Voting for the Arts
October 12, 2012 § 4 Comments
The ACT election is a bit over a week away. I wouldn’t tell anyone how to vote, but I would like to give you a few things to think about. And to use this blog as my personal soapbox, because I believe democracy can’t exist unless people say what they think and others engage with what they say/write/etc.
I’ll preface this by saying I am usually a Greens or Labor voter, depending on the candidates up for election. I am less inclined to vote Green this time in the ACT because of their Arts policies, and the way in which the party has handled (along with the Canberra Liberals) the ongoing Megalo situation and the completely unimpressive Inquiry into the use of the Fitters Workshop. Of course, I’m also thinking about non-arts related policies as I make up my mind who to vote for, but the arts is definitely one of my primary considerations.
All Arts representatives- Minister Joy Burch (Labor), Shadow Minister Vicki Dunne (Liberals) and Greens Member Caroline Le Couteur- released their Arts promises/ideas on the 19th of September. Media releases can be found here, here and here. Then that evening all three attended and spoke at a forum hosted by the Childers Group. I went to the forum. You can read their commitments for yourself, but these are the key things I took away from the Media Releases and the forum, and some of the major issues I had with the announcements.
• The Labor Party and Arts Minister Joy Burch are, in my opinion, the only ones even coming close to understanding the arts in Canberra and what they need. They’ve committed six million dollars to the arts in Canberra, and quite well placed, including a badly needed one million dollars to upgrade Gorman House- a ready-made arts hub which houses many of the ACT’s Key Arts Organisations, and has a fantastic new Director, Joseph Falsone. My only hope for a returning Labor Government on top of what they’ve announced is that they can work more closely with Key Arts Organizations to get a better idea of what Canberra’s artists, arts organizations and art-going public want and need.
• The Canberra Liberals and their arts spokesperson Vicki Dunne have committed around three million dollars, most of which has the potential to make the Canberra arts scene very dull indeed. They envision the Cultural Facilities Corporation developing and managing the Kingston Arts Precinct, which is quite baffling. When all of the legwork has been done by ACT government (and I’m talking bureaucrats here, not Labor), including a lot of work on arts hubs, and with ArtsACT’s good relationships with the arts organizations who would potentially move into the Kingston Arts Precinct (including Megalo), why wouldn’t this continue? The Corporation does good work with CMAG, the Theatre, and the ACT’s historic houses, but that doesn’t qualify them to develop a vibrant precinct and engage the tenants that this would require. Maybe the Liberals really do want to slash ACT government jobs? Dunne did have one solid criticism of the current government’s arts record, referring to the choice of public artworks (especially from artists outside of the ACT) by former Chief Minister and Arts Minister Jon Stanhope, which I have written about before, but it seems that Burch already gets this. Stanhope is gone; it is time to move on.
• And then there was Caroline le Couteur. I understand (and decry) that the Greens don’t get to do as much of the big sexy stuff in politics, except in partnerships, particularly with the Labor Party. But one of Caroline le Couteur’s ideas, the thing which she seemed most excited about, was a complete embarrassment. The doozy she came out with, and which left me so seething I felt I could run a marathon (or more aptly, cycle one) was that she wanted artists to make bike racks. The amount of money they would get to do this is debatable too, but completely irrelevant because A) IT IS NOT ARTISTS’ JOB TO MAKE BIKE RACKS, B) THIS DOES NO JUSTICE TO THE GREAT WORK DONE BY THE A.C.T.’S ARTISTS, and C) THERE IS A WHOLE FIELD OF PEOPLE – SOME OF THEM STUDYING AND TEACHING IN CANBERRA AT U.C. – CALLED INDUSTRIAL DESIGNERS, AND THEY WOULD ALMOST CERTAINLY LOVE TO MAKE BIKE RACKS!
What Caroline seems to not understand is that one of the reasons art is so valuable is because it doesn’t need to be functional, or decorative. Because artists are free to make whatever they choose (within reason and certain limitations, of course) they not only advance their own work and art in general, but can be responsible for the progression of ideas and technologies that are very beneficial for society, in ways that all political parties but ESPECIALLY the Greens should be happy to support. I will write more on this very soon, because the value of art in society is something that doesn’t get enough attention.
Oh and then there’s le Couteur’s other idea that it’s difficult to find out what’s going on in Canberra, especially since Canberra Arts Marketing (CAM) was axed years ago. Well, here’s the thing- it seems that no one quite knew what the point of CAM was and no one missed it too much when it wasn’t there anymore. And more importantly, when anyone I know needs to find out what’s on in town the first port of call is BMA’s Gig Guide, either in print or online. Please don’t overlook this territorial treasure or waste money trying to replicate it in a boring brochure or drab website. I know I’ve been pretty harsh on le Couteur here, but I expect more from the Greens.
I am always interested to hear what others are thinking about as the election approaches… Happy voting!