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Forum update 4: What’s past is prologue – arts leadership today

28 Aug

Summer morning, 1916, Elioth Gruner. Image: www.museumsandgalleries.act.gov.au

Summer morning, 1916, Elioth Gruner. Image: www.museumsandgalleries.act.gov.au

By Shane Breynard

Just a handful of years has seen a generational shift in arts leadership for my part of the world, and I am including our showy big sister Sydney here with us in Canberra.

Almost a mini-bus full of our most senior arts directors, often after 25 or more years of experience, have either left or are about to leave their posts. Many will have held their coveted and suitably well-paid jobs for over a decade. These are senior arts professionals who do what they do very well. They usually retire when they must, either when the next gilt rung of the institutional ladder reveals itself, when retirement looms, or when the challenges within an organisation require a new broom.

Andrew Sayers, for example, left in 2010 after 12 years at the helm of the National Portrait Gallery, for a short stint at the National Museum of Australia (NMA). Edmund Capon resigned in 2011 after 33 years as Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Then came Steve Gower, resigning in 2012 after directing the Australian War Memorial for 16 years. And in just a few weeks Ron Radford will step down as Director of the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) after 10 years in office. Ron started out as a Director at Ballarat Fine Art Gallery in 1973.

It is a disturbing fact that our outstanding women directors, in the museums sector at least, don’t appear to be reaching the decade of service in the one institution as often as the old boys do.

In comparison, a more spectacularly rapid change of guard has taken place among our smaller, Canberra-focused arts organisations. Gorman and Ainslie Arts Centres, PhotoAccess, M16, ANCA, Megalo Print Studio, Canberra Glassworks, Belconnen and Tuggeranong Arts Centres, the ACT Writers Centre and Strathnairn; not to forget the Australian National University’s Drill Hall Gallery and Schools of Art and Music, which have all switched leaders in just a few years.

So what are the implications of these big changes in art leadership? And what does it mean for the public our museums serve, and arts activity our organisations support?

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Keep reading over at ArtsHub, where this piece was first published on
19 August 2014.

Forum update 3: special offer for online communicators

24 Aug

Blogger - B&WWe love bloggers.

We also really like building on issues/challenges/opportunities shared at previous forums, including our 2013 forum which focused on the role of the arts critic/writer.

So, to spread the love, and the insight, for our Arts Leadership Forum on 1 September we’re offering a number of specially priced tickets to bloggers and experienced live-tweeters.

Send us an email at childersgroup@gmail.com tell us your blog’s name or Twitter handle, and give us a very brief idea about how you’ll talk digitally – positive, negative, up, down and sideways – about the event when you attend and we will give you a ticket for the special price of $30.

We have only a limited number of these classic-off-white coloured tickets available.

So get in quick!

Important correction as at 27 August: in the original version of this post the email address in the text was correct but the hotlink was incorrect (we’d added an unnecessary ‘au’). For those who emailed us about the $30 tickets before 27 August, please email us again ASAP. We apologise for any inconvenience.

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Arts Leadership Forum 2014 is a co-presentation between the Childers Group and the Cultural Facilities Corporation.

Forum update 2: all about the speakers

22 Aug

Arts_Leadership_Forum_RGB_Logo_150dpi

 

On 1 September 2014, together with our event partner the Cultural Facilities Corporation, we’ll be presenting the Arts Leadership Forum, our only forum for the year. Biographical details for our presenters, panelists and MCs are below.

Daniel Ballantyne
Daniel is currently Chief Executive Officer of the Belconnen Arts Centre. He has 20 years’ experience in leadership roles with arts, live performance and cultural organisations, working in public and private sectors.  He has held leadership roles in Newcastle’s Civic and Cultural Precinct, Sydney SuperDome Olympic Park, NIDA, State Theatre Sydney and the Adelaide Entertainment and Festival Centres. Daniel was elected as an Executive Councillor with Live Performance Australia, the first from a non-metropolitan base. Daniel believes that organisational success requires that the conditions exist for individuals to choose cohesion and tolerance and to become energised through the discovery of a shared purpose.

