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‘NATIONAL PROGRAMME FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE ARTS': A STEP FORWARD FOR OUR SECTOR?

18 May

Minister for the Arts George Brandis has proposed the establishment of the 'National Programme for Excellence in the Arts', which will operate in parallel with the Australia Council for the Arts

Minister for the Arts George Brandis has proposed the establishment of the ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, which will operate in parallel with the Australia Council for the Arts

On 12 May 2015, the Australian Government revealed its intentions for the 2015-2016 budget. The intentions include the establishment of the ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, which will operate out of the Ministry for the Arts and be supported by funds previously administered by the Australia Council for the Arts. The proposal has caused concern throughout much of the arts sector, and there have been numerous media reports. The Childers Group’s letter to the Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis, is below. The letter has also been sent to other key members of the Australian parliament, as well as key members of the ACT Legislative Assembly. Updates on this issue will be published on this website; you can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Update: we have received a letter from Senator for the ACT Katy Gallagher: Senator Gallagher re. arts in budget 2015 – 19 5 15

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Senator The Hon. George Brandis QC
Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts
PO Box 6100
Senate
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Minister,

National Programme for Excellence in the Arts

The Childers Group advocates for artists and arts organisations in the ACT region, and we are an active member of Arts Peak, the federation of national peak arts organisations that promotes research, policy and industry development, communication and advocacy.

We are writing to seek more information about the proposed ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, and about your statement to the Senate on 14 May 2015 in which you suggested that organisations other than those funded by the Australia Council will now have improved access to funds from the Australian Government.

In order to better understand the implications of the new program, we seek answers to the following questions:

  • Can the Minister provide further details about the proposed ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, including its aims and objectives and operational structure?
  • Will applications to this program be subject to arms-length peer review?
  • What is the future of funding for independent artists and smaller projects which drive innovation?
  • Can the Minister guarantee Australia Council funding at current levels for the many small to medium arts companies now at a critical stage in the 6-year grant application process? This will ensure consistency, predictability, stability and sustainability for the small to medium arts sector in the way that it does for the Major Performing Arts sector.
  • Will the Minister guarantee that costs associated with the programs will be borne by the Department, so that these do not come off the top of the programs?
  • What job losses are anticipated at the Australia Council as a result of this proposal?
  • Can the Minister expand on his statement that ‘Arts funding has until now been limited almost exclusively to projects favoured by the Australia Council’? The Childers Group understands that this is what is required by the Australia Council’s charter, especially since it has recently undergone substantial restructuring following an industry-wide review.
  • Was there Cabinet discussion/approval and/or backbench consultation about the new program?

In the absence of concrete information about this significant decision, the Childers Group has refrained from making formal public comment. However, without a detailed explanation of the ways in which the ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’ will be administered and the implications it has for the rest of the Australian arts sector, it will be difficult for the Group to contribute positively to the debate.

We do trust that you can provide the information we have requested.

Yours faithfully,

{signed}

Professor David Williams AM
Spokesperson

SUBMISSION TO THE ACT GOVERNMENT’S REVIEW OF THE ACT ARTS POLICY FRAMEWORK

25 Apr

The ACT region is home to a remarkable diversity of arts practice. (Image of Skywale sourced from WikiCommons)

The ACT region is home to a remarkable diversity of arts practice. (Image of Skywale sourced from WikiCommons)

The following comprises the Childers Group’s formal written submission to the ACT Government’s review of its arts policy, which is currently taking place. It was submitted to the ACT Government on 24 April 2015.

Fair wages for artists and arts workers:

Most Australian artists and arts workers receive very low rates of pay, as evidenced by the Australia Council’s Don’t Give Up Your Day Job: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia study, and regrettably the ACT region is not immune from this problem. In essence, artists and arts workers are rarely recognised as professional service providers. In the ACT, key arts organisations compete with two levels of public service, which are able to pay much higher rates of pay. While it is true that key arts organisations are responsible for setting salaries and pay rates, limited funding and other income means that salaries are rarely able to be pegged at competitive levels, meaning staff leave key arts organisations for the public service, or leave the ACT region entirely. In relation to practising professional artists, we recognise that artsACT has for a long time advocated for publicly funded arts projects to incorporate the appropriate level of artist fees, and we strongly suggest artsACT continues to do so.

Recommendation: the principle of fair rates of payment for artists and arts workers is reinforced in the new arts policy, and that artists and arts workers are recognised as professional service providers.

