In defence of the Australia Council

In defence of the Australia CouncilA recent call for an overhaul of the Australia Council misses the real culprit. If Australian cultural policy is in disarray, it is not the Australia Council that is at fault; it is the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

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Arts advocacy campaign case studies and good practice

The International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA) has released National arts advocacy campaigns: overview of case studies and good practice, which explores arts advocacy campaigns run by major government arts support agencies such as Arts Council England and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The report focusses on advocacy campaigns that promote appreciation and engagement in the arts among the general population –  not so much ‘lobbying’ campaigns that target government or politicians.

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Australia’s creative revolution

A dramatic rise in Australians’ creative engagement has changed the landscape of Australian culture and demands a new vision for cultural policies.

While wars on terror have raged and financial systems have collapsed, a revolution has been taking place in Australian culture. Between 2001 and 2007, the number of Australian adults undertakinig cultural work rose by 1.2 million people. That’s some increase: 52 percent, or nearly six times the growth in the population.

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Compendium of data on artists’ work and employment in Australia

Data on the working lives of Australian artists has been combined into a comprehensive analytical report that looks at trends in the artist labour market going back to the ‘80s.

The analysis tells the remarkable story of a structural shift that occurred in the Australian arts sector in the first decade of the new millennium: an extraordinary increase in creative arts participation rates in the adult population coupled with a ‘crunch’ in professional artists’ employment.

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Artists’ work, incomes, tax and social security research

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and the Australia Council have released research reports on artists’ employment, professional practice, and tax and social security issues that I worked on in 2009.

The research explored the nature of professional artists’ working lives and trends in the Australian artist labour market as a basis for policy development.

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Creativity and arts policy

Has [creativity] become yet another specious item of jargon?

This question, posed by Negus and Pickering’s article creativity and cultural production (International Journal of Cultural Policy volume 6 number 2, 2000) was a key inspiration for my work on creativity. The end point of my creativity research, which was conducted in collaboration with Taryn Bloom, is summarised in Creatvitiy and arts policy, published in the Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, volume 34, number 2, 2004:

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International networks and arts policy research

There is a growth of networks in the cultural policy arena. Many of these networks have been formed to share information and to engage in comparative documentation and research. The International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA) is one such network, established with aims of consolidating the collective knowledge of arts councils and culture agencies, adding value to that knowledge, and improving the management and sharing of information on arts and cultural policy. Continue reading

Monolithic cultural policy

When national governments enter into the realm of cultural policy, tensions are inevitable as the monolith of nation clashes with a pluralism of cultures. Eager to recruit culture for their own benefit, governments through history have proved adept at supporting cultures agreeable to them, but have been less disposed toward cultures they view as radical, different, or threatening. There are therefore good reasons to be critical when considering national cultural policies, even those of seemingly benign governments: whose cultures are being supported and why? Whose cultures are being ignored or suppressed and why?

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Independence of government arts funding

IFACCA has released a research report I wrote on the arm’s length principle and the independence of arts support.

There are three essential ingredients to the paper:

  • A literature review of the issues, the pros and cons of having a short arm and a long arm
  • A review of models of arts policy and the development of a model to make the topic manageable. View the model here.
  • Release of never-seen-before statistics from IFACCA, which are really interesting, although sadly a little out of date. It would be great to get some more recent data.

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Creativity, health and arts advocacy

This paper, written with Taryn Bloom and published in the International Journal of Cultural Policy, volume 10, number 2, 2004, builds on the ideas outlined in Advocating Creativity. The themes explored in the paper are:
1.    The links between artistic creativity and therapeutic benefit.
2.    Arts advocacy, or more specifically arguing for government support of the arts.
3.    Strategic issues surrounding arts advocacy.

As with our previous research, this paper challenges the dominant view that creativity is about new ideas (the ‘invention-cognition’ view of creativity). The paper argues that this view is too narrow to be representative of artistic creativity, as it downplays emotions and traditions that are integral to a full understanding of artistic creativity. The paper pursues what it means to recognise that artistic creativity involves emotions, or ‘affect’ by reviewing evidence from the art therapy literature.

