marcus westbury

my life. on the internets.

marcus westbury header image 2

2020 Summit call up. Any ideas?

April 11th, 2008 by marcus

2020 logo

One of those strange days.

Until early this afternoon I was not one of the people attending next weekend’s 2020 summit in Canberra. I took a 3 week writing sabbatical back in early March and dropped mostly out of communication with the world. When i came back to civilisation i discovered that the nomination process for the summit had mostly been and gone. I returned with a couple of days to spare, took a quick look at the nomination form – which i remember (perhaps unfairly) as being heavy in its emphasis on qualifications and light on experience or ideas – and decided to pass on the grounds that I probably wasn’t the sort of person that they would be looking for.

I guess I also wasn’t sure that I was particularly comfortable with putting myself forward for a gig like that. I already have a few platforms to get my views out there and that it would probably be (or have been) a better process if people with less of a chance got a look in.

Anyhow… Fast forward a few weeks and a strange chain of events has led to me being given a last minute call up.

To cut a long story short, it turns out there are a few last minute wild cards being given out and I’ve been offered me one.

It was all a bit frantic on the phone today but I assume I’ve been invited me because I’ve got a fairly different perspective from some of those on the original list. There are a lot of great people on the original list but my initial reaction was one of being disappointed with the diversity of it.

It probably doesn’t help when people like me and most everyone i know aren’t really the types to nominate ourselves. Most of the participants are overwhelmingly attached to institutions large and small. While i am sure that most of them will be able to see beyond that the reality is that most of the arts and cultural sector isn’t like that any more and hasn’t been for a long time.

Anyhow, i thought i would throw it open to people to put forward ideas on this site over the next week. I’d be very interested to hear from cultural practioners, punters, artists, media makers, and trouble makers that are working at the coal face if you have any ideas for making a more Creative Australia. I don’t care what form you work in (if any) but I am particularly curious about the practical problems people encounter when working with budgets of 50, 500, or 5000 dollars rather than dealing with turnovers of 5 million.

I would hope that would be something that i could take with me to the summit.

Suggestions please! I will try and take any particularly good ones to the summit with me and some of the less good ones will feed into other things i do. Oh, and try not to dwell on needing more money – it goes without saying.

Similar Posts:

Tags:   66 Comments

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter

Leave A Comment

66 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Luke D Apr 11, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    One of the significant limitations I see with getting less obvious audio(-visual) entertainment seen/performed/booked in this country is the reliance of the venues available on the entertainment to pull in heavy drinking/spending punters in large numbers.
    Sure you can get a grant to develop some new work – but where can you perform it if its not gonna pull in as many punters as deep sexy house deejays do?
    Perhaps venues could apply for subsidies if they book culturally significant entertainment rather than throw-away populist trash music?
    Or is that silly?
    Something that disconnects the venue management’s bottom-line from controlling the entertainment available anyway….

  • 2 lindsay cox Apr 11, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Ive heard rumours about an art ‘dole’. Something like that would be welcomed by many. Thats all at the moment.

  • 3 Christian Mc Apr 11, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Basically instead of piss farting about with supporting the same people year in year out, I’d love to see the Government arts budget aimed a tad more at areas which need more development. A nationally funded Game Arts body with a remit to fund initially small exhibitions, pay for work to be made, do a bit of publicity, bring overseas artists and scholars out, would do a fantastic amount of good, for very little money. Quarter million a year ought to do it. (dreeeeeam, dream dream dream dream….)

  • 4 Trent McCarthy Apr 11, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    thanks for the prompt invitation marcus. if there’s one idea that I’d love to see discussed at kev’s national chinwag, it’s this: in berlin and other places they have this practice of allowing / encouraging derelict public (and sometimes private) spaces to be used by artists – somehow they’ve deregulated the planning system and allowed for lots of grassroots arts activities to happen. the flow on effect is that surrounding areas become safer, more attractive and early career artists get a chance to exhibit / install / perform their work without the overheads of galleries and other venues. the only thing that seems to stand in our way here in australia is local decision-makers, such as councils and public liability concerns. but a national policy of encouraging the reclamation of public spaces, even for temporary periods, by communities and artists in particular, will help achieve other national goals, such as greater social inclusion, public participation, community safety and re-use of resources. so the question becomes, in australia by 2020, could we find a way to open up possibilities for homegrown art activity to occur in this way, rather than continuing to erect beaurecratic obstructions to creative uses of public spaces. it might not be the sort of idea that kev’s after, but i reckon it’s still a good one, and doesn’t cost a cent. so that’s my 2 cents. thanks. t

  • 5 Sam Hoffmann Apr 11, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    The connection between creativity and the environment needs to be made ,and explored more widely. Support for artists working between the lines of community envirnonment and culture.

    A stronger emphasis on University Art students explore regional and remote locations.

    Support creative youth hubs close to suburban Shopping malls , where youths can learn breakdancing , internet and media skills etc.

    Creation of urban night markets which can sustain themselves economically without the hassle of PL.

    More funding for cross cultural exchanges….

    I’ll come up with some.

  • 6 Zane Apr 11, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    three Improbable Futures:

    1. Australia takes its own contemporary culture seriously and establishes a national new work development (post-disciplinary) company with the same direct grant subsidy as the Australian Opera but with only two full time employees who are only ever allowed to be in the job for a maximum of five years (an AD and a GM). The rest of the money would be spent on artists doing stuff all over the place with all kinds of people…(geee..just imagine!..)

    2. Artists exempt from income tax when earning less than $25k a year…

    3. All arts centres in Australia taken away from Government and handed over to community trusts elected every year at an AGM. (Fact: the overwhelming majority of arts centres in Australia are directly run by Governments of one kind or another).

  • 7 Sam Apr 11, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    One word: VIOLENCE.

    Once upon a time, they said that Australia was the most creative place on the planet because we could had blue skies above us and that we could see the horizon. And look what happened… Hills Hoist, blah blah blah.

    Lately, I have come to believe that in order to maximise creativity, there’s a requirement to also ratchet up the possibility of experiencing hell, up close and personal. So, policy makers have to go way beyond the ‘starvation of the artist’ concept.

    But it’s also important to not go too berserk with the dosage of hard-core pain. Too much violence will kill creativity completely. You – our leaders – have to figure out the balance. And that *is* the challenge.

  • 8 David Apr 11, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    hey marcus,

    interesting story on how you got involved. i think there’s a good mix of practitioners and academics involved (plus a couple of critics thrown in for good measure), but the representation of practitioners is fairly high up the arts food chain. i wonder how many of the people on the list are part of the 75% of artist earning less than $30k a year?

    this is what bothers me most. that the lifeblood of the arts survives on the energy, sacrifices and passion of so many people who continually are not recognised (in many ways).

    anyway, enough of the gripe.


    early aesthetic education is a priority. we need to get kids involved in the arts continually to create both an interest and an audience as well as future artists. practically this means lobbying the education system and government for support to provide school based (primary and secondary) and external programs for allowing children to develop their own way of accessing art. this can also continue into adulthood (we need all the audiences we can get). i see this as a fundamental way of shifting the current australian paradigm which offers little interest or respect for the arts.

    creating income tax exemptions (similar to Ireland but with provision for performing artists as well – independent freelance performance makers need the same support as visual artists and writers) would make a difference to many of those earning under the poverty line but more importantly would be a government supported living wage system.

    i know these are not particularly new ideas, but i think they need pushing, exploring and reinforcing (they’re also what i talked about in my (unsuccessful) application to 2020!).

    i hope it goes well.


