Sep 23, 2011

Arts policy converging into a government hash

Government arts policy is a hash. The now its Convergence Review -- which is posing serious questions about the future shape of cultural policy -- is making the National Cultural Policy irrelevant.

Ben Eltham — <em>Crikey</em> arts commentator

Ben Eltham

Crikey arts commentator

The government this week released one of the most important discussion papers about the arts and culture in years, and almost no one in the arts sector noticed.

It might be because the arts and cultural industries have stopped engaging with the government’s tortuous process of developing a National Cultural Policy. After all, Peter Garrett announced the government would develop a cultural policy in 2009, and current Arts Minister Simon Crean is now promising to deliver one in 2012, a mere three years later.

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3 thoughts on “Arts policy converging into a government hash

  1. Eric Sykes

    Good article Ben thank you, many are called but few get up, you remain the only arts journalist I know who regularly tackles this stuff and wrestles it to the ground.

  2. AngelTrumpet

    Ben, it’s always a pleasure to read your articles and interpretations of the deep, dark secret corridors that formulate the Australian cultural policy mess. Thank you for your passion! However, it would be wonderful to read on occasion of some of the wonderful work the major performing arts bodies actually do! I can’t recall the last time you wrote a positive review of an orchestra, state theatre, opera or ballet company performing an innovative new work to an appreciative audience.

    It’s hard not to feel that you are on a crusade against the majors at times, in spite of the cold reality that they are now expected to be everything to everybody all of the time. Appeal to wide audiences? Tick. Play cutting-edge new repertoire that initially appeals only to a small audience by nature of its newness and the demands it presents on established audiences? Tick. Preserve the classics? Tick. Innovate by playing the old and new in new ways and commission new works on a limited budget? Tick. Perform new and large works (involving many highly-skilled and as a result expensive performers) whilst balancing the books? Tick. Community outreach and educational activities to encourage broader access to artistic programmes? Tick.

    Perhaps the orchestras of the 1970s which Paul Grabowsky referred to in his speech were exactly that? Just orchestras which played new orchestral music without prevalent accounting fears as a part of the larger ABC. As independent bodies they are now expected to innovate as well as preserve, make money from pops gigs whilst also not losing too much of it on new projects, perform at a high standard (which requires a permanent body of musicians in contradiction with Justin McDonnell’s recent pit services review) but also not publicly discuss the high cost of performing at an elite standard for fear of being slaughtered by a media body (including Crikey) constantly on the lookout for any perception of a wastage of public money…..

    More government money for digital artists, gaming, off-beat festivals, writers, visual artists and cutting-edge contemporary music? YES! Must this always lead to regular attacks of those bodies currently in receipt of higher levels of funding, such as orchestras, theatres, opera and ballet companies which have a valid place in their communities? NO!

    The level of funding for most art forms and artists in Australia (including live bands as you posted) is too low for a society so proud of and willing to engage with artistic achievement. All artists and their lobbyists (including yourself, Richard Mills, Richard Tognetti and Paul Grabowsky) should be working together and not against each other to ensure the size of the pie is increased over the long term, rather than fighting over the size of dwindling slices.

  3. Australia Council for the Arts

    Ben et al, if you’re interested, Andy Donovan, Director Inter-arts at the Australia Council for the Arts has published an article on ArtsHub discussing some of the media arts projects represented at ISEA 2011 which were supported by the Council. Please see “Digital Arts? The future’s bright” for more on how Council has supported Australian artists at events like ISEA.

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