Shane Breynard
Shane is the Director of Canberra Museum and Gallery and ACT Historic Places.  He is passionate about the creative and community life of the Canberra region, and is interested in the opportunities and implications posed for museums by our increasing use of online technologies.  Shane sits on the Canberra Hospital’s Arts in Health Committee and assists in the assessment of applications to the Australia Council for the Arts as a Peer. He studied at the ANU School of Art where he was awarded a first class honours degree, the university medal and a master of arts degree by research. He subsequently gained a second masters degree, in environment, from the University of Melbourne.  In 2000 Shane was awarded an Australian Council for the Arts grant to work in collaboration with a young artist in Brasilia, one of the Southern Hemisphere’s other great planned capital cities.  He has worked as managing editor of Art Monthly Australia, as a cultural planner and in a number of government arts policy and arts infrastructure roles.  Shane was previously advisor, and Chief of Staff, to the former ACT Chief Minister and Minister for the Arts, Jon Stanhope.

Janine Collins
Janine is Creative Partnerships Australia’s State Manager for NSW and ACT. Janine has extensive experience in strategic and financial planning, business development, change management, publicity, marketing and training. In her recent role as Development Director of Sydney Dance Company, she increased philanthropic giving exponentially. Janine was also responsible for growing the development programs at Sydney Writer’s Festival and Belvoir Street Theatre during periods of transition. Janine has consulted widely to the independent arts sector and is an experienced Board member who has held executive roles in the education and training sector and has provided consulting services in international marketing for government, universities and the private sector prior to focusing on the arts.

Julie Dyson AM

Julie Dyson

Julie Dyson

Julie was the National Director of Ausdance from 1985 until her retirement in 2012. She assisted the organisation through many stages of its development, and her experience includes overseeing organisational change, development of Ausdance policy for dance in Australia, advice to funding bodies, government departments, companies and individual artists, andstrategic planning for large-scale projects and national partnerships. She was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award for Administration in 1994 and received the Australian Dance Award for Lifetime Achievement and for Services to Dance. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2007. Since 2012 Julie has continued to chair the National Advocates for Arts Education and is an adviser for the Australian Dance Awards, the 2015 National Dance Forum and Sydney Dance Company’s education program. She is a member of the Childers Group and the World Dance Alliance Global Executive.

Harriet Elvin
Harriet has held a range of senior executive roles for over twenty years, primarily in the arts sector. She holds tertiary qualifications in classics, law, international law, business administration, art history and curatorship. Harriet is the CEO of the Cultural Facilities Corporation, which manages the Canberra Theatre Centre and the Canberra Museum and Gallery, together with historic sites Lanyon, Calthorpes House and Mugga-Mugga. Her current board and committee appointments include those with the Australiana Fund, the ACT Inclusion Council, and the Canberra Regional Council of the Australian Institute of Management. Harriet is a former Telstra ACT Businesswoman of the Year and received a Centenary Medal for service to Australian society in business leadership. Her particular interests in the field of leadership and management include arts leadership and mentoring women into senior roles, while her personal interests in the arts include writing short plays, a number of which have been performed in festivals of 10-minute plays such as Short+Sweet.

Joseph Falsone
Joseph joined Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres as Director in 2012. He is working with resident artists and organisations, a new team of staff, and the broader community, to renew the centres as leading contemporary arts venues that enrich the cultural life of the city and region. Joseph previously worked as Executive Director at M16 Artspace, where he led organisational renewal and oversaw the redevelopment of the Blaxland Centre in Griffith as well as a significant exhibition program. His wider arts sector experience includes working for the ACT Community Arts office, in the arts development team at artsACT, as exhibition officer for the Australian Institute of Architects and as a curatorial intern at the National Gallery of Australia. Joseph has served on the boards of numerous arts and not-for-profit organisations, including Arts Access Australia and Canberra Contemporary Art Space. Joseph is also an experienced social research consultant, and has managed a wide variety of projects for not-for-profit, public and private sector clients. Joseph holds a Bachelor of Arts with first class honours from the University of Sydney, where he studied art history and literature, specialising in twentieth-century Italian poetry.