  • 9 Minski Apr 11, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    I would like to expand on Trent’s comment further. Berlin currently has about 600 registered art galleries. Some of these galleries are temporary spaces provided by Hausgenossenschaft (bit like uncommercial real estates) who allow artists short term free spaces while they find tenants. Such initiatives allow artists in a city that is bursting with creativity an outlet, doesn’t do much for the artists income but a lot for culture. Outside that my first impression of some of the derelict public venues was that there is less bureaucratic intervention into such initiatives making it easier to get things happening. Apparently though this is a false impression because there are officials trying to impose restrictions, however they are largely ignored by some creative sectors. Perhaps its a cultural attitude similar to the way non smoking rules are often ignored by many venues. The point is though that by drawing on successful creative initiatives used in other cities to harness creative energy as well as exploring creative practices that defy bureaucratic rules while still contributing to better and interesting cultural identity you can find ways to develop better creative environments.

  • 10 Minski Apr 11, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    i also think kevin rudds picture on the 2020 website should be a futuristic impression of what he may look like then. perhaps a mohawk and some kind of lycra suit.

  • 11 Seb C Apr 11, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Hey Marcus

    It will be good to have your voice there.

    From my perspective I think there needs to be a clear distinction made between performing arts institutions, venues, an collecting institutions rather than conflating them all under a banner of ‘the arts’.

    Whilst I know a bit about the former two I think the other responses and your own specialist knowledge and opinion cover them well. But I’d like to see you also take on the situation with the collecting institutions – which are underfunded and as a result of this underfunding are not able to do what they are mandated to do – collect, preserve and make available.

    Collecting institutions play a vital role in maintaining the collective memory however unless they are properly resourced they are rely on philanthropic donations and sponsorship in the most part to acquire anything.

    Then, once acquired, current Copyright provisions make it very difficult for them to make the contemporary object, books, films, games etc that they have acquired available to a contemporary audience . . . and you wonder why you find the large museums, galleries, archives, libraries so stuffy?

    A couple of very practical things – if you want future Australians to have access to all the Australian films, videos and games ever produced or exhibited in this country you could force a deposit system. Already every one of these needs to go through the OFLC to get classified – at that stage that media could also be deposited in the NFSA, ACMI etc. Then, say, after a period far shorter than Copyright, those institutions would be permitted to exhibit, transmit or broadcast them. A period far shorter meaning, probably one that does not interfere with the commercial exploitation of that work, but one that also ensures that contemporary audiences can see, use and potentially rework it.

    Likewise a deposit system for products, inventions, anything resulting from a patented process – would greatly increase the repositories of knowledge for future generations.

    Greatly expanded collection funds would allow a far greater diversity of content being collected by our museums and galleries. Remember that there are new generations of curators coming through all the time.

    But most importantly, we need greatly expanded funds and a cohesive strategy for digitisation of the holding present and future of the the large institutions. Digitisation is expensive and when Copyright prevents the organisations doing the digitisation sometimes even from displaying medium resolution images on their own websites, contemporary work rarely gets a look in.

    A ‘creative economy’ in 2020 will require the community to be able to use, reuse and remake the assets held in the treasure troves of the collecting institutions. And that these collecting institutions are given the support and funds to enable them to collect contemporary work made by the community.

  • 12 Shannon Apr 11, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Forgive my cynicism and disinterest in this process. I’ve had no intention of being involved, but it’s good that you are. Pls go forth and stir in yr inimitable way!

    I was recently sent the following info:

    # Richard Gill [ultra-conservative classical music type] is one of only 6 music people selected for the 100 member panel ‘Towards a Creative Australia’ at the Australia 2020 summit.
    # All 6 music representatives are from the classical music sector (accounting for less then 1.5% of all music sales)
    # A husband and wife team from one contemporary classical ensemble account for 2 of the 6 seats

  • 13 John Apr 12, 2008 at 12:10 am

    Four ideas:

    1. Hussle, lobby, bribe, beg Kevin Rudd to take on the Arts Ministry (this is the first trick that Andre Malraux told Philip Adams should be done when Witlam started up in the 1970s; the logic being that the Ministry gets well funded, as a point of ministerial power, but the Prime Minister’s got no time to actually attend to it, so things get done and money moves).

    2. I love Trent’s idea of using arts activity for reviving derelict sites; government owned sites handed over for arts activity. I’ve seen this at work in Taipei; each time an artist does a show, they clear some rubble, paint a wall, do some gardening as an intrinsic part of the creative activity.

    3a. SOME gambling/cigarette/alcohol taxes to go to arts scholarships (from kindergarten to post-doc) and grants.
    3b. Companies (51% Australian owned?) allowed to badge scholarships for higher degrees and TAFE courses. (This would make little ethical difference to the way University’s are run as economic concerns in 21C Aus).

    4. If I was an alien observing Australian culture from outer space, I’d have to report that Australians LOVE nothing more than sitting back and observing spectacular competition (Except, sometimes, the small group in Australia that call themselves the Arts sector). So (gulp), make the actual competitive part of arts grants much more spectacular and Australians will turn their attention to the Arts sector. Arts boards should video stream their board meetings, for example. Collaborative teams get a stipend to go for large grants that involve a week-by-week ladder of progress throughout a series of knock-outs. More Arts based reality TV shows. Arts games shows. Somebody cut Daryl Sommers in half and suspend him in formaldehyde and put him on a Moomba float or hang Rove by meat hooks over Fed Square where kids can whack him like a pinata. (No, i’m not a sports fan, and yes, I can see bile shooting out of your ears as you read this, but I’ve heard the same “nobody cares about the Arts in Australia; give us some money” mantra my entire life and thought I’d suggest something insane). Lock it in Eddie!

  • 14 skepticlawyer Apr 12, 2008 at 6:46 am

    Trent’s suggestion is both serious and superb, run with it.

    Apart from that, the government should stop funding individual artists and the arts… it encourages rent-seeking and produces art with which the market will not engage. Instead, artists who earn a part-time income should not be penalized through high EMTRs (nor should anyone else, but that’s going to be a bit harder to sell).

    Rather than grants based on the approval of a ‘board’, let the market decide, but don’t penalise artists based on market success. Australia is a small market. If an artist can make enough to survive for half the year, but needs to flip burgers for the other half, then the state needs to suck it up rather than creating artificial divisions between the ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ poor.

  • 15 mitchell Apr 12, 2008 at 10:58 am

    First, it’s great you got the gig. From the look of the panel your perspective is sorely needed. Previous ideas are spot on – supporting art “in the cracks” but also funding big post-disciplinary projects. And art, community and sustainability are where it’s at. My 2 cents: a creative economy is also about digital culture and the crossovers between art practice and academic research, software, games, web2.0, etc. Let’s support indie / boutique / experimental games studios and help build this market. How do we use new models of creation & distribution to foster sustainable creative culture? This isn’t about Art, it’s about an economy based on something other than ripping stuff out of the ground and shipping it OS.

