Arts Cuts, The State Strategic Plan and how to talk about it all differently.

Before you read this blog article you might like to download the South Australian Strategic Plan to have next to you for reference.  You can get it at…

The latest of the “razor gang” cuts that occurred to South Australia’s arts community this week has left this writer feeling (along with quite a few other people and organizations) a little battered and sore but certainly not dead, buried and cremated (sorry Tony).

The very real outcomes of the budget is still yet to be felt and realized through the strategies that Arts SA will now endeavor to develop and in turn deliver over the next 12 months or so.

“Small to medium-sized arts companies will bear the brunt of the cuts, with Industry Development funding to be cut by a quarter, or more than $1 million, by 2013-14.  This program funds 39 organizations, including Leigh Warren & Dancers, Vitalstatistix and Brink theatre companies, the Australian Experimental Art Foundation and Ausdance.” – from Adelaide Now – September 16 2010

What this writer thought was an interesting thing to do at this stage of uncertainty and flux was to go back to the South Australia’s Strategic Plan (SASP) first developed in 2004 and look at the targets and key measures that pertain to the arts.

As an aside it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to note that the SASP is currently being made anew and the state government is calling for the public to have a say – go to NOW and begin to look for ways to comment and participate.

Not surprisingly, nowhere and we at CWTP mean NOWHERE are the areas that will be suffering the cuts over the next twelve months mentioned as a single entity or sector in the SASP.  The closest of the plan’s targets that you could possibly fit most of the companies and individuals about to receive cuts into is…

T4.1 “Creative Industries (new): increase the number of South Australians undertaking work in the creative industries by 20% by 2014”

It is interesting to note that the supplementary measure used in achieving this target is the “Number of South Australian’s employed in the combined areas of television, film and interactive content development and production” and this measure certainly does not relate to the sector / echelon as described above that will receive the cuts.

In the 2008 Progress Report on the SASP the key measure “Number of South Australian’s undertaking work in the creative industries” – this measure may indeed include the small to medium sector as described above – has increased by the following amounts;

  • From 68 400 paid in 2004 to 72,800 paid in 2007 – (an increase of 4,400 and we at CWTP would imagine this is greatly if not ALL part time work)
  • From 136,600 unpaid in 2004 to 208,700 unpaid in 2007 – (a massive increase of 72,100 volunteers).

Some questions arise at this point…

  • Why does it seem that volunteers and unpaid “work” in the creative industries is being used to prop up this measure?
  • Does this look like a blurring between the arts and creative professional and the arts and creative hobbyist?
  • Whilst the unpaid arts and creative hobbyist is an important sector of our State’s culture, would it be more pertinent to place it into the SASP’s Building Communities under it’s T5.6 target under Volunteering?

The second of the targets T4.2 is “Double the number of feature films produced in South Australia by 2014” which according to the SASP 2008 Progress Report is on track. We at CWTP assume that the budget announcement that funding for the SA Film Corporation’s new Film Lab initiative will be capped at just under $1 million from next year, saving $500,000 a year will not cause too much of dent in the SAFC being able to keep this key measure as acheiveable.

T4.3 & T4.4 (it’s starting to sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken over the SASP – Ed) both apply to the increase of attendances at South Australia’s cultural institutions and the attendance at selected arts activities (ie: festivals).  Both targets are where the majority of the funding increases and some small decreases announced this week would be going.  Again from Adelaide Now – September 16 2010…

“The Adelaide Festival, which will go annual from 2012, will receive an extra $9.9 million over three years.  Other previously announced initiatives include $1.2 million for a festivals commissioning fund to create new shows and $3 million over four years for major exhibitions.  The Adelaide Festival Centre Trust will have its grant funding cut by less than 1 per cent, but ends up better off with $3 million extra funding for its Cabaret and OzAsia festivals.  The SA Museum, Art Gallery and State Library will each have their funding cut by about 1 per cent over three years from 2011-12.  Fees for arts board members, including the State Library, Museum, Art Gallery, Festival Centre and Adelaide Festival  introduced in 1996  will be dropped in 2012-13, saving $400,000 a year.  These are currently worth $12,000 a year for board members and $18,000 for chairpersons.”

With these “give and takes” it is obvious that the State Government is solely interested in bolstering this part of the arts industry with little blood letting.  In the SASP 2008 Progress Report both T4.3 & T4.4 targets are either on track or in T4.4’s case achieved way before the 2014 due date.

If you take a closer look at T4.4’s key measure “Increase the number of attendances at selected arts activities by 40% by 2014” it seems to read it is actually measuring the amount of visitor numbers NOT local attendances.

