Notes from #FreeTheArts Adelaide Meeting

Summary notes are now available for the #FreeTheArts Adelaide Meeting.

Download here.

#FreeTheArts Adelaide Meeting
Thursday 17 September 2015, 6-8pm
Adelaide Festival Centre

Organised by: Arts Industry Council of SA and #FreeTheArts Adelaide members
Facilitator: Anne Dunn


What’s happening in #FreeTheArts now (from Norm Horton, Feral Arts)

  • Sector gatherings happening nationally, following first forum in Canberra
  • Sector is coming together – independents, small-to-medium organisations and larger companies; artists and arts administrators; across art forms
  • Current issues are lifting us out of our own individual crises, and into whole sector discussions
    • There have been efforts by Brandis to divide national sector (consciously or otherwise)
  • 3 core elements coming out strongly in #FreeTheArts discussions
    • Arts funding, arts policy, arts advocacy
  • Chronic underfunding of the arts is being covered up by shuffling existing funding, without growth in total amount available
  • Destructiveness of current arts minister Brandis, who has disregarded the significant work put into the restructure of the Australia Council grant system in 2014
  • Political environment is unpredictable and changing rapidly
    • Can’t align arts issues with one major party or the other
    • Need a long term vision that is bipartisan
  • Arts sector needs to start to set agenda ourselves; can’t rely on others to do that for us
    • Opportunity now to “fix this thing properly” re: arts funding
  • Senate Inquiry
    • Recommendations that come out of inquiry can’t lead to reversal of decision on NPEA
    • It can make government uncomfortable about decisions already made
    • It can deal with immediate impact of this process on artists in Australia; companies are already falling over from NPEA changes, so need to ask for help to pay for transitional costs to help artists through this time
  • For survival, companies are needing to apply to NPEA
  • #FreeTheArts has the aim to not have any company/artist ‘fall over’ during this time
  • Companies who get funded have a responsibility to support others and share resources
  • Need to work to find a way to get through this, and make us stronger as a sector
    • There is maybe 3-5 years of work in this
    • As a result, the sector will be more independent, viable, sustainable
    • Bringing together individuals to be part of something bigger – but still maintaining individual identity
  • Investment in arts is low compared to other sectors
    • Without growth in funding, there is no way of growing sector
  • Key message of #FreeTheArts: Put money back into Australia Council, so it can do its job – if NPEA continues to exist, its funding should be in addition to Australia Council’s previous funding

Group discussions, facilitated by Anne Dunn

  • Context – Senator Brandis:
    • Took money from Australia Council budget to form National Program of Excellence in the Arts (NPEA)
    • As a result, reduced capacity of Australia Council to deliver six year funding, along with other programs (ArtStart was one of the first casualties, which had previously had a great impact on emerging artists)
    • Australia Council has estimated that half of funded companies will go
  • Questions and issues around NPEA
    • Will politics be involved in decision making for grant recipients, or based on merit?
    • NPEA final guidelines aren’t released yet – for now, individuals can’t apply, but feedback on draft guidelines might result in change that they can be auspiced
    • NPEA doesn’t allow for operational funding– companies would need to find other funding to keep going (reduces sector infrastructure)
    • Will there be genuine peer assessment? Concerns expressed that general public are eligible to assess, who may not be familiar with arts sector – this isn’t ‘peer’
    • From a successful peer assessment applicant: Grant assessment process appears to be a ‘rolling process’, with question asked: “How many applications can you assess a month?”
  • In discussions, it’s critical to talk about key organisations affected, but also other smaller organisations and groups that had utilised funded artists
  • Arts ‘brain drain’ from SA may occur even further
  • Small-to-medium organisations do a lot of touring – majors needed the additional touring funding to get up to that level
  • #FreeTheArts meetings are happening with the support of the major companies
    • AMPAG itself has said money for NPEA should not come from Australia Council’s funds
  • Clarification around major companies
    • Funding for majors has been quarantined
    • No extra money going automatically to majors from money taken out of Australia Council
    • Majors will be able to apply to NPEA, especially for touring
  • Support is being requested for transition period – But what are companies transitioning to? To survive long enough to see a change of government?
  • Arts industry (artists, workers) need to look after themselves in this battle
    • Fatigue – need to look out for our well-being
    • Stress of already trying to survive with low pay, then also trying to save the sector
  • Take ownership of funding issue as a sector; put together a proper case
    • Focus beyond ‘my organisation’, how ‘my work’ will continue, and think whole sector
  • Need to get public voice concerned, beyond our own arts voice
    • This affects communities, families, audiences, Australian culture overall
    • Arts empowers communities; by reducing arts, reduces the voices of communities
    • Commit to tell one person a week – make it a bigger responsibility / everyone’s problem
  • In times of uncertainty and strain, arts should be funded more, not less
  • Be careful to not mix messages, especially with Senate Inquiry ; need to tackle issues differently
    • 1) Concern about money moved to NPEA (Senate Inquiry focus)
    • 2) Need for more money in the arts generally
  • Campaigning of politicians
    • Elected representatives are meant to reflect what their constituents want (eg. culture)
    • Shift conversation from policy (as parties may not be able to share a policy) – instead, focus on promoting that they can share a vision
    • Put pressure on your local MP on this issue; especially in marginal seats
    • Show arts muscle and demonstrate that community is behind us – community who vote for them will be affected
    • Only Greens appear to have an arts policy
  • Local government
    • Local councils can get stats on local artists numbers; help to mobilise community
    • #FreeTheArts could send letter to LGA (representing local councils) to get them onside
  • AICSA is currently working on a 40 Year Vision document since Nov 2014 – but now isn’t the right time to release in this environment
    • Soon to release a Creative Boom report, which focussed on four segments of creative sector
  • #FreeTheArts movement needs an elevator pitch
    • #FreeTheArts sounds like it comes from ‘within’ the sector; need something outsiders can identify with too
    • Need a campaign like “Imagine without” – highlight to general public what art is (as they may not release that it’s art they’re consuming in their everyday lives; eg. film, entertainment, books, music)
    • Run a marketing campaign for audiences – get them involved and affect who they vote for
    • Use info that arts is at the heart of economy; a fast growing sector for employment
    • Find allies outside of the arts itself
  • Majors companies having funding protected does promote elitism in the arts
    • Brandis is meeting with people, but those are usually AMPAG
    • Need solidarity across the sector in these issues
  • Australia Council’s role
    • Need to see Australia Council as more than just a funding body; it does consultation, has a vision, maintains statistics
    • We need to build Australia Council up again; send support to our Australia Council contacts
    • Australia Council also needs to fight for itself too; some of the arts sector’s exhaustion has been as a result of fighting for Australia Council
    • Australia Council feels constrained and needs to be careful that they are not criticising government, as they are an arm of the government

Going forward

  • #FreeTheArts – an internal phrase; how do we make it with external view?
  • National meeting happening in Sydney, 6 Nov
  • Those leading the push need to be representative of all of the industry; bring together the ‘tiny islands’ of disparate small sections of the sector
  • Adelaide #FreeTheArts leaders (self-nominated at end of meeting)
    • Local sector needs to support this group and adopt a shared responsibility to organise own spontaneous, anarchic advocacy within individual companies/groups
    • AICSA will continue to promote and support what is happening; act as a catalyst to activating sector (be the start of the conversation), within realities of limited available resources
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