  • 16 Mel Apr 12, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    I like the suggestions that deal with the economic realities of making art and kulcha, and encourage entrepreneurship while discouraging bureaucracy. While I can see that the grant/subsidy system does help get lots of ace stuff out there, it always has a lot of opposition from the public and the market, who can get confronted with very experimental or hard-to-sell (or hard-to-‘sell’) works, and it’s a bureaucratic headache for artists themselves, who have to jump through heaps of hoops and run the gauntlet of whatever art the board thinks is “worthy” today.

    The arts dole, or tax breaks for low-income artists, seem like ways to help artists develop their own robust practices while acknowledging that it’s unrealistic to expect the market alone to support art. “Pop-up” arts spaces are getting a lot of currency lately, so perhaps the government should stump up for public liability insurance, as this is often a financial impediment to doing interesting stuff.

    Also, and I’m not sure if this will be discussed in your program, but if Shannon’s right there seems to be an egregious lack of non-classical music up for discussion, so perhaps it’s worthwhile bringing up the problems the live music sector has had all over the country with venue closures and noise complaints from bourgie dickheads. There are some state programs that deal with this issue in different ways, but it would be nice to have a national approach to fostering Australian live music.

  • 17 marcus Apr 12, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    I was going to respond to posts individually but have been daunted a bit by the speed and volume of them. Instead, i might try and hammer a larger response together later in the week.

    A lot of these posts confirm much about the direction that i was already going in – you guys should read the piece i wrote for Griffith REVIEW that i mentioned above when it comes out. It addresses many of the themes flagged here explicitly.

    I think what is coming together is a very strong argument for a process that i would almost describe as a kind of cultural microeconomic reform (except that would out me as a some time economics nerd and make me look like a bit of a dick) or perhaps “micro cultural reform”. Essentially the idea is to look at the full spectrum of creative issues and find ways not just to fund some and not others but to make it far easier and more efficient for people to take risks and initiate them.

    Essentially the aim would be to go through the full comprehensive spectrum of incentives and disincentives to creativity and make it easier for people to create things, to display distribute and perform them and easier for those things to find viable audiences and markets after they are created. It’s almost the exact opposite of the hierarchical, institutional driven approach to cultural investment that has dominated Australia since Whitlam.

    Such an agenda can encompass everything from property taxation, through to public liability, to income tax, to OH+S issues, to copyright law. All of those have been set up around agendas other than cultural ones and the net result is a situation where enormous amounts of capital and/or professional expertise is now required to achieve the most basic of tasks.

    Unlike Helen, I do strongly support public investment in the arts but i believe it works best where it is competitive, dynamic and fluid. Smaller amounts spread around in a much wider way so as to encourage initiative and risk taking rather than pooling in the administrative costs of a handful of extremely large and very risk averse organisations that create and produce very little.

    As i said, a more detailed response as the discussion progresses.

  • 18 melzi Apr 12, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    this is a response to skepticlawyer’s comment re: funding equated to market success. some creative process and output and artistic venture doesn’t necessarily form part of a market and should no be forced to do so. the contribution to artistic and (sub) cultural communities is driven by places and spaces to create, think, make, talk, engage and not to sell (out).

  • 19 Julian K Apr 12, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Hi marcus – re 2020 nominations. Informally I know of a heap of good, switched-on people who were nominated. None were selected. Anecdotal evidence suggests the issue was at the selection end, not the nomination end. It is incredibly good news that you will be in there – thank christ. From my perspective, the 2020 list is a mixture of the conservative establishment and stakeholders who would seek to further shore up the status quo, sprinkled with some household names who may, or may not, have anything to say about the future of the arts in Australia. Innovation comes from the scenes in the cracks and the edges – it disrupts and threatens the mainstream. The lockout by the classical music sector is astonishing and is either a sign of incompetence or corruption. That there is not one representative from the contemporary music sector (a much cited aspect of the govt’s policy) is unthinkable.

    That there are next to no experts on digital content and the arts in technologised contexts is unthinkable. I predict there will be a lot of barrow pushing on behalf of status quo organizations such as the major performing arts companies – the most expensive covers bands in the world (as you quite rightly put it). Looking at the ( underpowered) slides for the summit (I have a copy if anyone is interested), 5 out of the 7 focus questions are around innovation and digital content. There are major infrastructure problems such as an uncompetitive broadband network (with shitful service in regional areas) and a lack of policy connection between the rhetoric of ‘digital content’ and the arts.

    On Seb’s points in relation to copyright and digital collections, perhaps the government should facilitate the work of Creative Commons Australia and its relationships with Australian copyright organisations so that more workable content licensing systems can be deployed which align with the needs of collecting institutions. Status quo institutions APRA seems to want to make this ‘harmonisation’ very difficult

    One of the biggest impediments to an improved situation for artists is affordable venue infrastructure or funded organizations which facilitate the presentation of work. A huge slab of available arts $ go into the major performing arts sector – its an uncritical allocation based on an assumption that this is ‘the done thing’. If only independent artists could be salaried for life on the same basis. I guess what I’m saying here is that a huge amount of arts funding in Australia is allocation on the basis of untested value judgments. We’re here debating the arts in Australia, but how many of us hold subscriptions to the Opera?

    If we have a similar commitment to infrastructure which supported independent artists then it would transform the arts in this country. Such a funding commitment could be allocated to small to medium galleries, venues and artist-run centres, with a layer of funding for festivals and touring. It is within this layer of practice that innovative new work is created not inside monolithic arts organizations. The irony is that the lions share of funding goes to the sector most able to earn income.

    One of the biggest paradigm shifts that government needs to make is to see the arts something than the major performing arts sector (the heritage arts) and to understand that this is not the pinnacle of achievement for most artists. In fact the major performing arts sector might more rightly be seen as an expensive niche within the entertainment sector. If governments are really serious about supporting the arts in Australia, they would spend some time understanding what is actually happening out there. I think the level of awareness at government level is extremely low. I’d like to see a focus group come of this thing which would seriously examine the working realities of the independent artist and make recommendations on policy which would assist the independent arts sector. They’ve had major performing arts enquiries, orchestra enquiries, and a small to medium sector enquiry (which limits itself to the ozco artform board key org part of the sector), but nothing which addresses the conditions for the majority of working artists in this country.

    On a practical note, I’d like the government to acknowledge that the contemporary music field is a site for the production of art and to abandon this naïve assumption that contemporary music is all about being commercial and making money. How many people do we know who got rich from playing in bands? Let’s just do a simple reality check on these assumptions. On this note, we need better programs of assistance delivered to contemporary musicians through the existing state based networks such as MusicNSW, Q-Music, WAMI etc… in order to help them develop and become more effective independent producers. There is quite a lot of stuff happening in this network, but it is, on the whole, poorly funded. Connecting these programs to a more robust venue network (facilitated through improvements to regulatory frameworks and access to venue based funding).

    Finally, and this is a big one. I think there should be a seriously big project to create affordable housing for artists in major urban centres. Most independent artists are being forced out of the major cities due to the sheer cost of living. Eventually this will leave them art free zones. Sydney has experienced a significant exodus in the past 10 years. I’m in Brisbane at the moment and its going the same way. I’m pretty sure Melbourne has similar problems. If arts precincts could be created which included rent controlled residential arrangements, then this would create amazing arts precincts in our cities. The precincts could also contain a network of artist run galleries, venues etc… Now I’m dreaming. This would require close co-operation between federal and state governments, but if we can build masses of housing commission accommodation why can’t we extend that thinking to low cost artist housing?