A regional approach to arts development:

The ACT region is home to a remarkable diversity of arts practice, and for many years ACT artists and arts workers have been moving to the neighbouring areas order to remain in the region (to maintain networks and access to tertiary institutions/facilities etc). This has become especially prevalent as the cost of living increases dramatically in the ACT while adjacent regional communities are able to offer more affordable options, especially in relation to home and workshops/sheds. Recognising the opportunities for artists to better manage their costs by moving to regional communities is one way the ACT will be able to keep artists from moving to the larger cities. The Childers Group acknowledges that the ACT Government, through artsACT, has a long history of recognising artists who live ‘over the border’ and are able to demonstrate a contribution to the ACT community, but this position needs to be reconfirmed and reinforced in light of current economic pressures. Further, there is an opportunity for artsACT and artsNSW to collaboratively develop a funding program that specifically supports cross-border arts relationships and programs.

Recommendation: the ACT Government recognises the value of mutually beneficial relationships between the ACT and neighbouring regional communities, and that through the new arts policy these relationships are recognised, supported, and encouraged.

Ongoing support for practising professional artists through the Project funding category:

The ACT’s key arts organisations are integral to the development of the arts sector, but they cannot provide all the services, support and opportunities that professional practising artists require. Practising professional artists across all sectors are often at the forefront of practice and in turn are high-profile advocates for the region. One of the key sources of financial support is the ACT Arts Fund’s Project funding category. However, over the course of the last 10-15 years the amount of funding available in the Project category has reduced while costs to deliver projects have increased.

Recommendation: the ACT Government commits to ongoing support for practising professional artists through the Project funding category, and investigate ways to increase the level of support available.

Ongoing support of arts service organisations:

Arts service organisations provide professional development opportunities for the sector, facilitate connections, support brokering (business and the arts), and provide links to key partnerships for artists. In the last decade or so, the ACT region has lost a number of such organisations – Muse/Artlook and Canberra Arts Marketing. Service organisations might also be advocates for particular art forms, for example Ausdance ACT and the ACT Writers Centre. Consistent with previous correspondence with the ACT Government on this matter, the Childers Group does not wish to make comment on individual funding decisions. However, the Group is concerned that the ACT region’s arts sector is currently without over-arching organisations and support, despite the ACT Governments policy of arts hubs, and this might be exacerbating a sense of isolation.

Recommendation: the ACT Government recognises the value of arts services organisations, and there be consideration of a funding program specifically designed to support service organisations.

A whole-of-sector approach to arts development:

Currently there is limited communication, relationship and mobility between arts organisations, leading to stagnation in the skills pool, wasting time through duplication of administration tasks such as contract development, and artists and arts workers looking outside the ACT to find their next job. As noted elsewhere in this submission, this situation is occurring despite the ACT Government’s policy of arts hubs, which appears to focus on capital works rather than building whole-of-sector relationships. The arts policy review should consider how artsACT can play a facilitating role in encouraging connections between ACT arts organsitions, either by dedicated funding initiatives, formal professional development opportunities, and/or through informal networking opportunities. (The Childers Group has played a role in this regard, and we will continue to do so, but our resources are severely limited.) There is also a need for government-supported initiatives that can increase the connection between ACT organisations and the national cultural institutions.

Recommendation: a renewed emphasis on facilitating partnerships and communications between arts organisations, and for the ACT Government to assist ACT arts organisations build relationships with the national cultural institutions.

For many years there have been very real barriers between ACT Government directorates and agencies; all ACT Government directorates and agencies should be required to show how each contributes to creating and developing a vibrant arts sector for the ACT community. (Image courtesy of WikiCommons)

For many years there have been very real barriers between ACT Government directorates and agencies; all ACT Government directorates and agencies should be required to show how each contributes to a vibrant arts sector. (Image courtesy of WikiCommons)

Eliminate ‘silo thinking’ within the ACT Government:

For many years there have been very real barriers between ACT Government directorates and agencies – for example, arts organisations who try to develop programs with the Education Directorate are often met with a wall of bureaucracy, complex processes, silence, or a combination of all three. If the ACT Government believes that engagement and participation in the arts are essential and should be at the centre of ACT community life, all ACT Government directorates and agencies should be required to show how each contributes to creating and developing a vibrant arts sector for the ACT community – this should be done through the annual report process.

Recommendation: ACT Government directorates and agencies work collaboratively to develop and deliver arts programs and projects, and that these are formally – and publicly – reported on an annual basis.

