Beyond Targets: Articulating the role of art in regeneration

  • Julie Crawshaw

Student thesis: Phd


AbstractBeyond Targets: articulating the role of art in regenerationJulie Crawshaw: Doctor of Philosophy, University of Manchester, 2012An anthropological study of urban practice, this thesis contributes a nuanced understanding of the role of visual art in regeneration. Inspired by the experiential philosophy of Dewey (1934), we have traced the effects mobilised by art as part of urban transformation. The literature of cultural policy and 'culture-led regeneration' (Vickery, 2007), discusses art as physical artworks, in support of development; or as socially-engaged practice, in support of social renewal. Through tracing the movements of all the actors involved, our research goes beyond explanation in support of policy targets. We have described what happens in practice, on its own terms. To account for a range of professional perspectives, the research included four empirical studies at different proximities to practice: an exploratory study embedded in art practice; eighteen in-depth interviews with a range of art and regeneration professionals; sixteen in-depth interviews with practitioners of an Urban Regeneration Company (URC) case study; and a six-month ethnography of the same URC case. Accounting for the agency of humans and non-humans (Latour, 2007a), our explications took close account of the effects produced by the associations of urban relationships, between: engineers, planners, construction workers, and artists; as well as plans and drawings, objects, materials, concepts, ideas and natural elements. Through tracing actors at the 'microscopic' (Geertz, 1973) scale, we did not observe art as 'works', but the way art works as a driver for re-imagining the urban.In practice, we see regeneration not as buildings or communities, but as a continuous process of re-shaping human-physical relationships. As part of this relational network, art 'mediates' (Hennion, 1997) participation, collaboration and reflection on the ambitions of regeneration: producing new ideas for urban possibilities. The effects are produced through the continuous associations between 'inner' (human) and 'outer' (physical) materials. These material associations meld to create a neutral platform for professionals to shift from their usual remit; to re-consider the 'big picture' from a new perspective. Regeneration is an active part of the political landscape. As a catalyst for urban imagination, rather than deliver policy objectives, art re-shapes them. Through tracing practice this research contributes new understandings to the study of art and regeneration. By revealing urban networks through tracing art, rather than explaining regeneration as physical or social, we have made a contribution to urban studies by describing the micro movements of regeneration as a relational practice. As a contribution to art studies, through tracing how art works in regeneration, we have produced nuanced descriptions of how art 'mediates' action and reflection in and on urban practice. As a contribution to policy and practice, we have articulated the role of visual art in regeneration as: mediating emergent imaginings; re-shaping rather than delivering objectives. As a tool for the policies of the time, 'regeneration' has a shelf-life. As an articulation of the role of art as a catalyst for collaboration in support of positive urban transformation, the findings of this study continue to be relevant.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlbena Yaneva (Supervisor) & Joanne Tippett (Supervisor)


  • Art
  • Regeneration
  • Actor-Network Theory
  • Anthropology

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