David Fishel
David holds an MA and M.Litt and is Director, Positive Solutions and Boardconnect. Prior to co-founding Positive Solutions in the UK in 1990, David managed arts organisations ranging from small scale touring theatre companies to arts centre and theatre venues. David has led business and strategic planning processes for cultural, health, educational, sports and Indigenous organisations. He has delivered training in board development, management and leadership skills, arts-business partnerships and strategic planning. David is author of The Book of the Board, a handbook for board members of non-profit organisations (third edition due later this year), and Boards That Work by the Directory of Social Change in the UK. He has been a board member of several cultural organisations in Australia and the UK, was Chair of Circa/ Rock’n’Roll Circus, Chair of Creative Enterprise Australia, and a Council member of QUT. David is a Director of BoardConnect, a non-profit organisation he founded that focuses on enhancing standards of governance in the non-profit sector, and is the Chair of Brisbane Writers Festival.

Ingeborg Hansen
Ingeborg is Director at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery, one of Australia’s major organisations supporting printmaking. Megalo began in 1980 and has undergone significant organisational and facility led change throughout its existence, never failing to come out on top. On graduation from the Graphic Investigation Workshop of the Australian National University School of Art Ingeborg co-founded a private press dedicated to producing books by contemporary Australian artists and writers and a little later a commercial publishing venture. She has worked as a freelance graphic designer and owned a bookshop.

Meredith Hinchliffe
Meredith has been involved with the arts since 1977 when she began work with the Crafts Council of the ACT. She has curated numerous exhibitions covering, overtime, all craft media. In 2010 she curated a survey exhibition of the Tamworth Fibre Textile Collection. As a writer on the arts Meredith has contributed to The Canberra Times, The National Library News, Smarts, Pottery in Australia, Craft Arts International, Textile Fibre Forum, Object and Ceramic Art and Perception. Meredith has worked at The Australian Bicentennial Authority, artsACT and Business Development in the ACT Government; the Australian Science Teachers Association; Museums Australia and the Donald Horne Institute for Cultural Heritage at the University of Canberra. Meredith has also served on the boards of many Canberra arts organisations, including as President of Ausdance ACT. She has received an ACT Women’s Award in recognition of her significant contribution to the ACT community in the arts and an Australia Day Medal from the National Gallery of Australia. Meredith is approved to value Australian ceramics, glass, textiles, jewellery, leatherwork, wooden objects and furniture from 1950 for the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

Helen Musa
Helen is an arts and cultural journalist.Initially trained in theatre and drama at the University of New South Wales, the National Institute of Dramatic Art and later in Asian Studies at the University of New England and the Australian National University, she spent many years teaching in colleges and universities in Australia and Malaysia, where she lectured at the University Sains Malaysia, Penang, from 1977 to 1981.During her years as an arts journalist, first as editor of Canberra’s monthly cultural magazine Muse from 1990 to 1996and then as Arts Editor of The Canberra Times from 1996 to 2007, she turned her focus to the visual arts, including the art of Southeast Asia. She is now arts editor for CityNews in Canberra.Helen also acts as a consultant to the NGO the Asia-Pacific Journalism Centre hosting and advising journalists from the region.

Neil Roach
Neil has a multi-disciplinary background, from tertiary studies and long experience in a wide variety of arts and events activities, both as a manager and performer. As director of a key arts organisation in the nation’s capital, he works with a wide variety of community, local government, and national stakeholders to promote, educate in, and support dance, with a focus on professional development of the artform. This includes managing a small but important key arts service organisation, creating and managing development projects, representing the industry, and using his professional expertise to assist artists create and manage their own projects. In 2013, as well as the normal Ausdance ACT program of activities, he produced the Australian Dance Awards and managed thirteen artist grants.