  • 20 Julian K Apr 12, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Here are the summit focus questions for those who might be interested:

    1. What role does government have in supporting traditional art forms, and in promoting innovation?
    2. How can the cultural sector better balance the desire for creative output with the intrinsic worth of the artistic process?
    3. How can we foster a population with wide-ranging intellectual and creative curiosity?
    4. What forms of innovation are critical to maximise outcomes for the community and the economy?
    5. What can Australia do to encourage experimentation, innovation and creative thinking in a changing environment?
    6. What skills does Australia need in emerging creative industries (for example, those which draw heavily on digital content)?
    7. What benefits can new communication technology provide for arts and cultural organisations?


    Now a reality check, here are two excerpts from interviews, which provide some window into the views of Richard Gill – one of the music ‘experts’ for 2020

    “THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF CLASSICAL MUSIC”, January 24, 2006 – ABC Classic FM (Interview subjects: Richard Gill, Leo Schofield, Kim Walker, John Crawford). Margaret Throsby – presenter.

    CRAWFORD: “Young people don’t know classical music… Teachers of music don’t know classical music…”

    GILL: “The scary thing about John’s remark is that you’ve got teachers of music out there who don’t know what classical music is teaching music…that’s really scary, but it’s not scary in as much as they don’t now what CLASSICAL MUSIC is, they actually don’t know what MUSIC is…. And they don’t know what music can do or how music functions. And what you actually have is a group of people out there teaching children POP SONGS! Now, that has NOTHING to do with culture! That has NOTHING to do with the way you comprehend civilisation! It has nothing to do with the way in which you understand Music and until this country realises that it is imperative for children to have access to the highest quality teaching of music, we will continually have these lovely shows with you, Margaret, where we talk about things being in crisis. And I’ve being saying it for years, and I will say it ‘til the day I die, that unless we reform the way we teach we are in crisis”

    THROSBY: “Leo, do you think there’s a ‘canon’, if that’s the right word, of important music that children should be taught?”

    SCHOFIELD: “I don’t know that it needs to be that prescriptive, Margaret, but I do think the teaching of music and certainly participating in music performance… is invaluable in any child’s education… I think give to them a sense of music…. And I don’t mean this sort of dumbed-down sense that people … some teachers want to teach them Hip-Hop and claim that it’s all poetry and that’s.. that’s kind of nonsense.. It’s really bad music and bad poetry most of the time, but I think there are some composers that it’s useful for them to learn, Bach and others….”

    THROSBY: “Well somewhere along the line, classical music becomes uncool…”

    GILL: Margaret, I wanna say thank God for Classic Fm.. because I think there is a terrible danger, that we start to accommodate everybody and it becomes the ‘land of bland’…. And this came home to me in spades when I read the universities admissions guide the other day… What is being taught at a university in the name of a tertiary subject is UTTERLY FRIGHTENING.. what you can go to university to do that should really only take you 5 minutes in a library, has suddenly become a 4 year course, and I say Things like classic FM, I say ‘thank god’ that we do have a station, which IS selective… and it does say there IS a higher life.


    SUNDAY ARTS: ABC TV, 20/5/2007 (Virginia Trioli interviews Rchard Gill)

    VIRGINIA TRIOLI: “As well as the dumbing down, though, you’ve been quite critical of aspects of music education, particularly in this country, what are your concerns?”

    RICHARD GILL: “I’m concerned that children are being given a diet of music that doesn’t challenge them. There’s a cult, if you like, or an ethos out there that says it’s really important for people to, for children, to have lots of pop music and music of their own time. I’m not debating that. That’s fine. But don’t think that it starts and stops there. Because with a lot of that music, there is nothing really to learn. There’s nothing of lasting interest, there’s nothing which actually develops the ear, nothing which develops the mind, nothing which develops the brain. It’s wrong to think that by giving children a constant diet of popular music, you’re giving them a musical education. Look, would you give them Mars Bars on a daily basis and say they’re getting all their vitamins?”

    So, this gives us an insight into the appalingly ignorant views of some who will be in the room with you (did they invite keith windshuttle and paddy mcguiness too?). Marcus, please do us all a favour and heckle this guy when he inevitably does one of these ultra-conservative rants.

  • 21 Ben Eltham Apr 12, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    I like Zane’s idea of a national new work body. The very idea of this would no doubt call into question the erosion of the Australia Council away from its original core mission of supporting new Australian work.

    I think “micro cultural reform” is a very interesting idea and one which may well appeall to people like Lindsay Tanner and Kevin Rudd if they ever get to hear about it. I think, however, we are still far too embroiled in the coils of the culture wars to be able to argue this point sensibly … after all, many still don’t believer “creativity” in itself is a public good, as Skeptic Lawyer’s comments hint at. As long asa we still feel the need to argue about the merits of various artforms and the mantra of “excellence”, it’s going to be hard to interpret the arts in terms of a utlitarian / efficiency perspective.

    And if you advance the micro-ecnomic reform argument marcus, what’s the stop the Productivity Commission types pointing out it’s all misguided “industry policy” (eg. industry policy”)??

    A further point I’d make is that many of the most-commonly advanced reasons for supporting the arts are neither backed by evidence or intellectually coherent. Local government cultural policy tends to be defined by rhetorics of “economic impact” and “boosterism.” The state governments vary in their support from luke-warm (NSW) to outwardly enthusiastic (Victoria) but without of policy rigour beyond the glossy brochures and ribbon cutting. The Australia Council, as you know Marcus, has some deep structural flaws (especially the way the Major Performing Arts functions as a fiscally-quarantined lock box).

    So your idea of a national creativity audit has a lot of merit. Let’s hope you get some chance to advance it between the snide discussions about why Australian film is not popular.

  • 22 Mr Astley Apr 12, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    Is it too late to organise a Rickrolling flash mob for the beginning of the summit? Or maybe you could get up in the middle of it and sing Never Gonna Give You Up, that would be legendary.

  • 23 Mr Astley Apr 12, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    Actually just think about it sensibly rickrolling the summit yourself, if it is being videod, would be a fantastic way to make a point about the power and impact of the internet on modern culture, because you can guarantee that if you did sing Never Gonna Give You Up at the summit and it was recorded and uploaded to YouTube. It would become the most famous and remembered part of the entire summit, unless someone more famous than you did it, or something equally as bizarre.

  • 24 miriaml Apr 12, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Excellent. Your name not being on the summit list made me question how hard the selection committee was really trying to find ‘people with ideas’ rather than ‘people with positions which may or may not mean that they have ideas’.

    This is not a policy proposal, but a question that I think we’re all going to find ourselves asking more often over the next decade or so.

    Short version: How do we decarbonise our economy without giving way to the enclosure of the cultural commons?

    Long version: Technological innovation and ‘closed loop’ economics aside, we are rapidly approaching the limits to economic growth based on increasing the total production and consumption of material goods. And we are very much reliant on economic growth to soak up the spare workers produced by productivity and population growth. We may find this ameliorated somewhat by a move towards more energy-efficient but labour-intensive production, but I think that will probably only provide short-term relief.

    So, we’re left with two alternatives. Radical economic restructuring away from a reliance on growth, or growth in the non-material industries. I’ll leave the first option to one side for now. What about the second? We’ve tried growth based on credit-fueled asset price speculation, and that hasn’t worked so well. And service industries tend to have a high proportion of jobs with low pay & conditions.