Art form development:

While many of the ACT’s key arts organisations actively develop their respective art form, the Childers Group is concerned that art-form development is not emphasised in the current arts policy. The Group suggest that all applicants to the ACT Arts Fund – organisations, groups, and individuals – are required to demonstrate how their proposed activity or activities demonstrably develops art forms.

Recommendation: a renewed emphasis on art form development in all aspects of the ACT Government’s support of arts activity, and specifically through the new arts policy.

Long-term thinking:

The ACT Government does not currently have a stated and publicly available long-term vision of the arts and key questions are not addressed. For example, is the number of key arts organisations expected to grow, reduce, or stay the same? Will organisations be assessed as part of a vibrant arts ecology, or only in comparison to other organisations whose funding is ‘up’ that year? Are organisational mergers planned? How does the ACT Government plan to support a skills base in Canberra that ensures sufficient staff and board members to maintain effective governance and high performance in such a wide variety of organisations? And is artsACT committed to maintaining – ideally increasing – the proportion of the ACT Government budget allocated to the arts and the investment per capita?

Recommendation: the ACT Government takes a long-term – i.e. 10-year – approach to developing the arts and community inclusion and shares that vision with the sector.

Reducing barriers to live music

Live music events continue to be hampered in the ACT. Currently, the deck is stacked against those looking to put on such events and appears to be weighted in favour of residents who make complaints about ‘noise’ associated with such events. Music in its many variations is never going to thrive with the number of restrictions currently placed on putting on an event in the ACT. The Childers Group acknowledges that some of the regulations and rules currently in place are designed to protect organisers and patrons (for example, public liability insurance), but many are unnecessary and seem to shift during the course of trying to put on an event. The Childers Group is aware of at least two local festivals that have recently been cancelled due to the regulations. Musicians and producers of contemporary arts events and festivals have advocated for a more entrepreneurial approach by the ACT Government, especially in relation to relaxing regulations which can be ambiguous and overly restrictive. The vibrant cafe/bar/music scenes that flourish in other major cities are unlikely to flourish in the National Capital unless more sympathetic and smart thinking is applied to reviewing the regulations.

Recommendation: the ACT Governments commits to the importance of live music in the ACT region, and that live-music promoters be provided as much assistance as possible, for example through ‘how to’ guide to putting on an event for emerging promoters.

Retain meaningful peer assessment:

The ACT Government has a longstanding commitment to peer-assessment of applications to the ACT Arts Fund. However, the Childers Group is concerned the ACT Government appears to be moving to a hybrid model where peer assessment is eroded and the sector feels decisions are being made without informed and considered peer input.

Recommendation: the ACT Government recommits to meaningful peer assessment of grant applications, and that this commitment is made explicit in the new arts policy.

Audience development:

Arts organisations, festivals, projects and artists continue to find it a challenge to develop audiences. Further, in these current times when many in the community are struggling due to a compressed economy, arts consumers are carefully considering how they will spend their arts dollar. For organisations and independent producers, audience development and building engagement in the arts requires marketing support and expertise, which in turn needs funding and support. In some ways digital resources such as social media have become essential tools, but they need to be used in an informed manner.

Recommendation: audience development is recognised as a priority and that programs are put in place to assist artists and arts workers increase and diversify their audiences.

Private sector support:

ACT Government support of the arts sector is greatly appreciated but there is a need to increase private-sector support, including through philanthropy. In recent years there has been some support in this regard through organisations such as the local office of the Australian Business Arts Foundation. However, with Abaf becoming Creative Partnerships Australia and closing its ACT office there is currently no support available to organisations or groups who wish to increase private-sector income – this despite the ACT having a healthy corporate sector.

Recommendation: the ACT Government commits to providing professional support to key arts organisations (in the first instance) in order to building private-sector income and support.

We expand our expertise

24 Jan

We’re thrilled to announced that Jack Lloyd and Michael White have joined the Childers Group. Jack and Michael bring valuable knowledge and experience in arts development and management, and together they have a long-standing commitment to arts advocacy locally, nationally, and internationally. They will augment the Childers Group wonderfully, and ensure that we can continue to be strong and informed arts advocates.

JACK LLOYD

The Belconnen Arts Centre's Jack Lloyd joins the Childers Group.

The Belconnen Arts Centre’s Jack Lloyd joins the Childers Group.