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich
Anne-Marie took up her appointment as Director-General of the National Library of Australia in March 2011. Between February 2003 and February 2011 she was Chief Executive Officer and State Librarian at the State Library of Victoria.   In 2006 she was seconded for six months to act as the Director of Arts Victoria – the Victorian department of the arts. In the period 2000 – 2003, Anne-Marie was the Acting Director-General of the National Archives of Australia having previously held senior positions at that institution, the National Library and the Australian War Memorial. She has also taught at the University of Canberra and at the University of NSW where she completed her post-graduate work in archives management. She has been active in professional associations in Australia and internationally and has published widely.

Allan Sko

Allan Sko

Allan Sko

Allan is the Managing Director of Radar Media (BMA Magazine, MaF, Exhibitionist) as well as a freelance journalist. He holds a Batchelor of Arts in Professional Writing (University of Canberra). Allan was hired as BMA Magazine Canberra Entertainment Guide’s Editor in 2004 at the record age of 22. From there he rose through the ranks ultimately becoming Managing Director in 2008. Allan has ten years of experience in both the entertainment journalism industry and in the running of a small business. In 2008 he expanded BMA Magazine to include an arts publication known as Exhibitionist, and in 2010 he purchased online metal zine MaF. In his capacity as an entertainment journalist, Allan has conducted interviews with over 200 professionals, including authors (Chuck Palahniuk), actors (Simon Pegg, Kevin Spacey), comedians (Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey) and musicians (The Living End). Allan’s writing has appeared in over 20 different publications including The Canberra Times, Overland, Vice Magazine, triple j Magazine and more. Allan is the co-founder of Music ACT.

Caroline Stacey
Caroline is currently Artistic Director/CEO of The Street – Canberra’s treasured live performance creative hub for professional and independent artists and Chair of Kultour – a national organisation committed to advancing cultural diversity in the arts in Australia and has an extensive career as a stage director of theatre and opera.  In 2012 Caroline received the Canberra Artist of the Year Award for her outstanding contribution to theatre and the performing arts. Other awards include: ACT International Women’s Day Award for her contribution to the performing arts in the ACT in 2011, ABAF Margaret Lawrence Bequest Scholarship in 2010, and the MEAA ACT Green Room Award for leadership in the cultural sector in 2009. Caroline has a Master of Theatre Arts and BA in Sociology and English, has been nominated for Green Room Awards many times and is the recipient of Canberra Critics Circle, Victorian Music Theatre Awards, and CONDA awards.

Rosanna Stevens
In 2011, Rosanna founded ACT literary collective Scissors Paper Pen. She is currently a Research Assistant at the ANU School of Music while completing a PhD at the ANU School of Anthropology and Archaeology. She also sits on the Program Advisory Committee for the Emerging Writers Festival. Her prior positions have included Acting Communications Manager of Craft ACT and Communications Officer of the ACT Writers Centre. Rosanna has previously worked with Express Media, the National Young Writers Festival, You Are Here Festival. Her writing has appeared in many Australian publications, including The Griffith Review, The Lifted Brow, Meanjin and The Sleepers Almanac.

Michael Tear
Michael was Managing Director and co-founder of Bearcage before becoming CEO of WildBear Entertainment. As Producer and Executive Producer, Michael’s career spans award-winning television, government and commercial productions, including a recent move into feature films. As a television producer his recent productions include commissions for ABC, FOXTEL History, Discovery Channel, Arte/ZDF (Germany/France), Prime NZ, National Geographic and UKTV. Michael is also an Executive Producer on feature film The Babadook (2013, dir. Jennifer Kent, Official Selection at Sundance Film Festival 2014). Michael currently serves as Chair of the ScreenACT Advisory Board and is a former member of the ACT Government Cultural Council (2002-2005). Michael is former Deputy Chair of QL2, one of Australia’s premier youth dance companies.

Lyn Wallis
Lyn is Director of the Theatre Sectionof The Australia Council for the Arts and has an ongoing interest in the development of arts leaders and the role they play in shaping Australia’s arts landscape. She is the author of ‘In Good Company: A Manual for Producing Independent Theatre’ (Currency Press 2005) and has previously worked as a director, season programmer, performer and teacher for over twenty years, creating and performing in shows for regional companies such as Theatre South, New England Theatre Company and Self-Raising Theatre. She was Artistic Director of Jigsaw Theatre Company for four years, where she wrote and directed shows for the National Festival of Australian Theatre and the Canberra Festival.

