Jonathan Gross worked on an IIKE-funded collaboration between SPARC and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, ‘Understanding audiences for contemporary arts’, from which publications are now in preparation. At the end of the project, Jonathan secured a similar role with the ‘Get Creative’ project, investigating arts activity in the general population. His profile at the time of the BCMG project was as follows:
My research addresses the importance of music and the arts within ‘everyday life’. Through ethnographic and interview methods I investigate the relationship between the two dominant framings of culture: as ‘the best that has been thought and said’ and as ‘ordinary’, shared practices. Both of these senses of what the arts and culture are (and do) are mobilised by the audiences with whom I work, and my research explores the importance to a range of audiences of these ‘best’ or special experiences within the contexts of the everyday.
I have a BA in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge, an MA in European Culture from University College London, and an MRes and PhD in Humanities and Cultural Studies from the London Consortium – an interdisciplinary collaboration between Birkbeck College, Tate, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Architecture Association and the Science Museum. My doctoral research was an ethnography of still and silent listening at the BBC Proms. In combination with my work on audience experience, I have a particular interest in the organisational spaces in which engagement with the arts takes place; and I make use of institutionally located ethnography to investigate broad cultural questions that are crystallized within the practices of particular arts organisations.
Since the completion of my PhD I have worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Leeds, where I was Research Assistant on the AHRC funded project, ‘Approaching Cultural Value as a Complex System: Experiencing the Arts and Articulating the City in Leeds’. As part of a team of five researchers from diverse arts and humanities disciplines, I worked in-depth with participants at the LoveArts festival, which has a particular focus on the arts and mental health. In this role I also collaborated with staff at a wide range of arts organisations across Leeds – exploring their audience engagement strategies and their methods for knowing the value audiences attribute to the organisation’s work.
I continue to work at the University of Leeds, as a member of the team evaluating Arts Council England’s Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy programme, and as a guest lecturer and seminar tutor on the MA in Culture, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. Until coming to Sheffield I was also a Research Associate at the University of Liverpool, working on the project, ‘New Thinking from the North’ – an initiative of the ‘N8’ research intensive universities in the North of England – exploring possibilities for large scale collaboration across these institutions in the arts and humanities.
I am thrilled to be joining SPARC and the Music Department here at the University of Sheffield. SPARC’s strengths in performer and audience research provide the ideal environment in which to develop innovative approaches to the exploration of audience experience and its value. And through its collaboration with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and a range of arts organisations across Birmingham, SPARC’s new project, ‘Understanding Audiences for the Contemporary Arts’ – on which I am delighted to be joining the Centre as Post-Doctoral Research Associate – promises to open up new and important organisational networks and knowledge of audience experience.