Jack Lloyd has worked in the arts in Canberra for 13 years, as an independent theatre producer, venue technical manager and business director. Since its opening in 2009, Jack has worked at Belconnen Arts Centre, a multi-arts venue focused on the creation and presentation of dance, visual arts and music, with an integrated program of community cultural inclusion. As Business and Operations Director, Jack directs the financial and operational aspects of the Centre, with a focus on venue and asset management, strategic planning, budgeting and financial management. Since 2001, Jack has been writing and producing theatre in the ACT as a member of Boho, exploring concepts from contemporary complex systems science through interactive performance. Boho works with scientific and historical organisations to create original theatrical productions, and has presented with partners including CSIRO and the Powerhouse Museum. In 2014, Jack completed his Master of Management (Arts & Cultural Management) from UniSA, and also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Digital Arts) from the ANU.

MICHAEL WHITE

Michael has been involved in the arts as a theatre practitioner and advocate for over 40 years. He studied Drama at Flinders University and graduated with a BA (Hons) in Drama (Performance) in 1973. In 1979 he moved to Canberra and worked as an actor with the Jigsaw Theatre in Education Company and Canberra Youth Theatre. In 1981 Michael moved to the UK and found work in theatre-in-education projects in Wales. In 1983 he returned to Canberra and worked here as a freelance actor and then moved to Melbourne where he worked as freelance film technician with Crawford Television. In 1987 Michael was a co-founder of the Melbourne Workers Theatre, a theatre company that was funded under the Australia Council’s Art in Working Life Policy. In 1989 Michael returned to Canberra where he worked again as a freelance actor and also joined the ACT Arts Council and worked as a Community Arts Officer. Over the years he has worked as a performer with State Theatre Company of SA, Junction Theatre Company (SA), Canberra Theatre Company, People Next Door (ACT) and the ABC. In 1993 he commenced work in Canberra as an Industrial Officer for the Actors Equity Section of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) the trade union that covers performers and all those who work in the media and entertainment industries. (He had joined Actors Equity in 1974.) In 2000 he became ACT Branch Secretary of the union and he left MEAA in July 2014 after 21 years. During his time at MEAA he also served on the ACT Cultural Council, the ACT Government’s arts advisory body.

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The Childers Group farewells James Fay and Caroline Stacey, thanks them for their contribution to our work, and wishes them all the very best for the future activities.

Arts review: update

10 Jan

Professor Jacqueline Lo, Professor and Director of the ANU Centre for European Studies, and Acting Director Research School of Social Sciences, ANU

Professor Jacqueline Lo, Professor and Director of the ANU Centre for European Studies, and Acting Director Research School of Social Sciences, ANU

Further to our ongoing advocacy about the ACT Government’s review of its Arts Policy Framework, which is the key document driving how the arts are supported in the ACT region, the ACT Minister for the Arts, Joy Burch MLA, has invited the Childers Group to participate in a Reference Group. The Minister has nominated Childers Group spokesperson David Williams as the Group’s representative.

The letter, which is dated 18 December 2014 and can be founded at Joy Burch MLA to CG re. arts review reference group 18 12 14, states:

…as an ongoing commitment to community participation and engagement, a review of foundations and principles will take place to ensure that it continues to be a relevant and engaged policy.

Other invitees to the Reference Group are:

  • David Broker, director, Canberra Contemporary Art Space
  • Joseph Falsone, director, Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres
  • Professor Jacqueline Lo, ANU Centre for European Studies
  • Rosanna Stevens [musician, writer, co-founder of Scissors Paper Pen]
  • Gavin Finlay, Music ACT

According to the letter, the first meeting is scheduled for ‘early 2015′. The attached Terms of Reference sheet suggests the review will be complete by ‘mid 2015′.

The Childers Group will continue to advocate for broad and diverse sector consultation beyond the Reference Group.

We note that the letter is an invitation only and the final composition of the Reference Group may not be finalised.

We also note that there continues to be little information about the arts policy review on artsACT’s website. The only reference to the review is: The Framework will be reviewed in 2014 to ensure that it continues to be a relevant and engaged policy.

The Childers Group looks forward to participating in the review.

Arts review: update

20 Dec

Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres: an ACT arts organisation in a state of significant evolution. What will be the policy context for such evolution in 2015?

Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres: an ACT arts organisation in a state of significant evolution. What will be the policy context for such evolution in 2015?

