Archives for posts with tag: Arts Funding

Justin

Dr Justin O’Connor is a professor in the ARC Centre for Creativity and Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology. In January, the Australia Council released his report entitled Arts and creative industries, which outlined the development of the creative industries in Australia and discussed the role of economics in arts and cultural policy debate. He spoke to arts interview about the report and his ideas of how the industry could move forward.

Interview by Kim Goodwin

What implication do the differences between cultural industries, arts and creative industries have for the creation of industry policy in Australia?

The first problem is that nobody quite knows what creative industries are. Sounds great at first, but does not mention the word arts (that is always a good thing for economic policy makers). As we drilled down into what it meant, no one really knew. What areas of the economy aren’t creative? Are we saying medicine isn’t creative? We are saying creativity is an input into this particular sector of the economy, but it is also an input into many other sectors of the economy. What then is included? Consequently it is a challenge to develop industry policy when the industry itself is not defined.

The second element is that creative industries are defined increasingly in economic terms. All those who will read this will make arguments about the economic impacts of arts and culture. But policy makers are turning around and saying ‘if you are economically successful then let’s invest in this because of the economic returns’. In attempt to sell the whole idea of a thriving and growing sector it has also done a bit of damage to it.

In terms of cultural policy, was the last true attempt Keating’s Creative Nation?

Very much so. Remember that Creative Nation was not just about the economic aspects of culture and markets, the private sector was important too. It was also about a new Australia, a multicultural, forward looking country with an identity that would engage with the modern world. Creative industries have dropped all that and become the economic residue of these sorts of discussions.

According to the interviewees in the report, what are the weaknesses in the current Australian system?

One issue was the way in which the different systems, whether federal or state, could not handle the complexity of what practitioners were doing. Could not handle the fact that people were doing cultural things AND economic things. Those who were operating commercially were saying ‘people think I am commercial, but I am also doing it for artistic and cultural reasons’, and those in the subsidised sectors were saying ‘I also work in a very commercial space, using resources in an economically rational way.’ They felt caught on either side of the divide, either as a starving subsidised artist, or a commercial, hard-nosed, profit driven operator. In reality most fell right in the middle.

How has the report been received?

It is a think piece; it is meant to get people to review where we have come to. It has, however, touched on a desire for a bigger debate, questioning ‘What is the meaning of art and culture? Why do we do this? How can it be improved?’

I am hoping that it feeds into a growing concern that we are a bit rudderless, a bit directionless in this area. I think we have lost that moment, that Creative Nation moment, where we could link the economic aspects of culture with its wider implications for the identity and future of Australia.

You have said the challenge now facing the mainstream arts institutions is how to enter the policy debate without feeling the arts are threatened by the changes. What can be done to support this?

We have to encourage arts bodies to think about the broader picture. What shape should the Australia Council be? How can it best engage with the sector? It is not about abolishing, or suggesting they have done a terrible job; it is what kind of vision do we want for arts and culture in Australia and what role can the Australia Council play? The arts institutions have to think about engaging with the non-publically funded sectors, thinking about infrastructure funding, about engaging with more complex fields, things like small bar policy or how best to regulate or encourage private capital investment into the sector, how best to engage with urban planners and community policy makers.

If I was to write the report again I would be more forthright in the idea of critiquing economics. What is the economic? Most of it is just a myth, do we mean the financial markets? Do we mean the everyday economics of how people live? I would say it is a paper tiger, but it is a real tiger, suggesting there is an economy out there which is the ultimate arbiter of everything, but when you look closely it is actually smoke and mirrors.

Further reading on the politics of creative industries below:

Virginia

The arts and creative industries play a vital role in developing our culture, communities and economy. Despite this, the arts are still fraught with challenges that can cause decision-making to be difficult. This week’s arts interview, former Arts Minister of NSW, Virginia Judge, gives us an insight into her passion for the arts, the value of the arts sector in NSW and how she handles decision-making in a government environment.

Interview by Georgina Sandercock

How important do you think the arts are to NSW?

I think a vibrant Arts sector is really the surest sign of a healthy democracy. It is very much the mural that we can hold up to our society and its legacy by which we will be judged. It is absolutely vital that the arts are open to everyone to enable individual creativity and joy. Our culture is very much strengthened by our diverse voices. Filmmakers, musicians, artists, dancers and storytellers all have the power to inspire empathy and command understanding. They challenge the status quo to hint very much at what lies beyond the edges of the unknown and help to illuminate visions of our better selves.

I very much believe that culture in essence belongs to all of us. It does not matter where you come from; we have all got our own particular stories. Sometimes we use these as metaphors to weave a beautiful fabric, with each fiber representing a particular story and the relationship we have with each other and the environments that have inspired that creativity. The arts are a great unifier, which can strengthen our diversity and emphasises that culture belongs to all of us. We have a wonderfully innovative, imaginative, talented and sharing group of people in our creative industries and this is one of our greatest assets.

Tell us about some key projects you initiated when you were NSW Arts Minister?

I wanted to develop an arts policy and cultural strategy, and decided to run a series of forums. Sadly, a program was never launched, but the initial forums held were a success and provided great information and insight into the arts and creative industries. The series of forums I ran ended up involving over 600 practitioners, peak organisations and a number of government departments, cultural institutions and a number of businesses from the corporate industry. The aim of these forums was to find out how we could really benefit from the needs of creative works. They were very much a valuable way, a tool for me to find out about their ideas, issues, problems, strengths, hopes and aspirations.

The forums were very innovative and had never been attempted before.
I brought all the different industries, government and businesses into parliament. People were very shocked and were amazed that bureaucrats and practitioners from creative industries were all in one room and talking. I based the arts policy and strategy and my funding guidelines on the key outcomes from the forums. It was amazing that in every sector the same things kept coming through. One key outcome was that everyone needed the affordable space to create. Affordable space can be hard to find in NSW, in particular the metro areas of Sydney. This outcome highlighted the huge area for all governments to look at and consider how we can improve this.

How did your personal passion and arts practice inform your decision-making?

I only have limited experience in life and the sector. Whenever attempting any sort of decision-making, I would go to the people in the respective fields and talk to them. It is important to hear what they have to say and then act accordingly. I believe an organic process is hugely important to decision-making. You do not have many other opportunities to do this, so you do not want to waste time.

It is important to ask yourself ‘What decisions am I going to make’? These decisions should then be informed by other practitioners – it is important to use people’s real life experiences, talent and wisdom. Once I had gone through this process, I had to put it in a way that I could present to the Government. Obviously, there is always a huge demand on the budget – our education, health and transport etc. are important and sometimes the arts and creative industries are not always up there. You need to position your debate as a member of parliament and convince them of the wonderful things these industries have to offer and how it contributes to the economy.

What advice would you give to any future practitioners with regard to decision-making?

When I talk about decision-making, I always try to emphasise the positive impact of culture and broaden their thinking about the sector. You must be hugely persistent and not give up. You have to make people feel as if they are doing a disservice to society if they do not support this vibrant sector. Effective decision-making is networking through people, using the resources that are there, and working as a collective – it is much easier to get results if you work together. I think it is very important to be active, push hard and be extremely vocal.

Further reading on decision-making and politics in the arts: