Following on from yesterday’s post where i boldly declared that “interaction with funding bodies actively destroys enabling mechanisms” several people responded to what i thought was pretty much a throw away point. It was my quick and dirty way to frame the debate. They either asked about or noted that they’d appreciated the explicit distinction i’d made between an “enabler” and “programmer” when it comes to arts policies and arts organisations.
As the comments accumulated, particularly over on Facebook, I realised that this “enabling” v. “programming” distinction is one i’ve used in my head for a while. I’ve probably kind of grazed past it in writing but never really stopped to take the time to articulate it. So, just for fun, this morning i sat down and did a little lazy table that makes a distinction between how i see an enabler differing from a programmer. This list is by no means definitive. It’s not even particularly thought through given i knocked it up an hour ago. Consider it my whiteboard scrawl, not my thesis — but it’s the basis of a discussion i’d be keen to be part of.
I believe we need more enablers or more organisations that behave that way. The overwhelming majority of funding and resources goes towards Programming and that we need to invest a lot more Enabling, but it’s also worth making one additional point: reality is most organisations do, in fact, have some qualities of both. This isn’t a binary thing but i think if you take this frame in mind you can see where resources cluster in relation to the spectrum.
So with that in mind, should you find this the slightest bit interesting i actually did you all a bloody table…
|Relationship to the creative practitioner||The practitioner is independent and autonomous. The enabler is primarily a service provider who works for the creative practitioner – designed to do things they cannot do themselves. Endeavours to be responsive to their needs and limitations.||More likely to “employ”, engage, hire, or direct a creative practitioner. The artist, at some level, is a means of filling the organisation’s need for a program.|
|Certainty||A low degree of certainty, security, and predictability is traded off against the ability to do more things, take more risks, and support more people and experiment with more audiences.||A high degree of certainty, security of funding and resources traded off against a more limited capacity for risk, experimentation, and failure.|
|Assumption about creative practice||That it is relatively decentralised. That it comes from a very diverse range of independent practitioners, with a diverse range of qualities, needs, and opportunities and is made for a diversity of audiences.||That is relatively centralised. That there are a smaller number of higher quality artists whose works can be channelled, promoted, sold or exposed to a relatively fixed/ predictable series of audiences.|
|Identity||That projects, artists and programs are primarily presented with their identity (and not the brand of the enabling organisation) at the forefront. That this is important in building the capacity of their practice.||The programming entity tends to subsume the identity of individual artists, events, programs and initiatives under its “brand” eg the venue, the company, or the festival, etc|
|Timeliness||Accumulates smaller activities and grows them over a longer period of time. Starts with today, tomorrow the next day and builds a cumulative capacity of projects individually and collectively.||Plans well ahead and at a larger scale. Does individual activities, sequentially or in parallel but usually for fixed period of time before moving on to a new one.|
|Audience||Seeks to connect an individual project or artist with the appropriate audiences not the organisation’s fixed one. A diversity of audiences to match its portfolio of approaches. Connecting audiences and discovering new ones results from engaging with a breadth of projects.||Usually stems from a fixed idea of who the market, the demographic or the audience is. The relationship to the fixed audience (eg. The subscriber, the return visitor) is actually the key value the programming entity holds. The brand positioning of the organisation determines the market and content.|
|Approach to “quality”||More likely to involve a “portfolio of risks” where are a variety of things of different standards, experience, and potential are allowed to co-exist. A spectrum of “qualities” as opposed to fixed idea of quality.||Primarily emphasises “quality control” where the bar to entry is high or matches the perceptions of its relatively fixed sense of who its audience, constituencies and stakeholders are.|
|Risk||Focuses on upside risks and opportunities of doing something. Sees the dangers of not doing something are more important than the fear of doing the wrong thing.||Is driven more of fear of the dangers of downside risk. Risk averse and afraid of doing the wrong thing.|
|Genre boundaries||Less likely to be defined by boundaries of genres and artforms – more likely to be defined by areas where practical needs intersect (eg. Creative people who need empty space, or legal advice, or some other area of benefit).||More likely to be defined by traditional boundaries of genres, artfroms, and areas of practice.|
|Infrastructure||Assumes that a variety of infrastructures are required to achieve a range of ends. Looks for the possibilities within a range of formal and informal, physical and virtual infrastructures – is willing to vary those as required.||Often tied to infrastructure – a theatre, a venue, a hall, a gallery, a program that needs to be filled, relationships with services providers (eg. caterers). The logic of filling the fixed infrastructure drives may creative and programming decisions.|
|Use of resources||Seeks to do a lot within the limitations of any available set of resources. Seeks to be adaptable and flexible in response to resource constraints.||Seeks to attain the resources required to do things “properly”, “professionally” or to a fixed standard. Reluctant to compromise on “quality” and places more emphasis on seeking appropriate resources than adapting to available ones.|
|Legitimacy and authority||Has a low (but not zero) capacity to confer legitimacy on a project or artist through a relationship||Has a high capacity to confer legitimacy or authority on an artist|
|Financial arrangements||Usually not in an position to take a great financial risk of investment in an individual project so must compensate by providing practical support of other kinds||Can, in some cases, invest considerable finances in individual shows or projects. Can lead to higher quality outcomes but more risk averse programming or greater consequences of failure.|
|Allocation of Resources||Resources often tend to remain outside the enabler — they flow directly to, or are brokered directly on behalf of the artists and creative projects. They are less likely to pass through the enabler’s books and less likely to be cash. Can be harder to quantify but more efficient.||Resources are more likely to pool within the programming organisation in the form of overheads, salaries, facilities and other costs. More likely to be quantifiable and show up on the books of the programming organisation but less likely to be efficiently delivered to the artists.|
|Uncertainty||Embraces uncertainty as fertile ground for possibility.||Treats it more as a series of risks to the status quo|
Tags: Arts Funding · Arts NSW · australia council · cultural policy · Decentralisation of cultural practice · Disintermediation · Docklands spaces · Enabling · Programming · Renew Australia · Renew Newcastle34 Comments