David Whitney
David was appointed Director of artsACT in 2007. Some of his previous roles include Director of the Canberra Theatre Centre, Director of the Araluen Centre for Arts and Entertainment in Alice Springs, and General Manager of the Riverland Cultural Trust in Regional South Australia. Prior to this David worked at the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust in a variety of roles. David was Chair of the Northern Australian Performing Arts Centre and Deputy President of the Australasian Performing Arts Centres Association. He was also a member of the Australian Government’s Playing Australia and Festivals Committee, Chair of the Theatre Board and Council member of the Australia Council for the Arts from 1999-2003.

David Williams AM
Professor Williams is currently Emeritus Professor in the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Humanities and the Arts. He is a member of the Fulbright National Selection Committee; ANU Public Art Committee; ANU Drill Hall Gallery and Campus Planning and Development Committees. David is also Chair, Art Monthly Australia Board; Chair, ANU Foundation for the Visual Arts; Chair, Gordon Institute of TAFE Art and Design Academic Board; and Deputy Chair, Canberra Glassworks. Key previous appointments include Director ANU School of Art 1985-2006, Director and Crafts Board Australia Council 1978-1986. David’s research interests focus on contemporary Australian and Asian Visual Art. He is a regular contributor to the ANU The Research School of Humanities & the Arts seminar and conference programs. David has been awarded the Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture and Communications, ACUADS Distinguished Fellowship Award and the Australia Council Visual Arts Board Emeritus medal recognising an outstanding contribution to the arts and cultural sector.

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Bookings can be made via Eventbrite or phone 02 6207 3968. Spaces are limited and filling up fast. Bookings close 27 August 2014.

Forum update 1: the speakers

2 Aug

Arts_Leadership_Forum_RGB_Logo_150dpiAs announced earlier, this year the Childers Group has partnered with the Cultural Facilities Corporation to present the Arts Leadership Forum 2014. We are now very pleased to announce that as well as David Fishel, speakers and panellists will include:

  • Daniel Ballantyne, Chief Executive Officer, Belconnen Arts Centre
  • Shane Breynard, Director, ACT Museums and Galleries
  • Janine Collins, State Manager, NSW and ACT, Creative Partnerships Australia
  • Julie Dyson, the Childers Group (former National Director, Ausdance)
  • Harriet Elvin, Chief Executive Officer, Cultural Facilities Corporation
  • Joseph Falsone, Director, Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres
  • Ingeborg Hansen, Director, Megalo Print Studio and Gallery
  • Helen Musa, Arts Editor, The City News
  • Neil Roach, Director, Ausdance ACT
  • Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, Director-General, National Library of Australia
  • Allan Sko, publisher, BMA Magazine
  • Rosanna Stevens, Co-Producer and Founder, Scissors Paper Pen
  • Lyn Wallis, Director, Theatre Section, The Australia Council for the Arts
  • David Whitney, Director, artsACT

You can find an outline of the program here: Arts Leadership Forum 2014 – program

You can read more about our speakers, panelists, and MCs here: Arts Leadership Forum 2014 – presenter bios

Bookings can be made via Eventbrite or phone 02 6207 3968. Spaces are limited, book early to avoid disappointment. Bookings close 27 August 2014.

Bursaries
We are pleased that a limited number of bursaries are being offered to allow emerging arts leaders to attend the Forum at no cost. To apply for one of these, send an application (maximum length one page) by COB 11 August 2014 to the Childers Group at childersgroup@gmail.com setting out your eligibility against the following criteria: aged 35 or under; demonstrated leadership potential; and currently working in the arts in the ACT region.

Announcing…

25 Jul

Arts_Leadership_Forum_RGB_Logo_150dpiWe hope you can join us for a half-day forum that tackles the big issues for the future of arts leadership in our region, and the nation.

