Thursday, January 11, 2018

Regional Australia recognised as Bendigo named City of Culture

It’s been apparent for some time that regional centres and smaller cities and towns can be interesting and creative places and that cities that have missed out on the benefits of globalisation in the era of neo-liberalism can be brought back by community action and imagination. It’s certainly not happening everywhere but it’s true of many lucky regional towns and cities and some suburban and outer suburban areas – witness Sydney, where it’s increasingly clear that the excitement never really stopped at the edges of the inner city. The regional rollout of interesting keeps on happening.

Perhaps as large cities become more and more crucial – to the economy, to innovation, to creativity and to cultural diversity – we are seeing a balancing focus on the regional, the local, to life on a human scale. Both globalisation and regionalism, the fast (and vast) food economy and the slow food movement at the same time.

Bendigo has a rich history of cultural diversity and is firmly a part of Australia's cultural heritage and contemporary culture

Amongst all the cheer and beer of the festive season I see that Bendigo and the surrounding region has been named as a City of Culture by the Victorian Government. It certainly deserves it. I remember several years ago planning a visit to the Bendigo Art Gallery to see one of their series of fabulous fashion exhibitions from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Expecting to turn up and buy tickets, I was shocked to see the queue stretched along the block.

Monday, July 31, 2017

What is art good for? Understanding the value of our arts and culture

With arts and cultural support increasingly under pressure, arts and cultural organisations and artists are trying to find ways in their own localities to respond and to help build a popular understanding of the broader social and economic benefits of arts and culture. Much work has been done in Australia and internationally to understand, assess and communicate the broad value of arts and culture. The challenge is to share and apply what already exists – and to take it further.

If we think – for whatever reason – that arts and culture is of value, it is helpful to be clear exactly why it has value. Apart from the secondary usefulness of this for arguing for support or commitment of government and private resources, it has a much more important primary use. If we value something, it is useful to understand what that value consists of.

Breakout session at the Arts Value Forum on the link between arts and culture and identity and society.

We value many things – how do we make a judgement about what we value most? It’s like the thorny question asked of those about to flee a fire – what would you take first, your family photo albums, your pets? It’s a question that tends to sharpen the mind and has many useful applications. If we understand how and why we value something we are better placed to fully realise that value – as well as share it, protect it and extend it.

The Arts Value Forum
The recent Arts Value Forum (#ArtsValueForum) presented at the Canberra Theatre Centre by local ACT arts advocacy body, The Childers Group, of which I am currently a member, in conjunction with the ACT Cultural Facilities Corporation, has turned my mind again to some work I had been preparing over the last 12 months. It looks at how we understand, assess and communicate the broad value of arts and culture.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

See also – indefinite articles in a definite world

I was losing track of the articles I have published to my 'indefinite article' blog over the last few years. For easy access, this is a summary of all 133 articles, broken down into categories. They range from the national cultural landscape to popular culture, from artists and arts organisations to cultural institutions, cultural policy and arts funding, creative industries, First Nations culture, cultural diversity, cities and regions, Australia society, government, canberra and international issues – the whole range of contemporary Australian arts and culture.

1. Cultural landscape
2. Artists and arts organisations
3. Cultural institutions
4. Cultural policy
5. Arts funding
6. Creative industries
7. First Nations culture
8. Cultural diversity
9. Australian society
10. Cities and regions
11. Government
12. International
13. Canberra
14. Popular culture
15. About my blogs
16. Parallel universe

1. CULTURAL LANDSCAPE
Taking part – Arts involvement in a divided Australia
‘The arts and culture sector has long suffered from a shortage of high quality, useable research and statistics. This makes what is available doubly important as we argue the case for the central relevance of arts and culture and the broader social and economic impact of involvement. New research demonstrates the positive scale of involvement, views on importance and trends in participation in Australia’s arts and cultural life, especially hands on involvement. It also shows a worrying decline in engagement and recognition in recent years and points to the need for a more strategic view by government’, Taking part – Arts involvement in a divided Australia.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Taking part – Arts involvement in a divided Australia

The arts and culture sector has long suffered from a shortage of high quality, useable research and statistics. This makes what is available doubly important as we argue the case for the central relevance of arts and culture and the broader social and economic impact of involvement. New research demonstrates the positive scale of involvement, views on importance and trends in participation in Australia’s arts and cultural life, especially hands on involvement. It also shows a worrying decline in engagement and recognition in recent years and points to the need for a more strategic view by government.

The arts and culture sector has long suffered from a shortage of high quality, useable research and statistics. This makes what is available doubly important as we argue the case for the central relevance of arts and culture and the broader social and economic impact of involvement.