    I think over the coming decades increasing numbers of countries are going to be looking to creative and knowledge industries as a way out – as mitchell said “this isn’t about art, it’s about an economy based on something other than ripping stuff out of the ground and shipping it OS”.

    What does this mean for the small players in or on the fringes of these industries? It definitely comes with opportunities – it’s a great time to be making the case not just for more government investment in ‘cultural R&D’, but also for making that investment more effective along the lines Marcus and others have suggested.

    But there are also some potential threats. Think the music industry’s attitude to IP is Neolithic now? Think the whole cool-hunting thing is a bit weird? I don’t reckon we’ve seen the half of it. The pressure to commodify culture will become more intense, as will the pressure on governments to beef up their IP laws and get heavy on those who break them.

    I’m optimistic that we can navigate our way towards a balanced relationship between the gift economy and the IP trade – especially given the research that indicates just how much open source software, and even illegal downloads, are benefiting the ‘real’ economy. But it could be a bumpy ride.

    Will there be any creative commons folks at the summit?

  • 25 peter Apr 13, 2008 at 8:33 am

    lower voting age to sixteen.

  • 26 TimT Apr 13, 2008 at 10:31 am

    I notice that a lot/most/almost all of the comments here have a central theme of funding for the arts, which really indicates the fundamental problem experienced by the arts and artists. So long as you expect your basic support as an artist to come from tax/Government/community bodies, then over time, the process of securing funding for an arts project will become more complicated and difficult.

    F’r instance, your neat suggestion, Marcus, that funding for the arts be competitive, fluid and dynamic sounds all right, but in the end, what will there be distinguishing it from a corrupt bureaucratic model where artists fight over limited funds from an organisation by toadying up to members of that organisation? The difference seems largely to be one of definition, but in practice, I think there wouldn’t be any difference.

    A related problem is obviously the funding for major artistic projects like films and operas; nowadays when budgets are tightly controlled politicians love to be stingy, funding is often lacking for these things. I don’t begrudge any artist their money, so I’m happy to accept that arts funding should exist for these sorts of things for the time being. But if it does exist, cut out the bureaucratic red tape and the lies and the toadying and the stupid attempts at justification – ‘it’s for the good of the community’, or whatever. Make funding simple and upfront. If some frauds abuse this in an open and flagrant way, even better; it will make the problem of public funding for the arts all the more obvious. In the meantime, some fun cultural projects will get up off the ground and truly creative people will be stimulated to produce and stay in Australia.
    I do think that funding for the arts should gradually become less in favour of more direct forms of community feedback – philanthropic bodies, audience support, and so on – but in the meantime, the least we can do is make arts funding so much simpler.

    (Hi Skeptic! Nice to bump into one another on Herr Westbury’s Blogue!)

  • 27 miriaml Apr 13, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Ben – re ‘industry policy’. It’s true the Productivity Commission folk don’t like governments with backing winners, but what Marcus is talking about doesn’t really fall under that heading. In fact our existing arts policy looks a lot more like the kind of industry policy that’s really on the nose – ongoing multi-million dollar subsidisation of major performing arts institutions with declining audiences looks a lot more like, say, handing over wads of cash to keep a mitsubishi factory running.

    The ‘market failure/public good’ case for public investment in R&D is respected by even most neo-classical economists. And that’s what new artistic work is, right? R&D for the cultural industries.

    The challenge is that once you start making the economic case for arts investment, it opens it up to the same problems that have dogged investment in universities – if you only invest in work that has obvious commercial application, you can miss out on all the surprise benefits that come out of ‘pure research’, or in arts terms ‘people mucking around their bedrooms making interesting things for the sake of it’.

  • 28 Tamara Marwod Apr 13, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Hi Marcus
    Thanks for the email. My thoughts have been about ARIs and how it would be fantastic to have support for some sort of peak organsiation to support independent activity – such as providing cheap insurance rates, access to risk managers/assessors, access to legal advice and review/access to cheap book keeping support – kind of like what Next Wave offers to artists – but to organisations –

    also some sort of networking between artists and independent activity – especially across distance/nations/art forms etc

    I think it is also important that this resource isnt metro centric and pushes the notion of working regionally/remotely as an artist or an independent arts organisation

    Really like also some resources focused on extreme risk activity – rather than established institutions with buildings and assets. More focus on people and sharing ideas/activity/being buoyant and responsive

    All the best and lovely to discover your web site


    Importantly this peak body doesnt have artistic control – more all the resources all in one place to support independent activity

  • 29 Sam Hoffmann Apr 13, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Hats off to miriam.

    Where I suppose I am interested in seeing a shift in arts/creative based policy is to give exceptions to people who have a track reecord of arts production and be given tax concessions. A national creativity audit should not just emcompass arts based creativity but I’d like to see more of how suburbs fair on the creative index. Arts is so centralised as if the notion of excellence is too tied to Fitzroy-ites or Surry Hillians where as the broad notion of creative common encompasses backyards and the places that those people inhabit outside the inner ring.

    We are facing a dire economic re-adjustement in the next few years due to the lovely rollercoaster called ‘Peak Oil’ . Giving people the tools and knowledge to think creative and stimulating DIY culture could be as simple as setting up eco-creative hubs inside of all major suburban shopping malls and a series of ‘internships’ to be allocated by the Arts councils for the direct purpose of enaging with the public on a personal and street based level. These internships are similar in form as the ‘IASKA’ model in WA but they also could function as a bi-latteral communication where artists informs public and public informs artists.

    Suburbs aren’t dead spaces , they just haven’t been revived yet?

  • 30 David Winterton Apr 13, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Similar to Sam’s comments about a connection to creativity and the environment – I think there is a need to develop functionally aesthetic, artistic and community integrated decentralised water and power solutions.

    A fucking mouthful I know… Redressing the carbon, energy and water balance in our cities is key to their future. These are ‘wicked problems’ which require non-linear responses – read intuitive and artistic.. ‘Solutions’ cannot be simply imposed.

    At the moment this stuff is still basically controlled by engineers who do not seem to understand why people are still doing the ‘wrong thing’. Commitments to see water based art projects in areas of high runoff and parks and gardens where people can enjoy water as part of the every day are an example. Similarly solar and wind projects need to become part of everyday infrastructure rather than excluded due to ‘heritage’.

    Normalise solutions rather than telling people what they should do. If I see another fucking black balloon ad… Raising awareness is a rather pointless exercise when what you need is a commitment to develop sustainable infrastructure which can be locally designed and sourced.

    The way this stuff is measured is usually in outcomes where it is probably just as important to measure the process of project development in community & stakeholder input. A poll in the Age showed that only 7% of people thought that they had been adequately consulted with in relation to the development of new water infrastructure.

    There is room for social democracy in this with community, creativity, science and engineering working to produce something tangible. Creative responses which develop sustainable urban environments particularly in terms of urban design. There is the potential for Urban Catchment Management Authorities to develop in this area with budgets funded by the public benefits achieved with ongoing community and artistic involvement.

    Climate change is non-linear and an engineering or economic response which sees us drinking a glass of desal and recycled water shandy brought to you by brown coal is not an option. Creative design, engineering and science – I know these last two sound like oxymora – can redress the environmental balance. If it is done right it can also improve equity through community involvement.

