Major Performing Arts Framework survey – have your say

Responses to the Major Performing Arts (MPA) Framework survey are due by 5pm on Thursday 9 August 2018. Whether you’re an artist, arts worker or audience member, have your say for the sake of our sector.

Submissions can be made online. Feel free to copy, paste or edit any of my own answers below.


Is there anything else that should be a guiding principle under the Framework?

The Framework’s placing of the MPA companies above and outside of Australia’s broader performing arts sector is an arbitrary and unhelpful division. It quarantines funding that could engage larger and more diverse audiences more cost-effectively by making these opportunities available to other applicants through a more open competitive process.

Is there anything else you think should be part of the criteria for being an MPA company?

Asking for criteria within the boundaries of the existing MPA program limits this review’s effectiveness and relevance. Many MPA companies have a lot to learn from the small to medium performing arts sector, particularly in terms of diversity and access. This includes broader representation of Australia’s stories and cultural heritage, financial access for marginalised communities, and access and inclusion at all levels – including board members and performers, not just audiences.

Is there another arts and cultural priority towards which governments should expect MPA companies to contribute?

Governments should expect MPA companies to be part of and engage with the broader Australian arts ecosystem. Separating them from that ecosystem through an outdated, unnecessary and elitist quarantined funding program acts against the best interests of Government, the broader sector, and the companies themselves. We cannot know whether MPA companies are best placed to deliver on these arts and cultural priorities unless they are measured against sector best practice, not merely one another.

The Framework states that ‘the MPA companies are not subject to a competitive process through peer review for their base funding’ but ‘must, however, remain highly accountable for the significant public funding they receive’. This approach provides the MPA companies with financial certainty, which assists with long-term business planning and improvement, as well as long-term artistic program development, strengthening the companies’ sustainability. Do you agree with this approach?

No.

What suggestions do you have to strengthen the support governments provide for the performing arts in Australia through the MPA Framework? Alternatively, is there anything else you would like to add?

The Cultural Ministers should consider a bolder, full-scale program review rather than attempting to finesse an inherently flawed system that does more harm than good.

“Here’s the thing,” writes Big hART’s Scott Rankin on Artshub, “the Australia Council’s 2016/17 annual report says 28 Major Performing Arts Companies received $109.1 million in funding in 2016/17. The small to medium sector (590 organizations) shared $53.4 million. You have to be joking. We don’t need a review, we need a total dismantling.”

“It’s often argued that the funds quarantined to the Major Performing Arts are justified by audience development,” writes NAVA’s Esther Anatolitis, also on Artshub. “Not so. That’s debunked by the massive audiences of the small-to-mediums: 9.5 million people compared to the MPA’s four million and shrinking.”

A critique of the system isn’t a critique of the organisations within it. This is a call to support those companies for their own sake – not just for the historical lottery of being included in the MPA in the first place – and to be able to recognise other great organisations in the same way.

“If the security of long-term funding is seen as being effective for creating great new work, then let’s extend that confidence beyond the Major Performing Arts to where the innovation lies,” Anatolitis writes. “Rather than quarantining the imported arts of the past, let’s quarantine the mindset that creates the adventurous Australian art of the future.”

The future of Australian arts and culture should be diverse, inclusive and innovative. It’s long past time to dismantle the inaccessible systems that restrict this from being so.

“After all,” writes Anatolitis, “there’s more at stake here than the sustainability of a few dozen arts companies. The future of the Australia Council itself is at stake if it can’t determine an operating model that moves beyond disproportionate support for few companies. The weakening of the entire sector after the past few years’ cuts warrants urgent attention via ambitious, expert sector development initiatives.”

It’s time to be bold. It’s time to evolve. It’s time.

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