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Advocating Creativity

This paper, written with Taryn Bloom and published in the International Journal of Cultural Policy, volume 7, number 3, 2001, brings together three aspects of my research at the time:

  1. The links between art and creativity
  2. Arts advocacy, or more specifically arguing for government support of the arts
  3. The economics of the arts

The paper examines how the concept of creativity is used by to advocating government expenditure on the arts. It  paraphrases the main creativity argument used by arts advocates – that, through encouraging creativity, the arts encourage innovation and economic growth. It then critically examines the argument, first by clarifying what creativity is and how it relates to art, then by evaluating the argument against theory and evidence from Psychology and Economics. The argument is found to be weakened both by a lack of ‘hard’ evidence and by the way in which it is used by arts advocates. The analysis suggests ways in which arts advocates can improve the persuasiveness of their creativity arguments and provides insights into the design and delivery of arts policies.

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Arts and cultural policy models

While I was at IFACCA, Sarah Gardner and I developed a model of arts policy that I find useful to keep in the back of my mind when thinking about the big policy issues.

We developed it so we could get our heads around the issue of arm’s length funding and the independence of arts support, although the model can be used in all sorts of ways when thinking about arts policy. The model appeared in the IFACCA D’Art research report The Independence of Government Arts Funding: A Review, and builds on a review of a range of policy models that I won’t reproduce here, but which can be read in the paper. The most famous of these models is Chartrand and McCaughey’s facilitator-patron-architect-engineer model, but as the review in the D’Art report shows, there are a number of other approaches to modelling the arts policy ecology.

The models suggests that the ‘machinery’ of cultural policy can be thought of as involving a mixture of five key elements:

  1. Domains, fields or policy areas that are considered “cultural” (eg. visual arts, performing arts, broadcasting, film);
  2. Instruments (eg. subsidy, tax incentives, ownership);
  3. Institutional structures (eg. ministry, department, arms length agency);
  4. Decision making processes (eg. peer review, bureaucratic decree); and
  5. Rules and customs that determine the interaction of the above elements.

I have adapted the model further into the diagram below (click to view full image).

Five element model cultural policy

Using economic impact studies in arts and cultural advocacy



‘Economic’ impact studies have been popular in arts and cultural advocacy. Yet the application is inappropriate. ‘Economic’ impact studies are not designed for the purposes of advocacy. In the case of art and culture, they are more likely to be self-defeating. They also distract attention and resources away from the articulation of better advocacy arguments. Economists have warned against the use of ‘economic’ impact studies for advocacy, but their efforts have been only partly successful. This paper summarises the case against using ‘economic’ impacts for advocacy, concentrating on commonsense issues for easy digestion by non-economists.

Economic’ impact studies in arts and cultural advocacy: a cautionary note>
Media International Australia Incorporating Culture and Policy, no.98 (February), 2001

About this paper

This paper extends the arguments in Discussion Paper: The Economic Benefits of Art. Many thanks to the publishers, who have kindly allowed the paper to be reproduced here.
Go to the Media International Australia home page

Living art: artists between making art and making a living

In this paper, I helped PhD candidate Merijn Rengers with his research into the artist labour market. The paper was published in 2000 in the Australian Bulletin of Labour, volume 26 number 4, and as part of Merijn’s final thesis.

The paper builds on the work-preference model of artists’ labour supply. The model is summarised, theories of multiple job-holding are investigated and an alternative graphical representation is introduced. After some simple alterations, the model is applied to data on Australian artists. Artists are found to respond to wage rates in both the arts and non-arts labour markets. Further refinements to the model and research methodologies are discussed.

Living art: artists between making art and making a living>
With Merijn Rengers, Australian Bulletin of Labour, 26 (4), pp. 325-354, 2000