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Amanda Ashley, Leslie Durham publish paper on universities as cultural anchors

Portrait of Amanda Ashley
Amanda Ashley
Portrait of Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham

Leslie Durham, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Amanda Ashley, an associate professor in the School of Public Service, published an interdisciplinary research paper titled, “Universities as Arts and Cultural Anchors: Moving Beyond Bricks and Mortar to Artist Workforce Development.”

The paper was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

It’s thesis is that universities are “anchor institutions” because they are rooted in their communities and are important drivers of regional economic development activity. Ashley and Durham posit: what is the role of universities in anchoring arts and cultural activity in the regional creativity ecology, and how are university leaders identifying, communicating, and investing as arts and cultural anchors?

Through a qualitative comparative case analysis of four public universities in the Intermountain West, combined with target interviews of field innovators and a synthesis of transdisciplinary literature, the researchers deepen the concept of the university arts and cultural anchor and map a theoretical and practical shift from a traditional to contemporary form of anchoring. They identify four stages of anchor readiness and develop a pilot assessment tool for university leaders to determine their anchor stage based on awareness and investment.

Their applied research helps universities move from being an arts patron to an arts investor, innovator and catalyst.