA will be eliminated or continued in this new presidential era.

What they did agree on was the great impact of having opportunities for enjoying the arts on a local level. Regardless of any federal action that may impact the arts and cultural policy in the U.S., it is the job of artists, art administrators, and workers in the field of cultural policy to facilitate these opportunities for local communities to participate in the arts, whether in a community performing space or in a neighbor’s home where people gather to create art themselves. It was an evening full of new ideas and insights, and now I would feel comfortable starting a sentence with “Cultural policy is…”!

Speaking of creating art, CPMA’s second event will be a display and discussion of photographs by 1st-year MPA student, Animesh Priya, taken on his motorcycle journey through India. Come for the photographs, Animesh, and the free Indian food!


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