Wynscreen, curated by Alessio Cavallaro, a new public art space in the walkway to Wynyard station, central Sydney.

It was a gap which became obvious as ‘Creative Australia’, the Labor Government’s National Cultural Policy, was being developed, when the case for arts and culture funding needed to be powerful and compelling. The analytical power that has been applied in the area of Indigenous affairs – and which had been utilised to some degree in the Indigenous cultural programs – was needed for arts and culture as well.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

History all around us – the long term practical impact of cultural research

Cultural research has long term impacts in terms of our developing body of knowledge which stretch far into the future. Researchers are finding stories in our major cultural collections that were never envisaged by those originally assembling them – a process that will continue long into the future. The collections of our major cultural institutions are becoming increasingly accessible to the very people the collections are drawn from and reflect. In the process they are generating greater understanding about some of the major contemporary issues we face.

Recently I posted a notice about a forthcoming talk at the National Library of Australia by Paul Diamond, Curator, Māori, at the National Library of New Zealand. Paul has has been researching Australian, New Zealand and Pacific records in the collections of the National Library of Australia.

Curator Paul Diamond begins his talk in Te Reo Māori.

The talk turned out to be fascinating because there were so many overlapping topics and perspectives. The talk was being recorded, so hopefully the Library will make it available online for those who were unable to attend. While the talk was highly relevant to New Zealand and its history, it also alluded to some of the big contemporary issues affecting Australia.

Cross-Tasman collaboration
For a start a collaboration between the national libraries of two countries so interlinked was always going to be of interest. With the recent sister city relationship between the two capitals, Wellington and Canberra, already long-established partnerships are becoming much stronger.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Year Zero without a roadmap – arts funding chaos set to be repeated as Government sells regions short

The years of chaos produced by ad hoc changes to national arts funding, with no strategy or overall vision, seem set to be repeated. The Government's ham-fisted attempt to turn back the clock on the national capital by transferring Government departments to regional centres seems like our own (thankfully, milder) version of Year Zero. Though a response to a genuine problem, it is unlikely to produce any real benefits and could inflict major damage on one of Australia’s greatest national assets. It seems strange when, in many areas, particularly arts and culture, the Government has for years been steadily transferring roles back to Canberra.

In another desperate attempt to scrabble together enough votes to save its panicked ranks, the Government is plucking plans out of the air again. This time Australian Government departments are to be reviewed to identify which ones might be suitable for relocation to regional areas.

Main street, Ararat, Victoria. Regional development needs a more serious approach than pork-barrelling - understanding the crucial role arts, culture and creative industries can play in boosting regional economies and communities is a good start.

This is not just about Canberra because as John Wanna, Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University, has pointed out, approximately 70% of the Australian Public Service is based outside of Canberra. Of course, despite this, it has become a discussion about Canberra.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Why cultural diversity is central to Australia’s future promise – a refocused Labor arts policy?

Can Australia successfully navigate the treacherous and confusing times in which we live? Understanding the crucial importance of our cultural diversity to our cultural, social and economic future will be essential. Applying that in the policies and practices that shape our future at all levels across Australia can ensure we have a bright, productive and interesting 21st Century. An important part of this are the political parties, major and minor, that are increasingly negotiating the compromises that shape our world. The recent launch by the Labor Party of a new group, Labor for the Arts, is an important development. Combining as it does a focus from an earlier time on both arts and multiculturalism, it could potentially open the way for some innovative and forward-thinking policy.

Without a grasp of the importance of Australia’s cultural diversity to its future – culturally, socially and economically – we will find it impossible to navigate the treacherous and confusing times in which we are living. Due to failures of leadership and lack of vision we have drifted into a world in which diversity is increasingly under attack and borders are closing.

Innovation is applied creativity – and it’s more than a catchphrase
In this landscape it cannot be stressed too many times that cultural diversity is inextricably linked to pressing issues such as innovation – which is, after all, just applied creativity – because where cultures intersect, new ideas flourish. It fosters new approaches and helps breed the innovation needed for the modern knowledge economy and our creative industries.

Where cultures intersect, new ideas and approaches flourish.

However, for this to be reflected in strategic policy and the day to day decisions that flow from it, it is critical that decision-making bodies that affect our future understand it and its implications. This includes an array of organisations across Australian society at all levels – small and large businesses and their industry bodies, community organisations and local, state and territory and national governments. This includes the political parties, major and minor, that are increasingly negotiating the compromises that shape our world and determine our future.