The new #SAArtsPlan: a (draft) response

Artists, arts workers and audience members are being encouraged to have their say on the arts in SA. Written submissions to the new South Australian Arts Plan are due by Friday 12 April 2019 (though you can still have your say on the online survey until Friday 31 May 2019).

Submissions can be made via the YourSay SA website. Feel free to copy, paste or adapt any of the following (draft) response into your own. This version is a working document that will be adapted and updated prior to making my own submission. (Last updated: Thursday 11 April 2019).

A vision for the new #SAArtsPlan

As an arts practitioner and consultant who now calls Adelaide home, I welcome the opportunity to feed into the new South Australian Arts Plan.

This enthusiasm is, of course, tempered by disappointment that the development of this Arts Plan has been pre-empted by the significant arts portfolio changes made as part of the 2018 State Budget – changes uninformed by either the Arts Plan’s recommendations or consultation with the sector.

Beyond the development of the Arts Plan itself, then, we must hope this current process signals a renewed demonstration of the State Government’s support of South Australian arts and culture, the value it places on the South Australian arts sector’s work, and its understanding of the impact that sector has on the lives of SA residents, visitors and audiences out-of-state and overseas.

We must also hope that the Arts Plan process results in a long-term, strategic and bipartisan blue-print backed up by substantive, indexed investment that is informed by the needs and ambitions of the State’s arts ecology.

Ambition

The arts in South Australia should be:

  • AMBITIOUS: South Australia may be a smaller state with a smaller population, but this should be used as a selling point, not an excuse. We should not just celebrate our history as a State and City of Firsts, but also commit to a future of the same. We should invest in and incubate work that is bold, brave and risk-taking. We should lead the country in terms of the ideas and stories our artists and arts organisations share, and the ways in which they share them. And we should channel our investment into the powerhouses of that innovation: independent artists and Small-to-Medium (S2M) organisations.
  • ACCESSIBLE: In difficult economic times, the communities that experience the largest and most detrimental impact are often those who are already marginalised. Whether involved as artists, arts workers, board members, participants or audiences, this means (among others) that First Nations communities, Deaf and disabled people, young people, those in regional areas, and those from culturally diverse backgrounds are likely to face additional barriers to arts participation. We should embed access into our funding processes, arts practices and organisations. We should make inclusion a priority, not an afterthought. We should focus on the creative and cutting-edge outcomes of integrated access, not on compliance. And we should actively redress the historical imbalance that has stopped people from marginalised communities being able to participate in the State’s creative and cultural life: such as insisting all funded organisations have Disability Equality Action Plans in place, and making sure our existing arts infrastructure is accessible, welcoming and fit-for purpose.
  • SUSTAINABLE: The 2018 State Budget announcements exposed the SA arts sector to a period characterised by uncertainty, instability, negative readjustment and grief. The longer-term impact of the State’s truncated investment in the arts is likely to include SA organisations reducing their size, programs, engagement and reach, and/or SA artists and arts workers leaving the sector or the State. What is broken is not so easily fixed. We should immediately address this uncertainty and clarify the restructure of Arts South Australia, changes to arts grants and how those grants will be administered. We should look to the State Government for strong, strategic and consistent support. And we should call upon it to value its investment in arts and culture in as demonstrable a way as it does investment in other areas, such as its space and military infrastructure.
  • DIVERSE (AND PUT FIRST NATIONS ART AT ITS HEART): South Australia’s arts organisations do not currently mirror the diversity of the communities and constituencies they represent and serve. We should insist upon diversity at all levels of our arts organisations and programs. We should embed best practice principles for community-engaged work to ensure “nothing about us, without us.” We should listen to and be led by First Nations artists and communities. And we should insist that all funded organisations have Reconciliation Action Plans in place,

Priority Areas and Outcomes

The SA Arts Plan should be a living document that unlocks investment and effects change, that is accompanied by a plan to reinstate (and increase) the State Government’s previous level of investment in the arts, in order achieve its ambitions in the following priority areas:

  • An investment in First Nations arts and culture
  • An investment in governance
  • An investment in audiences and access
  • An investment in industry 
  • An investment in embedding arts and culture into everyday life
  • An investment in innovation (through the Small-to-Medium Arts Sector)
  • An investment in artists
  • An investment in infrastructure

First Nations Arts and Culture

“South Australia boasts a wealth of First Nations artistic and cultural practice, cultural and archaeological sites of international significance, and internationally respected artists in many art forms” – Arts South Australia Aboriginal Arts Strategic Plan. 