    Melbourne is on the brink of spending $6 Billion for centralised water projects which would otherwise make for a decent sustainable design budget…

  • 31 Ben Eltham Apr 13, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Mim’s right of course, a lot of we call “support for the arts” actually is the bad old kind of industry policy, see Mitsubishi, South Australia, Subsidies To.

    As per TimT, well I think it’s important to remember that the majority of cultural expression in Australia is NOT actually government-funded. It’s essentially a voluntary effort by hundreds of thousands of ordinary Australians who pursue their artistic and cultural expression as a hobby.

    Just a quick note on SkepticLawyer’s idea about tax treatment for artists – this is an important issue and it revolves around the definition of what is a “hobbyist” by the ATO. For those artists who an demonstrate that their art practice is a meaningful small business, then the entrepreneur’s rebate allows them to pay no income tax on business earnings up to $50,000, which next year will increase to $75,000.

    In general, the issue of hobbyists is often one ignored by the professional arts community – and understandably. The constant tides of new entrants to the creative industries constantly depresses working artists wages. And hobbyism doesn’t fit in with Australia Council notions of excellence.

    But the problem with dismissing those who make art in their spare time is that, in the scheme of things, many great artists have had day jobs. T.S. Eliot, for instance, worked at the bank, while Caravaggio collected fees of a different kind. For the rest of us who aren’t lucky enough to make it into the canon, a day job may be are only choice. It’s this broader notion of a “creative citizenry” that I hope can be addressed at least somewhere during the summit.

  • 32 Tiani Chillemi Apr 13, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    1. It would be great if smaller events, venues, galleries i.e. under 5000 people could get an entertainment license, alcohol license, public liability insurance and DA approval in one inexpensive hit.

    2. It would be great to have some kind of online resource that linked artists, musicians, venues, etc together…

    3. The advertising industry and councils have effectively cut out all avenues for community, grass roots organisations to promote art and music events in public spaces. Designated poles and boards for artistic events, sanctioned by council as prominent as the corporate outdoor poster campaigns would go a long way to evening up the playing field.

    4. Some councils try to make developers include public art in their developments as part of their DA approval process, however most of the time, the developer’s pay a fine to get out of this. Tighten up laws and regulations to ensure that each development is offset by a significant and meaningful contribution to the surrounding community would put the onus back on real estate moguls to grow local creative communities.

    5. It is very cost prohibitive to use ticketing agencies such as Ticketek which have a virtual monopoly on venues, particularly large venues like CarriageWorks in Sydney. It is in unfortunate that artists often don’t get paid for their work, yet these ticket agencies collect a huge proportion of the income generated from punters. They have displayed anti-competitive behaviour around the world, including Australia.

    6. Musicians and artists are often expected to provide their own public liability insurance. It would be great if a large policy could be taken out to cover members who pay a nominal fee for annual cover. Similar to the private health insurance schemes. This would directly affect the cost of mounting productions and allow struggling performers and artists to be included.

    7. Widen the tax incentive scheme offered to the film industry to other ‘arts’ industries such as visual arts / music / etc.

  • 33 melinda R Apr 13, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    i appreciate your deft leap across the moat onto the closing drawbridge..

    when mingling with rudds new royalty, where mostly celebrities are purported to represent the culture and creativity of a nation, i appreciate your bringing the perspective of the reality of cultural production -away form the Centres of excellence ,major performing arts arenas and film industry , the rest of us ..actually the majority of us, work on tiny budgets, from motives of passion which don’t translate into real estate acquisition.

    my interrests are in artists working in emerging arenas.. the artsits who pave the way for mainstream uptake of technology, thu play and experiment, push boundaries, create novel uses that soft and hardware delevopers never imagined.
    do they get decent incomes, fabulous working spaces and Rand D concessions as other industires do? nope..
    and their Intellectual Property is useally sucked up by an instution and they move onto experimenting in another arena to help another industry out.
    -we all love creative commons..and information still wants to be free, but if you give away everything you do it assumes you already have income form another source.. (the artist dole perhaps?) to pay the rent and feed your kids..if youve been able to afford to have any.

    Im old enough to have seen people who have done fabulous work, promoted australian practices and culture globally and produced ground breaking work, dissapear into illness, poverty and obscurity .

    why do we still subscribe to the romanticsm of the poor suffering artist? why do outsiders contribute so much to cultures which don’t reward them?

    artsist play a pivitol role in creating a healthy and prosperous society and need appropriate resource investment , legislative amendment, educational relavence, financial incentive, ,
    and public acknowledgment to bring creativity to the centre of society.

    oh and enjoy autum in canberra :)

  • 34 TimT Apr 13, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    My grand plan for bringing the arts back to the centre of Australian life would probably start with a firm training in rhetoric, speechifying, and the reading aloud of verse and prose in schools. The education available, currently, for the arts is splendiforously craptacular at the moment; schools rapidly try to cover a huge number of subjects, and most of that poorly. The old focus on rhetoric, reading aloud, etc etc in relation to poetry, literature, and English, at least, strikes me as being the best. But then, what would I know? I’m just another online pundit, heh! 😉

  • 35 linda jaivin Apr 14, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Having mentored quite a few young/emerging writers under various programs set up by writers centres, Express Media and the ASA, to name a few, I have seen how valuable the experience has been for both the person being mentored (several of my mentees have gone on to be published, shortlisted for prizes like the vogel etc) and the mentor as well. I would love to see some kind of national online register which would facilitate such mentorships and extend both across the country and across art forms. The internet makes it unnecessary to divide these things up geographically; face to face meeting are nice, but in my experience unnecessary for successful mentoring at least in literary forms. Traditional practice visual arts or music might well require it. A national approach would extend opportunities to regional areas, the suburbs, and isolated or relatively isolated communities. There are many ways to go about managing this, but it doesn’t have to involve a lot of expense, if current programs can be pooled or linked. I have been flown interstate for intensive meetings with mentees with whom I’ve been communicating online or by phone – even when there is face-to-face contact, it doesn’t always have to be regular. There’s normally some kind of selection process and the mentor, who is paid for his or her work, may be chosen by the mentee or vice versa. Mentorships can vary in length from 5-20 hours or more. The programs usually work best when there’s flexibility; the worst outcome would be for there to be a new national program which doesn’t allow for this. I don’t have any set ideas about how it should work; I just know that formalised mentorship is a great system for encouraging and cultivating new talent and giving established artists an additional, if modest extra form of income as well as the satisfaction of seeing others reach their potential. Emerging does not equal young – mentees are more likely to be young than not, but I would hate to see the program narrowly defined to be age-specific.

  • 36 Andrew Frost Apr 14, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Since the signing of the free trade agreement with the US there has been a disparity in the way the Aust. copyright act has been implemented here and its counterpart laws in the US. I raise this issue because the US has a much wider definition of “fair usage” than we have in Australia, Considering the number of people using copyright material in their own work [video artists, musicians etc] I would love to see a very robust and open interpretation of “public domain” that would allow usage of copyright material in a demonstrably artistic context, free of the current draconian copyright laws.

