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A wolf enters the field of the arts in Wanganui after the 2004 local body elections : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Sociology at Massey University
This research uses a Bourdieuian framework to explore 'the collision' between the fields of local government and the arts at the symbolic site of the Sarjeant Art Gallery in Wanganui, New Zealand. The Sarjeant Gallery Extension Project, conceptualised to make the Gallery more accessible and inclusive, had 84% of the necessary funds committed when it became a key issue in the 2004 local body elections. Once elected the new Mayor, who opposed the Project, swiftly undertook an intensive media campaign to discredit it. Within weeks, the entire Sarjeant Gallery Trust Board had resigned, the Extension Project was abandoned and the artists of the town were profoundly shocked. In response to these acts of symbolic violence by the Mayor, the artists developed a number of strategies that were ultimately unsuccessful in reviving the Project. Pierre Bourdieu's conception of the social space as a site of struggle between fields for the many different kinds of capital he identified resonates with the aim of this research, which was to explore the possible causes and consequences of this monumental clash of fields. Undertaken in three phases, the first two stages of the research mapped the field of the arts in Wanganui and documented the events of 'the collision'. These set the scene for the fieldwork, which took the form of structured interviews with eight agents from the field of the arts who had been involved in devising strategies to respond to the attacks on their field. Bourdieu's analysis of the field of the arts as autonomous explains why its agents looked for support for the Sarjeant Gallery Extension Project from the national field of the arts instead of its own social space. This meant that the Project never gained the wide support and political leadership it needed to take it through to completion and that calling on funding from local government became fraught with difficulty even though the Project was predicated on social inclusion. His notion of habitus, an unspoken set of values and beliefs within fields, explains why the agents within the field of the arts responded the way they did to the attack on their symbolic capital, with some agents abandoning the site of struggle and others engaging in strategies that were ultimately ineffective in constructing an included and supportive public that could have persuaded the politicians of Wanganui to invest in art.