The South Australia Museum, for example, has “the most comprehensive collection of Australian Aboriginal artefacts in the world”, InDaily reported earlier this year, but only five per cent of that collection is currently on display. 

A SA Arts Plan that has First Nations art at its heart needs to listen to and be led by First Nations Elders, artists and communities (both through the significant work undertaken in 2012 as part of the Arts South Australia Aboriginal Arts Strategic Plan and through ongoing, meaningful, community-led engagement).

Addressing this may include:

Government and Governance

Participants at the Town Hall Meeting in Adelaide earlier this month called on the State Government to have the “political will and bravery” to employ new ways of looking at governance and leadership through “putting their money where their mouth is” and “stepping back to let the sector lead.”

As Chair of the Arts Industry Council of South Australia (AICSA) Gail Kovatseff was quoted as saying in the Adelaide Review: “We want to see both new strategies and new funding taken out of the realm of ad hoc policy driven by political expediency and the loudest voices.”

Addressing this may include: 

  • Clarifying the restructure of Arts South Australia, changes to arts grants and how grants will be administered.
  • Clarifying the strategic and logistical management of the arts portfolio and vision across the three Government departments in which the State’s funded arts organisations now sit.
  • Maintaining a commitment to appropriate consultation and peer assessment processes for all arts grants and funding initiatives.
  • Streamlining the red-tape associated with grant applications and acquittals to allow artists and organisations to focus on the work and its outcomes.

Audience and Access

The 2018 State Budget cuts made to the South Australian arts portfolio are likely to have a direct impact on the scope and nature of the State’s arts audiences. Fewer available funds is likely to lead to fewer activities, which in turn leads to fewer audiences. This is also likely to lead to a re-prioritisation of the funding that’s still available, which means access and outreach activities are likely to be seen as too expensive, and that Deaf and disabled audiences, regional audiences, and other marginalised audiences are likely to miss out.

Addressing this may include:

  • Funding priorities and programs that celebrate, support and advance all types of arts, creative and cultural activity in all parts of the State.
  • Reviewing current funding programs to align investment more evenly, with a focus on rural, regional and outer-suburban areas of South Australia alongside Adelaide CBD.
  • Ensuring arts activities cater to the breadth of South Australian audiences (not just those who can afford to access the arts on plush velvet arts centre seats).
  • Subsidising ticket prices for diverse and marginalised groups.
  • Adjusting the annual schedule of funded arts activity so that the majority of major festivals aren’t on at the same time, ensuring festivals don’t cannibalise each other’s audiences and that local, national and international audiences can access South Australia’s diverse cultural offer all year round.
  • Supporting education, outreach and marketing activities for S2M organisations, recognising that the S2M sector does a lot of the work in this area while the traditional audiences of the major organisations are (literally) dying out.

Industry

Participants at the Town Hall Meeting in Adelaide also called for the new SA Arts Plan to capture a holistic vision of the value of the arts and for the State Government to demonstrate that it “values the arts as a central and essential part of South Australian life.”

“The arts enlarge life,” the Liberal’s Arts Policy from 1993 is quoted at the start of the State’s most recent Arts Plan (ARTS+ 2000-2005), “They enrich, instruct, uplift and inspire. The arts are central to the cultural, social, economic and political development of South Australia – and the creativity which they generate is critical to our future.”

“Strengthening investment in the arts will see greater return to our state,” AICSA notes in Creative South Australia: A Vision for the Arts, “The arts can play a central role in building and sustaining the South Australian economy of the future.”