    A first step towards achieving this is would be to bring into line the copyright laws of Australia and the US [as they are required to be under the FTA], then to significantly widen the definition of “fair comment”. If you could demonstrate that the sampled material was being used in a new context, and that new context was an artistic commentary on the original material, then I think we could end up with a fair system that allowed artists/musicians to use whatever material without fear of prosecution. It needs to be stressed in this argument that a change in the laws is not to “rob artists of their rightful incomes” but would a recognition of any already well established pattern of production. Further, new definitions of fair comment would also be clearly and demonstrably different to already existing licensing for samples, archive rights or standard copyright protection, drawing a difference between people making art and people selling pirate DVDs.

    Good luck in Canberra Marcus. I think it’s a great opportunity to get some new voices heard. Carve ’em up!

  • 37 Kirsten K Apr 14, 2008 at 10:03 am

    I completely agree with Linda J’s comment. I think mentorship is a key, especially with emerging writers, and probably across the arts. To get the support to write a novel, I ended up going through the university research masters scheme, which in the end offers free one-on-one advice with a wonderful supervisor (rather than spending thousands doing a masters by coursework). I then had to set up my own freelancing business to support myself day to day (which isn’t an option for many) which makes about 15 grand a year, in a good year. Then, once I’ve been published once (if at all?), what then? I wonder about the many Vogel award winners and where they are at and how many have kept on going. A support scheme for continuing work would be good, for those caught between emerging and established. This seems to be a problem in the film industry too.

    Another issue is the pitiful salaries, especially part-time, offered by most art institutions (obviously not their fault). You have to do it for love – when a director of a community arts organisation is being paid the same as a receptionist at an advertising agency – and there’s a general feeling of being grateful for whatever crumbs you can get. I think this culture needs to change.

  • 38 Vanessa Nirmal Apr 14, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I think making youth aware that their contribution to the arts will be valued is very important. More grants, scholarships, competitions for prize money (funded by government and possibly in conjunction with the private sector) gives the future of Australian culture a good leg-up. More importantly educating primary and high school students of the imporance of art – whatever form that may take will encourage appreciation across many demographics into the future (ie. art is not a painting of a bowl of fruit or finger painting). Also communicating the existence of grants, scholarships and competitions as part of the curriculum for all school students may provide an avenue to talented students that they may never have known existed.

  • 39 Meg Apr 14, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Marcus,
    1. Strongly agree with Trent. Space is a pre-requisite for creative work. There is a push for this by some folks I work for at Melbourne Uni, particularly the vacant CUB site. So many buildings and spaces all over the country are lying dormant.
    2. Each year, offer Commonwealth government ‘start-up’ scholarships for emerging artists, with industry support, career advice/mentorship from established artists, a stipend, and agreed outcomes/goals (e.g. exhibition, poetry chapbook, multimedia work, short story collection).
    3. Offer free workshops for emerging arts practitioners on practical stuff like running your own small business, dealing with boring tax stuff, promoting your work, etc.
    4. Teach school kids about Indigenous culture from a very early age, get them involved and excited. This is the approach in NZ; while racism can be found there too of course, I reckon this is the perfect antidote. How does this issue relate to the arts? We don’t see a whole lot of contemporary art that involves collaboration between artists from different cultural backgrounds — and more broadly, art is a great connector. Plus, it would make the world less shit.
    Have fun hob-nobbing with the big-wigs! Good on ya.

  • 40 reuben Apr 14, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    1) re negative gearing v. creative use of space: rather than abolish n.g. (which wont happen), it could be enanced via ?tax benefit? for those who open their spaces for community/arts/educational uses.

    2) in general i am fascinated by the current tax system’s ability to encourage certain positive (esp corporate but also private sector) behaviours on punishment/reward basis.

    3) PUT BACK THE WATER COURSES! on the face of it not a arts/ed issue but is vital to any kind of prosperity/security future for australia. extend legal riparian protection zone. systematically replant extinct courses. support/encourage program through taxation system (carbon credtiry?). will revitalise catchments and increase rainfall.

    4) i like zane’s (no.6, item2), tax exemptions for artists. as per Ireland?

    good on you marcus. more power. rX.

  • 41 Julian K Apr 14, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    I think focusing on emerging artists is not the key (although a focus on anyone is welcome). All artists in Australia struggle and it doesn’t get easier once you are ‘established’ (whatever that means). I was speaking today with one of the country’s best known songwriters, who is the stuff of indie legend, with an international career spanning almost 30 years. He said his career comes under challenge every 6 months or so to the point where he is not sure if it can continue. He struggles hard to many any sort of living. This is a huge reality check.

    This idea the people need support when they are emerging or ‘young’ and then they ‘make it’ is a fallacy.

  • 42 Tai Snaith Apr 14, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Hi marcus, sorry I dont have time to write you an essay, but here’s what I think would make this place rock (more).

    1. More understanding and encouragment of artists and thinkers taking risks. I mean big risks. Like expressing controversial opinions and building unimaginable visions.

    2. Less focus on how much money and more focus on how many opportunities- actually working towards making things happen. Real opportunities; spaces to use, flights, networks, publishing deals, tv segments, studios, apartments, etc. Some gaps in the pavement for the weeds to grow in… Everyone who has a lot giving a little back to those with great ideas, who perhaps don’t.

    3. More young people on boards.

    4. More quick turn around grants. They dont have to be huge, just more and more often. Encourage and enable thinkers to respond to current political/soical/environmental situations and ideas rather than 6 months later, after its over.

    5. Some real trust in those of us who are boldly going where no (wo)man has gone before. A little bit of faith in the kids, some clouds for the dreamers, some space for the thinkers and some real time for the Arts.

    6. A panda farm?

    xxx tai xxx

  • 43 Lisa Burnett Apr 14, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    My thoughts are very much focused on arts in the outer suburbs/regional areas which is where I currently live & work … so I’m thinking about barriers that are preventing arts and culture from thriving out here:

    SPACE is often cited as a requirement … there is generally a lack of imagination around what a valid space for artmaking is and the push often comes from a very old schools arts establishment (eg the local arts society) and as a result resources are spent on expensive new buildings with white walls, hanging rails and lights … which further disenfranchises those who don’t see art as important (the argument is usually tax payer dollars being spent on supporting an elite). Brokering access to existing ‘dead’ spaces is in my view, the way to go … I know you have lots of ideas around this Marcus

    RISK AVERSION … many great ideas have cold water poured on them by issues of public liability … essentially no-one in the burbs can afford to put on events anymore except for council and long-established groups and both of these are very risk averse so everything ends up being bland/mediocre/safe/same … an example of this that the local filipino/samoan/spanish community can no longer sell food at the local multicultural festival, instead commercial out-of town operators are now brought in because a food vendor’s qualification is now required even for one-off stalls etc … L High Five to tam’s idea of some sort of peak body that can cover independents (ARIs or artists) for all the ‘business stuff’ that sucks energy away from actually making art. The org I work for does this in a limited way and I would like to see it doing more of this. Tiani re the group insurance scheme stuff … I think this is happening in some industry sectors (eg Queensland Artworkers Alliance) but the idea is in its infancy and isn’t very flexible eg you have to sign up for a whole year and you can’t just sign up at any time … hopefully this will change as it becomes more common

    VISIBILTY … too much of the arts and cultural stuff is hidden away in ‘sanctioned’ art spaces so that only the ‘converted’ ever see it … I’m a big fan of art in public spaces and I don’t mean ‘public art’ which is generally ‘design by committee’ and therefore bland/mediocre/safe … I mean stuff like busking (which isn’t allowed in our shire), postering, graf, shop-front art, street theatre etc … Sometimes it feels like there isn’t any art (or life) in the burbs because it isn’t visible … and if by some chance something appears that hasn’t gone through the ‘correct channels’ then it is very quickly removed because you wouldn’t want to give anyone else they idea that they could also populate public space with their art!