We have gathered some of the best and brightest arts leaders to help us take on the task, including cultural leadership guru, David Fishel, speakers from the Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Partnerships Australia and some of our most engaging local arts leaders.
David Fishel

David Fishel

A networking lunch, two plenary sessions and diverse breakout workshops will provide a unique opportunity to share ideas and join in conversation with speakers and participants who are helping shape the future of arts leadership in our region.

Save the date:
Monday 1 September 2014, 12 noon – 5pm

Where:
Canberra Theatre Centre and Canberra Museum and Gallery

Cost (including GST):
full $100
independent arts practitioners and concession card holders $75

How to Book:
Bookings can be made via Eventbrite or phone 02 6207 3968. Spaces are limited, book early to avoid disappointment. Bookings close 25 August 2014. All venues are accessible.

Further details:
Full program and event details will be available here from Monday 4 August 2014

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The Arts Leadership Forum is jointly presented by the Childers Group and the Cultural Facilities Corporation.

News and reviews for the arts in the ACT

5 Jul

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher. (Image source: Life in Canberra Magazine)

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher. (Image source: Life in Canberra Magazine)

Two brief though important news items for the arts in the ACT:

The 2014-2015 Australian budget: where to from here for the arts?

17 May

The 2014-2015 Australian Budget, which is yet to be passed through the Senate, aims to take $87M from the arts.

The 2014-2015 Australian Budget, which is yet to be passed through the Senate, aims to take $87M from the arts.

The Childers Group is very concerned about the 2014-2015 Australian Budget and how it might impact on the development, sustainability, and vitality of the arts. It has been reported that this budget, if passed through the Senate, would cut $87M from the arts sector, primarily from the Australia Council for the Arts and Screen Australia. In terms of the Australia Council, this would most likely mean reduced support for small to medium arts companies and fewer grants to individual artists. Combined with other budget cuts and measures, we are especially concerned about young artists and their ability to survive, let alone develop their careers. We are currently considering the best course of action. In the meantime, below is a variety of reactions so far. We’ll keep adding to this list, so if you read some excellent commentary please let us know.

Is it right here, right now, that we will reinvent the ACT’s culture of arts review and criticism?

26 Oct

Viennese art critic Dr. Gertrude Langer inspecting a local art show, Brisbane, 1940 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Viennese art critic Dr. Gertrude Langer inspecting a local art show, Brisbane, 1940 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

If you write a book, or choreograph a dance, or compose a song, or produce a play or film, and no one reviews it, could it be that you never created it in the first place?

In a way that’s what was discussed at this year’s Childers Group forum.  Focussing on the Role of the Arts critic, on 18 October 2013 at the Gorman House Arts Centre in Canberra we gathered together a wide range of reviewers, critics, and arts leaders/thinkers as well as a lively and engaged audience to spark a conversation.  Who is an arts critic?  What exactly is it that they do?  How important is their work – does it matter at all?  What makes a good review?  Does a reviewer have responsibilities?  Are there more or less reviews going on these days?  And what of the online environment: does this open up opportunities for more review, but, if so, what sort of quality can we expect (or demand)?  What’s the nature of the ACT’s culture of review?  And, perhaps most importantly, where do we go from here?  What are the challenges ahead?  If you weren’t able to squeeze yourself inside the Bogong Theatre on the 18th, then you’ve now got a bit of a sense about what was discussed.

Going back to that opening sentence: if there’s one thing that artists struggle with, truly struggle with, it’s the silence, the silence that can meet a piece of work.  For months and years, sometimes even decades, an artist slowly but surely brings a work to the world.  Most likely there’ll be some kind of celebration – an opening night, a launch, perhaps even just a party on the deck at home.  There’ll be champagne and cheese; there’ll be slaps on the shoulder and the odd kiss on the cheek.  But the next morning?  Well, there’ll be that silence.  Sure, over time, people – good people, kind people – will offer up some kind of response.  ‘Congrats, it looks wonderful.’  ‘I loved it – you’re amazing.’  ‘Not sure.  I kinda wasn’t terribly moved.’  (This last one from the brave but honest and much-needed friend!)  Except this isn’t review or criticism; it is response.  Artists want response, but they also want more, the greedy devils.