Addressing this may include:

  • Ensuring the new SA Arts Plan is a living document that unlocks investment and effects change.
  • Implementing a plan to reinstate (and increase) the State Government’s previous level of investment in the arts, in order to ensure to provide a sustainable base on which sector can thrive and grow.
  • Re-investing in indexation or growth increases in order to maintain the value and impact of arts funding.
  • Supporting local training institutions to provide high-quality training for arts practitioners.
  • Providing opportunities for artists and arts-workers to participate in affordable and relevant opportunities for professional development, peer-led support and mentorships at every stage of their creative endeavours, with funding priorities and programs recognising that there are many pathways for artists, and that ‘excellence’ is not necessarily defined by a full time arts career within a major arts organisation.
  • Recognising the opportunities but also the challenges that digital technologies present in terms of making and delivering work, marketing and communication, community-building, access and evaluation – matched by a recognising the cost of digital programming on organisations who have little or no history in the digital space, who need support with the skills, financial and resource costs of working in digital technologies.
  • Branding South Australia as an arts destination second to none, including increasing leverage and visibility of Adelaide’s status as a UNESCO City of Music (based on the sector development model adopted by the Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature). 

Embedding Arts and Culture into everyday life

South Australia’s diverse communities are still not reflected in our arts and cultural organisations or creative practice. The arts sector has the opportunity to lead the way, but we need strategies and initiatives to address diversity, representation and universal access at all levels – from our staff and Boards, memberships, participants and artists, to the stories we tell and how we tell them. 

Addressing this may include:

Ecology

An investment in innovation

Governments are often tempted to focus on the glossy, high-ticket items on the arts sector spectrum. But the State’s independent artists and S2M organisations (within and beyond ArtsSA’s G20 cohort) are the real powerhouses of innovation, experimentation and audience development.

“Individual artists and small-to-medium and independent companies are forced to endlessly justify their existence,” SA’s Ben Brooker wrote in Artshub last year, “[but] it is these organisations that are most likely to be doing the heavy lifting of both artistic innovation and cultural diversity.”

“It’s often argued that the funds quarantined to the Major Performing Arts are justified by audience development,” wrote Esther Anatolitis from the National Association of Visual Arts. “Not so. That’s debunked by the massive audiences of the small-to-mediums.”

Statistics are available to back up these claims. S2M audiences are bigger than those of their bigger, better-funded counterparts, attracting 9.4 million people nationally compared to the 3.3 million served by the majors. Furthermore, S2M audiences are growing, while audiences at the bigger end of town are barely holding still. And funding to the S2M sector goes further too (reaching more than double the audiences on less than half the funds on a national scale, with Australia Council funding to S2M organisations equating to a subsidy of $5.68 per person compared to the major’s $33.06). Put simply, investment in S2M organisations gives Governments more bang for their buck.

Audience reach and value for money aside, our major arts venues, festivals and theatre companies also have a lot to learn from the S2M sector in terms of programming, diversity and access. This includes broader representation of South Australian stories and cultural heritage, as well as better modelling of access and inclusion at all levels – including board members, artists and performers, not just audiences.

The impact and influence of S2M organisations that support artists at the beginning of their careers can also be measured across the wider sector, particularly those organisations who operate as incubators for innovative programming models and artist profiling.

Addressing this may include:

  • Funding priorities and programs that support a diverse, thriving and multi-faceted sector, and don’t just focus on ArtsSA’s G20 cohort.
  • Increasing support for S2M companies (and supporting more of them) to address the current funding imbalance between the S2M and major organisations.
  • Providing multi-year funding opportunities that allow S2M organisations to plan ahead (not year-by-year funding).
  • Providing incentives for businesses and philanthropists to support S2M arts organisations.

An investment in artists

“Real arts funding has been in decline for years,” Tim Lloyd noted this year in an Advertiser opinion column, “and the rapidly growing costs of the established arts have made life more difficult for artists.”

“We need to see a focus on developing careers in the arts,” SA Premier Steven Marshall recently agreed. “Often we forget the artists except on opening night; often we forget they have to eat, they have to live. I don’t think we put enough effort into developing sustainable long-term careers for artists. It’s a tough life.”

“The future of contemporary global artistic practice in South Australia relies not only on infrastructure, festivals and arts centres, but on supporting artists and the development of their practices,” Kovatseff said last year when 2018 State Budget cuts first threatened the viability of the sector.