We’ve now received a response from the ACT Minister for the Arts, Joy Burch MLA, and it can be found here: Reply from Joy Burch MLA re. ACT Arts Review (Dec 2014). The letter provides some information about the scope of the review and the proposed consultation process. The Childers Group is pleased to participate in the review’s reference group, and will advocate for the importance of broader consultation – involving new voices in the development of policy is always positive. Related to the review, Childers Group foundation member Nigel Featherstone has written a piece for the Canberra Times/Fairfax Media about the importance of governments at all levels being proud and public about their support of the arts. You can find Nigel’s article here.

Forum update 6: the feedback

11 Oct

Arts_Leadership_Forum_RGB_Logo_150dpiAfter a bit of a lie-down, your Arts Leadership Forum planning team has gone through the feedback sheets and collated participant thoughts and reflections on the event. Here’s a summary document: Arts Leadership Forum 2014 – Participant Feedback Report – October 2014. If you weren’t able to provide your feedback on the day, you’re welcome to email us on childersgroup@gmail.com. All feedback and ideas we receive go into the planning for our next forum, which we anticipate will be in 2015. While we’ve got you, if you hear of some interesting (read: potentially concerning) developments going in the world of the arts in the ACT region, drop us a line about that too.

Forum update 6: thank you, one and all, and some things to watch and read

13 Sep

Arts Leadership Forum 2014 - B&W - smallerTHANK YOU to all the participants, presenters and panelists at the Arts Leadership Forum, which was held in partnership with the Cultural Facilities Corporation on 1 September. For those who attended, we hope that there were a wide range of ideas, challenges and solutions discussed and explored, and that you will head out into the world and take the arts community just that little further forwards.

Below is a video of the final plenary session and two responses to the Forum. If you see any other responses, or have written one yourself, please do let us know so we can add it to the list.

Final Plenary Session: For love or money? (video)

Take us by the hand, arts leaders, and tread softly by Sarah St Vincent Welch

Arts leaders engage by Nigel Featherstone, published in BMA Magazine

Woohoo, it’s Forum Day!

1 Sep

Forum day!Looking forward to seeing you all at noon at the Canberra Theatre Centre Link. For those using social media, the hashtag is #ArtsLeadership2014.

Let the discussions begin!

Forum update 5: everything you need to know about Arts Leadership Forum 2014 in 30 beautiful seconds!

28 Aug

Arts_Leadership_Forum_RGB_Logo_150dpiWhen is it?
Monday 1 September, from 12noon to 5pm.

What’s it about?
The Arts Leadership Forum 2014 will tackle the big issues for the future of arts leadership in our region and the nation. Topics to be explored include:

  • what is arts leadership and how does it differ from other types of leadership?
  • what are the new and emerging trends in arts leadership?
  • who leads – the board or the chief executive officer?
  • how can an arts organisation diversify its funding base?
  • How best to embrace change?

Parallel break-out sessions will enable all participants to ask questions, highlight challenges, and suggest solutions.

Where can I get my hands on the program?
Just click on this link: Arts Leadership Forum 2014 – program

Who are the speakers?
We have a range of high-profile arts leaders – some are chief executives, some are artistic directors, some are arts advocates, some are artists. For a full list of the speakers, just click on this link: Arts Leadership Forum 2013 – presenter bios

Can anyone attend or do you have to be an arts leader already?
The forum is open to all those working in the arts.

Do I need to book?
Yes, but it’s easy – just go to the Forum’s EventBrite page. Please note that bookings must close on Sunday 30 August.

How much does it cost?
The full ticket price is $100. For independent practicing artists it is $75. If you are an experienced arts blogger/live-tweeter, we have a small number of $30 tickets.

How can I get a hold of one of those $30 tickets?
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.

Where is the Arts Leadership Forum 2014 being held?
Canberra Theatre Centre and Canberra Museum and Gallery, ACT.

Who’s organising the forum?
The Arts Leadership Forum 2014 is being co-presented by the Childers Group and the Cultural Facilities Corporation.

Is this a money-making venture?
No, the Childers Group is strictly not for profit.

How often do these Childers Group forums happen?
The Childers Group organises one forum each year, and each year they are on a different theme. This is our first co-presentation with the Cultural Facilities Corporation.

Who is the Childers Group?
We are a collective of arts advocates. We aim to be a strong and considered voice for the arts in the ACT region. We do not receive any operational funding from any source (nor do we apply for any) and rely on the generosity of our members and partners to undertake our advocacy work. Visit the About and Our People pages on this website for more information.

How can I stay connected with you?
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and keep visiting this website. We want to know what you think.

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.