How important is it that there are arts ‘service’ organisations?

20 Dec

Joy Burch MLA
Minister for the Arts
ACT Government
via email: burch@act.gov.au

Dear Ms Burch,

The Childers Group has serious concerns about the apparent recent downgrading of arts service organisations, as illustrated in severe cuts to Ausdance ACT, which is part of a highly regarded national network that has supported and promoted dance in the ACT since 1977.

We observe that the role of service organisations in the ACT has been seriously down-played by artsACT in recent years in its endeavour to spread its ever-diminishing funds more thinly and widely. Service organisations such as Ausdance are not artists, dance companies or funding bodies, but they do have a clear role in supporting artists and advocating on their behalf, i.e. a body of work that can be quantified under the following headings prepared by ArtsPeak, the alliance of national arts service organisations:

  1. Government liaison and advocacy
  2. Research
  3. Sector leadership and arts industry standards
  4. Capacity building of the sector
  5. Raise the profile and promote the value of the arts
  6. Support artists’ income generation
  7. Sector representation

As a member of ArtsPeak, the Childers Group strongly supports this statement (attached in full), and suggests that it should be included in the new artsACT strategic plan now being developed, not only to support funding guidelines, but to provide artists with a clear articulation of why service organisations are funded.

Image source: Ausdance ACT

Image source: Ausdance ACT

We are also concerned about the way in which artsACT has interpreted the following principles in its published ACT Arts Policy Framework as they specifically concern the work of Ausdance ACT in education:

  • Championing the importance of arts education and advocating for local arts organisations to be engaged in the implementation of the National Arts Curriculum.
  • The Australian National University Community Outreach Program, funded by the ACT Government to support music programs for teachers and school students, visual arts community access programs, and access to the School of Art and School of Music libraries and Llewellyn Hall.
  • Promoting and supporting arts activity across the school curriculum, developing systemic links between ACT Government schools, local and national arts organisations and tertiary institutions.

The Childers Group considers there is a highly artificial divide in funding decisions that differentiate between what is perceived to be ‘education’ and professional practice. The successful implementation of The Australian Curriculum: The Arts is an absolute imperative for the arts profession, a principle obviously shared by the government but now being interpreted inconsistently.

We understand that, as a result of cuts to Ausdance ACT, there will be a major downturn in its ability to continue to offer its valuable services to dance in the ACT. In the not unlikely event that the organisation might eventually have to close its doors, there will be an assumption that the only professionally-supported dance company in Canberra – QL2 Dance – will be required to take on the role of a service organisation in addition to its already overstretched program. It is highly unlikely that QL2 will be able to do so in the current funding environment, nor is it an appropriate role for a dance company.

The Childers Group has used the Ausdance ACT example to illustrate its point about the current trend to under-value and under-fund arts service organisations. We are not advocating on its behalf and do not want to engage with artsACT in specific reasons for its decisions.

We look forward to your response to our concerns, and to your assurance that arts service organisations will continue to be valued for their intrinsic value and not be downgraded in the review of the strategic plan now underway.

Yours faithfully,

Professor David Williams
Spokesperson

The Childers Group –
an indepedent arts forum for the ACT region

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