Addressing this may include

  • Funding priorities and programs that ensure South Australian artists and arts organisations are not only able to continue to make work, but to make a living doing so.
  • Dedicated funding and support to ensure all of South Australia’s stories are able to be told (particularly those whose voices have traditionally been hidden or marginalised), including the continuation of the Richard Llewellyn Arts and Disability Trust, the introduction of similarly targeted programs for other marginalised communities, and associated awareness raising and logistical activity to encourage and support people to apply by identifying and removing the barriers that prevent them from doing so.
  • Increasing grants for artists to support sustainable careers, including making a long-term commitment to the additional $1million in annual funding promised for independent artists beyond the 2019 pilot period.
  • Adjusting the annual schedule of funded arts activity so that the majority of major festivals aren’t on at the same time, ensuring local artists have access to employment and showcase opportunities all year round.

An investment in infrastructure

Affordable and appropriate cultural infrastructure encourages participation and engagement, adds to a sense of place and belonging, and enhances the social and economic life of the State.

Governments often measure their legacy in bricks and mortar. Everyone wants the shiny new thing. But a more strategic (and cost-effective) approach would be to make sure that South Australia’s existing arts infrastructure is maintained and expanded. 

Addressing this may include:

  • One-off investment in State-owned or -managed arts facilities to ensure they are accessible and fit for purpose.
  • Ongoing funding program for small capital or improvement works for professional and/or volunteer-run arts facilities, to ensure all South Australian communities are able to access safe, inclusive and accessible spaces to rehearse, perform or exhibit.
  • Investing and activating a diverse range of creative spaces and places (both physical and virtual) in response to the trend in audiences to become more active participants or co-collaborators (while ensuring these new, more flexible venue alternatives remain accessible).

Have your say on the arts in SA

Until 12 April 2019, you can have your say on the future of the Arts, Cultural and Creative sectors in South Australia via the YourSay SA website. Feel free to copy or adapt any of the above points or recommendations into your own response.

Some issues and themes you may choose to consider:

  1. AMBITION: – What three or four words or phrases resonate with you that describe or imagine the future of the arts industries in South Australia?
  2. FIRST NATIONS ARTS AND CULTURE: – How do we reinforce existing stories, or tell a new story about first nations’ arts and culture – about the past and our journey together into the future? What is that story for you?
  3. PRIORITY AREAS AND OUTCOMES: – What are priority areas for you?What should we do differently to grow and drive increased sustainability across the arts in South Australia? How do you simply and briefly define SA’s role in the Australian arts sector?  What are some opportunities in the future?
  4. GOVERNMENT AND GOVERNANCE: – What is the role of government (funding, advocate, investor, regulator, facilitator)? How should it achieve the objectives of this role(s)?
  5. AUDIENCE AND ACCESS: – What are some of the key issues and opportunities for South Australia across the following areas: • Diversity • Audience engagement • Rural and remote community participation and access • Corporate participation and support • Philanthropic support and investment for social impact?
  6. INDUSTRY AND INNOVATION: – What can be done through the arts sector to: • cultivate skills including entrepreneurial and innovation across business and industry • increase tourism • harness the opportunities of digital technology • enhance creative spaces and places • increase the importance and role of the creative industries in driving the economy • establish an industry and “point of difference” for South Australia?
  7. EMBEDDING ARTS AND CULTURE: – We talk about “integration and embedding the arts across government and into everyday life” – what do you see as the main opportunities and challenges to such pathways?
  8. ECOLOGY: – Any “ecology” has many parts that are interdependent or may rely on each other for survival, growth and increased sustainability. What are some key issues of the South Australian arts and cultural ecology that could be strengthened to increase overall vibrancy and sustainability?What are the “disrupters” that will emerge and may impact a future ecology? Some components of an arts ecology may include the following segments: • Education • Emerging artists • Mid-career artists • Established artists • Small to medium companies • Larger companies • Venues and other infrastructure • Collecting institutions, museums and galleries • Festivals.
  9. FINAL THOUGHTS: – What are the three key things you wish to happen from this Plan?

You can either respond to some of these themes and question, or simply share your own ideas and ‘arts story’. Join in the discussion on YourSay SA.

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