A good piece of creation operates on many levels: there’s the conceptual, the meaningful, the emotionally engaging, and then there’s the sheer entertainment side of things.  A good piece of creation sends ripples out into the world.  A good piece of creation – sometimes, rarely – changes things.  A good piece of creation matters; it can matter more than we can ever possible know.  It’s this that a reviewer might explore: they might (should?) situate an artist’s work in a broader context, investigate what the artist (and also theatre, publisher, gallery etc) was trying to achieve, and why this might have any broader resonance, and then come to some kind of conclusion.

Whilst it might help a consumer make a decision, say in the way a restaurant review could, but it is much more.  It is not more opinion.  It is not simply a recommendation.

As it was said at the forum, a good review ‘illuminates’.

What else was said at the forum?  Towards the bottom of this post is the raw data, which is code for ‘the notes we scratched out on a napkin while standing at the back of the crowd’.  If you attended, and see weaknesses in these notes, send us an email and we’ll correct/expand them.  Also, please have a read of two thoughtful responses from two bloggers who were there: Whispering Gums and Only the Sangfroid (‘If art criticism is going to have a place in the world of tomorrow, it’s going to have to re-imagine itself’); there’s also this piece by Kim Anderson that we published on this site, courtesy of Art Monthly.

But there were two key issues/opportunities raised during the discussion on the 18th, and there’s the challenge – for the community could take them up.

The Childers Group's 'Role of the Arts Critic' forum, 18 October 2013, Gorman House Arts Centre

The Childers Group’s ‘Role of the Arts Critic’ forum, 18 October 2013, Gorman House Arts Centre

The first is that while the ACT does indeed have a fairly robust culture of criticism, through the traditional print media, other press outlets, and the blogosphere, there is an opportunity for an arts organisation to deliver – perhaps on an annual basis – a master-class in writing arts review and criticism.  As was raised at the forum, Realtime, which bills itself as ‘Australia’s critical guide to international contemporary arts’, would be more than happy to come to the ACT to deliver these workshops.  All it would take is someone to make a phone-call.  Not only would this initiative build skills in reviewing, but would also increase the number of reviewers, and this would be an excellent outcome indeed – for all.

The second issue/opportunity: doesn’t the ACT region, the core of which, Canberra, has been celebrating its centenary, deserve a high-quality ‘journal’ dedicated to review?  Wouldn’t that be a brilliant legacy of 2013?  Might that be the way that we as a cultural community continue to grow and expand and deepen?  Could that be that’s how we become even better artists?  Could that be how we become an even better region?  The technology is at our finger tips and much of it costs nothing; it is also obvious that we have a community that comprises good critical and creative thinkers, so we’ve got the writers.

We can make this happen.  And maybe, just maybe, it would help inform our audiences, help connect with our community, and also – now this would be the greatest outcome of all – help keep that silence at bay.

Here’s that ‘raw data’.

The nature of criticism:

  • criticism is a serious and public function
  • a critic must have a critical view point, an in-depth contention
  • a review should illuminate
  • a review should also understand a works creative, cultural, social and political context
  • a critic should be disinterested, as in ‘stepped back’ back a little from the work
  • the review should be as artful as the work reviewed
  • the reviewer should know their audience – is it an arts audience or the general populace
  • the criticism is valuable if it’s informed
  • it all comes down to the expertise of the reviewer
  • a reviewer needs ‘street cred’
  • but whose street cred?
  • criticism should engage
  • criticism should be about knowledge
  • criticism is about starting a public discussion
  • a review should further dialogue
  • a review is about advancing the art form
  • sometimes critics have to go straight to the jugular
  • but what’s the point in a critic being destructive?
  • critics should provide insight
  • a critic is a trader of ideas
  • a reviewer must be honest, which can be difficult
  • how can/should we define ‘qualified opinion’ or ‘quality comment’?
  • there’s no such thing as objective criticism
  • some critics are terrified/anxious about taking on the significant artists
  • a critic who themselves can’t take criticism doesn’t make a good critic!