Now lets stop here and reiterate that we at CWTP are not against festivals at all and in fact we all love a bit of festival action BUT by going through the budget cuts against the strategic plan in this manner is proving the fact this writer stated at the beginning…  NOWHERE are the areas that will be suffering the cuts over the next twelve months are mentioned as a single entity or sector in the SASP.  In fact it is becoming obvious that the state government doesn’t seem to be interested in or understanding the role of the small to medium and independent arts sector at all.

We won’t go through the rest of the SASP target by target at this stage but suffice to say that most of the rest of Objective 4: Fostering Creativity and Innovation (before you get to the Investment in Science, Research and Innovation part of Objective 4) involves itself with Understanding Aboriginal Culture (T4.5), Commercialization of Research (T4.6), Business Innovation (T4.7) & Broadband Usage (T4.8) all of which, accordingly to the SASP 2008 Progress Report are floundering, and the achievement of what seems to be their quite high targets are either unclear or unlikely.  It is also unclear as to whether the arts sector as a whole are contributing to the measures attached to the objectives due to the fact that most of the arts sector is being funded to present works in festivals and keep old buildings from falling down.

The arts sector is certainly not being funded to…

  • research NEW ways of working and creating work for NEW audiences in the commercial field.
  • work with technology to create new business opportunities.
  • be creative in how we promote the understanding of aboriginal culture.

And herein lies this writer’s argument for this column.  NOW is the most IMPORTANT time that the arts sector look at ways of developing new work and being creative across sectors and across the SASP.

If the state government is headstrong on supporting festivals and major organizations, the small to medium and independent arts organizations and artists sector (without doubt the most creative and innovative of the lot) need to strongly argue and pitch themselves at how the arts and cultural pursuits can be represented across all of the objectives of the SASP.  Lobby the Arts Industry Council and in turn Arts SA and demand that the arts sector develops a language that describes the unseen benefits of arts and cultural activity so that the amazing work that the small to medium sector can be recognized and not suffer cuts in the future.

A lot of the amazing work that is already being done by the entire small to medium arts sector could be seen to contributing to the following targets of the SASP.

  • Improve Well being (Objective 2), Preventative Health (T2.3), Work Life Balance (T2.12)
  • Building Communities (Objective 5), especially in the Aboriginal Leadership (T5.7) Multiculturalism (T5.8) and Regional Population (T5.9).
  • In Expanding Opportunity (Objective 6) there are many places that the arts and culture can be included and measured through Disability (T6.11) and Education (T6.12), Aboriginal Education (T6.18),

This certainly does not necessarily mean everyone in the arts must resort to getting all “touchy feely”, devising new shows or projects that are targeted towards these audiences or community concern nor does it means that everyone must embark on a community based project around disability housing to solve the problem.  Actually it couldn’t be more further from the truth.

The arts sector is wise enough NOT to be petulant and understands that it has long and wide reaching effects on everyone’s lives that comes into contact with it.  Watching the arts, participating in it whether it be through being an audience member, a maker or a even volunteer carries with it innovative examples of social capital and the concepts of inclusion, community and cultural identity and belonging.

We urge you to get smart and amend the way we measure and talk about our arts and culture to our broader community that is not necessarily just bottom line dollar figures and audience participation.  Start by being involved in the next State’s Strategic Planning mechanisms and future state based and national arts forums that are being organised.


About weavesthyme

Weaves Thyme lives in Adelaide South Australia and therefore only thinks parochially (like most of the media based in South Australia)
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5 Responses to Arts Cuts, The State Strategic Plan and how to talk about it all differently.

  1. Shandy Warthole says:

    Well researched.
    Strat Plan sesh relating to the arts sector is on 27th September.
    I’ll post details when I am in front of my calendar.

  2. BD says:

    Thanks for a great analysis of not only what seems to be the governments current direction but also its blind spots. In regards to the lifting attendances part of the strategic plan i’ve no doubt we’ll soon see something similar to sydney festival’s ‘festival first night’. i.e. a massive free event that happens to boost KPIs beautifully while also eating up $1 million worth of funding.

    a considered, intelligent and united response to all this couldn’t be more important.

  3. weavesthyme says:

    Footnote 1:

    This analysis was written with the 2008 Progress Report of the SASP – please find the link below to view the 2010 Progress Report. Whilst some of the figures mentioned above are different the trends are similar if not the same. It is also interesting to read the Plan’s Audit Committee Recommendations under most of the measures. Keep these in mind when commenting on the plan should you wish.–2

    Also our confusion over Visitor Numbers and not local Audience Numbers in T4.4 has been clarified in the latter progress report.

  4. Emma Lawson says:

    Hi All, I am heading up South Australia’s Strategic Plan update process – and was very pleased to see this article because we are very keen to have you come along to the consultation on the 27th. I have had a look at the attendance list though and the take up from the arts isnt as strong as we would like ot to be – so if you could round up your crew to get along this Monday – that would be great!

  5. Pingback: Adelaide’s Lament: Pent-up Frustrations « No Plain Jane

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