Thank you to the 100+ participants at last month’s Arts Value Forum which Childers Group presented in partnership with the Cultural Facilities Corporation. There were some fantastic presentations, conversations and connections made.. We will be posting material from the Forum as it comes to hand.
ACT Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay’s speech at the ARTS VALUE FORUM
The arts in an inclusive society
I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Ngunnawal people, and their elders past, present and emerging. I acknowledge their care for this land and their strong ongoing contribution to this community. I acknowledge the presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today and commit myself to ongoing acts of reconciliation with our nation’s First Peoples.
Let me start with a simple idea. I am committed to making Canberra a stronger place, where “everyone belongs, everyone is valued, everyone can participate”. And this is every bit as important in my role as Minister for Arts and Community Events as it is for my work as Attorney-General, or as Minister for Veterans and Seniors.
A significant focus for me as Arts Minister is inclusion. I am strongly interested in asking the questions about
- who is making art in the ACT, and who is not, and why?
- who is engaging in the Arts in the ACT, and who is not, and why?
- what are the barriers, real and perceived, to participation?
- and what do the Arts contribute to the life of our city and the lives of its inhabitants?
Arts and culture are an integral part of the lives of both individuals and the social and economic fabric of Canberra and our region. The arts help to define our community’s identity and give expression to community values. They help make our city a vibrant place to live and an attractive destination for tourism and business.
For me, participation is key: if creative expression is one of the core ways that human beings connect with others, share their stories, and explore our souls, we should be ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the Arts and not only as consumers but as creators as well. Because art not only produces things of beauty and challenges us to see the world differently – it also plays an important role in health, fitness and wellbeing.
We need to aim to foster the cultural capability of all its citizens, acknowledging that “art” comprises not only the work of artists and creative industries, but also the “everyday creativity” we are all capable of.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our community, this impetus to create art is even more interconnected with the expression of identity and culture: it expresses history, geography, law, kinship, and spirituality, and is essential to health, wholeness, and the intergenerational transference of cultural knowledge and practices.
We know that Canberrans are strongly engaged with arts and culture: we go to galleries, museums, and music, dance and theatre performances substantially more often than in other areas of Australia
If the ability to access the arts and the capability to make art are inherently important to human wellbeing and community, we must ensure we are fostering cultural democracy – providing the places, spaces, empowerment, and resources – the capability – for everyone to engage with the creative process in whatever way brings added fulfillment their lives.
This is why we need genuine inclusion in the arts.
We know that inclusion in the Arts occurs when three things are present:
- access – where the physical, social and psychological barriers to participation are removed;
- representation – where the diversity of our community is reflected in our art and artists; and
- inclusive culture – where buildings, programs, events, funding, and resourcing are focused on people first as creative beings with a right to participate in the arts.
In Canberra we have so many arts organisations at the forefront of global best practice in inclusion.
Earlier this year, my office hosted an ANU Intern, Chloe Thompson, who conducted a research project on community inclusion in the Arts in the ACT. I’d like to share a few of the excellent examples she identified of local arts organisations that are breaking down of barriers to participation:
- QL2’s, “Licence to Dance”, is aimed at helping boys overcome the gendered assumption that boys don’t dance by providing male role models and creating a safe space to explore movement.
- Belconnen Arts Centre’s hip hop music program, “Talk Blak”, invites young people, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and migrant youth, to tell their stories through music, and developing song writing and performance skills. At the same time the program is building confidence, resilience, and leadership, while creating positive social engagement.
- CSO’s, “Meet the Music” breaks down the barrier between audience and orchestra, providing relaxed, interactive performances where the traditional, often intimidating, notions of “attending a concert” are set aside. The CSO also offers an innovative program for people with impaired hearing to experience music in unconventional ways.
- You are Here puts accessibility at the forefront and not just in terms of physical access. Detailed information is provided about whether events are primarily audio or visual in nature; audio descriptions and video captioning are provided; carers and companions are specifically accommodated; and performances adopt a relaxed philosophy that means the audience can come and go and move about as needed.
- And the Belconnen and Tuggeranong Arts Centres host world-class programs in dance for people with Multiple Sclerosis, Dementia and Parkinsons, where a healthy mind-body connection is fostered through mobility, creativity, balance, rhythm, and flexibility in a friendly, social environment that is also inclusive of partners and carers.
More broadly, the ACT’s community arts organisations provide programs for children, social interaction through their coffee shops and member services, and launch pads for young and emerging artists. They exhibit a broad range of visual and performance art, and they foster the everyday creativity of our broader community.
Simply imagine …
- people chatting on the footpath watching a piece of street art take shape during Art Not Apart;
- people trying the “Make your Own” experience at the Glassworks;
- people sharing a cup of coffee and browsing the library in Photo Access’s communal spaces;
- families creating and launching kites together at the BAC Spring Winds festival;
- or a hundred ordinary Canberrans coming together for a Kate Bush dance flash mob in Glebe Park two weekends ago.
These are the places and the spaces where art provokes conversation and everyday creativity happens, where people are invited and enabled to express themselves through art and experience greater social connectedness, improved health and wellbeing, and find a sense of individual and collective identity.
With accessible and inclusive arts facilities and programs, we can create a Canberra where everyone belongs, everyone is valued, everyone can participate – through art.
The ACT is clearly a leader in community inclusion in the arts but we can and should strive to always do better. This is something I will remain strongly focused on as your Arts Minister and I will always welcome and celebrate new initiatives that continue to foster cultural democracy and a truly inclusive arts scene.