Criticism and its readers:

  • people read reviews to find out what’s happening, to be informed; so a critic is someone who tells you what’s going on
  • the public is looking for criticism; they don’t want to the critic to hold back
  • in Australia, people don’t take online critics seriously (and artists still yearn for print review)

Criticism in the ACT:

  • Canberra is a culturally engaged community, there are many events across parts of society, so there’s limited press space for review
  • the city’s still feeling the loss of Muse Magazine
  • there are three pillars in the arts: artists, audiences, and interaction (i.e. review, criticism, discussion) – the interaction side of things needs to be strengthened in the ACT, though it’s no different to anywhere else
  • issue: Canberra is small, ‘incestuous’ – it’s hard to get artists writing about each other
  • the public discussion about public art in the ACT didn’t bring out a nuanced discussion
How important is it that we have a culture of robust and thoughtful arts criticism and dialogue? (Image source: Wiki Commons)

How important is it that we have a culture of robust and thoughtful arts criticism and dialogue? (Image source: Wiki Commons)

Criticism and the artist:

  • unfavourable criticism that comes from ignorance is hurtful
  • what do artists get out of arts criticism?
  • the worse thing is to be not to be reviewed at all
  • artists, if they choose, can incorporate criticism into the development of their work/practice
  • artists need to be resilient
  • but if an artist has a deliberately thick skin they might not be a good artist
  • artists are often highly critical of each other
  • artists should exercise their own critical faculties

Challenges for the future:

  • building expertise in on-line reviewing i.e. making sure online criticism is informed
  • see how restaurant reviews work – they’re very popular – and use that model for the arts?
  • due to limited payment, not every media outlet can attract the best critic/writer – this is a challenge
  • while newspapers are places where debate happens, they don’t have a moral duty to review, including ACT artists or amateur/school productions – so who takes on that role?
  • what do we do with critical silence?
  • arts organisations have a role to place in building resilience

A significant opportunity:

  • for an organisation or a number of organisations to host workshops and forums to build skills in reviewing and being a reviewer
  • who’s up to take this on?

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The panelists at our forum were: Robyn Archer AO (Creative Director, Centenary of Canberra), Kerry-Anne Cousins (visual arts critic), Anni Doyle Wawrzynczak (contemporary arts critic), Roslyn Dundas (CEO, Ausdance National), Marion Halligan AM (author, critic), Cris Kennedy (film critic), Helen Musa (Canberra Critics Circle), Jack Waterford AM (Editor-at-large, Canberra Times), Caroline Stacey (CEO/Artistic Director, The Street Theatre), and Ashley Thomson (Editor, BMA Magazine).  The forum was facilitated by Yolande Norris.  Thanks and gratitude to you all for your time and being involved so enthusiastically.

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Thanks also to: Allan Sko at BMA Magazine, Barbie Robinson at ArtSound FM, Helen Musa at City News, Genevieve Jacobs at 666 ABC Canberra, Joseph Falsone and team at the Gorman House Arts Centre, and Karmin Cooper at New Best Friend for graphic design support.

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 Many others helped to make this forum happen. You know who you are.

YOUR INVITE TO OUR NEXT FORUM – THE ROLE OF THE CRITIC!

12 Sep

TheChildersGroup_Forum OCT2013_V2

Claiming the date: our next forum is just around the corner!

29 Jun

How important is it that we have a culture of robust and thoughtful arts criticism and dialogue?

How important is it that we have a culture of robust and thoughtful arts criticism and dialogue?

The Childers Group has been busy beavering away behind the scenes, contributing a submission to the development of the ACT Government’s budget for 2013/2014, providing feedback on the resultant budget, and also attending the associated ACT Legislative Assembly hearing process (we hope to be able to link to the Hansard report shortly).  However, we’re also working on our next forum, which will focus on arts review and criticism and is to occur on Friday 18 October, noon to 2pm, at the Gorman House Arts Centre in Braddon, ACT. We’ll be providing more details shortly, but ink it in – to say the least, it’s going to be an interesting discussion!