chapter  7
Cultural placements: a sense of self, a sense of place
ByJUNE BIANCHI
Pages 10

The term ‘cultural institution’ is a broad one with potential settings incorporating a diversity of scale, budget, aims and agendas, an essential preliminary in selecting a cultural placement is to review a range of institutions and settings. Ecclesiastical buildings and stately homes incorporate cultural programmes, while the capital’s British Museum, Royal Academy and Royal Opera House exemplify eighteenth-and nineteenth-century publicly endowed cultural institutions. Twentieth-and twenty-first century spaces for cultural innovation are frequently sited within industrial settings, such as London’s Tate Modern, Liverpool’s Tate, Bristol’s Arnolfini and Watershed, or in purpose-built sites such as the Warwick Arts Centre combining visual and performance arts. British cultural investment reflects eclectic knowledge and interests with museum collections including historical and contemporary art, ethnography, science, natural and local history, performance venues host a diversity of local, national and international companies, differently abled performers and multi-linguistic productions. British towns and cities often feature a municipal museum, theatre and arts centre, publicly, privately or mixed-funded cultural institutions showcase ground-breaking, challenging or idiosyncratic exhibitions and performances. International conglomerates, such as White Cube Galleries, operate alongside settings such as The Theatre of Small Convenience, a converted Victorian lavatory designated the smallest theatre in the World. Cultural practice also occurs in vernacular settings: community halls, churches and other places of worship, shopping centres, parks, sculpture trails, beaches, woods, gardens, mountains and private houses. Institutions cater for a broad spectrum of agendas recognising that cultural visits may be motivated by interest in: professional/educational research, specific exhibitions/productions, leisure and tourism. Publicly and privately funded cultural institutions have educational and outreach policies to widen audiences and extend access and participation across groups identified as under-participating. Cultural placements provide mutual benefits for both institutions and students, as well as ‘offering developmental opportunities for students . . . (and) getting work done’, cultural institutions regard placements as ‘an integral part of the organisation’s

graduate recruitment process’ (Neugebauer and Evans-Brain 2009: 3). Fanthome (2004: 5) discusses opportunities for students ‘to hone the technique of critical reflection’ generating ‘greater self-knowledge and self-understanding’, qualities which can be beneficial to placement settings in supporting ongoing reflective engagement, a core aspect of ‘lifelong learning’ within contemporary professional practice (ibid.). Most areas of Britain feature a range of institutions and settings; conurbations close to Bath Spa University offer a wealth of opportunities. As a World Heritage site, Bath hosts 17 museums within the city centre disseminating its Roman, Medieval and Georgian past, approximately six professional theatres, numerous contemporary galleries, informal performance spaces and historic ecclesiastical buildings housing cultural events; Bristol, European Green Capital 2015, houses over 20 museums and contemporary art galleries, approximately a dozen theatres and a diversity of other cultural venues. Such cultural profiles occur in many UK cities, with a corresponding reduction of the sector’s capacity dependent not only on population but also area: London leads in cultural provision and participation, while the Midlands score lower in both indices (Arts Council England, 2014).