    A CULTURE OF PARTICIPATION … I think this is what’s missing from the big picture … I echo some of Ben’s thoughts about part-time + hobby artists (creative citizenry – yes!) … but would like to push that a bit further. I think for there to be a genuine valuing of arts and culture in the hearts and minds of ALL Australians, then EVERYONE needs to have at some point in their life participated in an arts experience that inspired/surprised/delighted/freaked-out/shook them … I don’t think this can happen if we hold onto the idea that ‘excellent’ art or ‘innovative’ art is more important than other arts and cultural experiences … What is the message if funding models privilege excellence and innovation over participation? I think there are many ways in which ‘the arts’ exclude/disenfranchise/ignore/treat-with-disdain a large proportion of our population and to me this is the single biggest thing standing in the way of us having a healthy/dynamic/colourful/wild cultural landscape. This is the change I would like to see …

    Nods to Tam, Ben + Tiana

  • 44 Tom Greder Apr 15, 2008 at 2:24 am

    Hi Marcus,

    As an Swiss / Australian independent performing artist in the middle of my 21st European tour….all with little funding….I see a huge future for the Australian performing arts through cross-cultural collaboration. Currently it seems Australia is trying to “protect the industry” by making it virtually impossible for foreign artists to perform there. Surely, inspiring the arts IS supporting them.

    What are European artists doing between January and April…Freezing and dreaming of somewhere further south. Open the roads in ths direction and the will soon enough head the other way too. The arts receives so much more support in Europe…more than enough to start to accommodate some more Australians.

    Ohh….and an Australian funded artists half-way house somewhere in Europe would be great too !

    The world is getting smaller, Australia just needs to be not so far away from all the action. All the best with it.

  • 45 Anne Henshall Apr 15, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Thanks for this opportunity Marcus. I have to confess I’m not coming from an artists perspective but from an audience perspective and someone who has a keen interest in ‘growing’ our arts audiences. There is plenty of strong research suggesting that unless children are introduced to the arts (in all its genres) through their families and their early years they are unlikely to become audiences in the future. If we want to see more people taking an interest in the brilliant work being done across the country in run down buildings and loungerooms, then we need to generate a swell of interest that demands more money, support and enthusiasm is put into supporting art and its practitioners. What is happening to ensure that we bring our children up cheering for the artist with the same enthusiasm they are cheering for their football team?

  • 46 Amanda R Apr 15, 2008 at 11:06 am

    My feeling is that a lot of the impetus for income and support provided throught the auspices of the Myer report has proved irrelevant to artists’ lives as they are lived on the ground and in the garret. Resale royalties are pie in the sky for most visual artists – they will benefit only those who are already supported at a high level by the market. The significant amount of funding offered by the Howard Government for ABAF has yet to benefit me, you or anyone we know. I dont see a whole lot of businesses rushing to support undiscovered artists.
    The major priority to boost the Visual Arts sector in this country should involve the creation of subsidised spaces for artists to live, work and exhibit. Dialogue and interchange should be created through the addition/annexation of International residencies – enclaves, artist’s cities, and creative arenas in every city to facilitate discussion, exchange, exhibition and, dare one say, networking. Our best and brightest young visual artists are being lost through the need to maintain income as well as a practice and the imperative to seek support through the narrow bottlenecks of funding agencies and institutions. Some will always seek the bright lights and big chequebooks of Europe and the US, but we need to make it more attractive for artists to live, work (and move?) here through infrastructure which can support them in their daily struggles to find space, pay the rent, put food on the table and create art.

  • 47 marcus Apr 15, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Just to point people towards it who come in via this thread – i’ve posted another piece on this subject over here:

    More to come.

  • 48 Fiona Burnett Apr 15, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Dear Marcus
    It is very encouraging to hear that you are a “Wild Card”. I did nominate myself- at the last minute though as I expected that the selection committee would be looking for household names, rather than say those at the front line. Last week I recieved my rejection letter last week. Being a fairly seasoned artist though, this rejection did not worry me too much, although I would have liked the opportunity to attend the summit and to contribute as an independent self managed Australian artist.

    I agree with many comments posted here and particulary Julian K’s comments resonate with me.

    I wanted to make the comment that to be an independent self managed artist in Australia today is a tough place to be. With twenty years of experience of this I think I am qualified to speak about these issues. As we all know survival for all these days is challenging, so to be an artist in this environment is much, much tougher.

    I would like to see a review of how we as Australians value and treat artists, because at this present time we are WAY down the food chain. The lack of support or token support is not representive of the way in which through their own selfless activity artists nourish our society.

    Without this selfless activity of artists our society would be a far more barren place. It would loose all life and vitality and we would be left with few voices or only those that appeal to the most common deominator.

    Art is NOT entertainment. Art very often challenges us to think , sometimes this will be OUTSIDE of our comfort zone.

    Art has for aeons paved the way forward for our socities to develop, it has the habbit of being, at least, one step ahead of our societies current mode of thinking or evolution. This has the habbit of often rubbing people up the wrong way and then runs the risk of not being easily digested by the general public. People will quickly form negative judgments about art that they do not understand or art that challenges them.

    If we do not want our art to become apart of a bland mono- culture, we as artists on the fringe of our societies radar have to rise up, speak up and have a voice. Let hope that the 2020 summit will allow for at least some of these voices to be heard, let hope that the “Wild Cards” are given the oppertunity to speak up and speak out and make people listen.


  • 49 martina mrongovius Apr 15, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Hey Marcus,

    hope you’re having fun with the 2020’s… i’m in Seoul hiking up a mountain each morning to the Korean HOLOcenter.


    I would like to see more of a focus on resources, the needs of creative sectors are often more than money alone. Affordable spaces (Abbotsford Convent is a great example), acess to technology/facilities (i stayed at university to play with lasers) and the recycling of resourses (Martials for the Arts in New York is fantastic, reverse garbage in sydney is also wonderful)

    The grant system has its merits but is designed to enable projects rather than encourage people to set up sustainable practices… why is it so hard to establish creative groups in australia? how do we get the essential equipment that will enable us to practice & play?

    look forward to hearing how it goes,


  • 50 H Apr 15, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    i don’t have time to read everyone’s input, so please excuse me if i repeat anything or am abit off the point.
    in a very general sense i think the hardest aim of the summit would be addressing how to bring the aussie arts into more mainstream media (such as introducing the odd art/aussie film&tv focussed show to commercial tv (?) and prommoting/discussing in tabloid newspapers (??) or elsewhere, instead of just continuing to cater to a niche market and keeping the arts generally underground.

    if people who dont normally pay attention to anything “artsy” see it enough they could get used to it and/or embrace it…. (or am i being a little too optimistic? he he)
    is there not more artistic saturation of the mainstream populus in other countries? i think this is what we should aim for. can “art” ever be big in a “sporting nation”? can they co-incide equally?
    i have no answers here, just think that maybe changing where some of the funding goes to not so obvious areas could be worth a shot. has it been tried in the past?

    enjoy the summit…..

  • 51 H Apr 15, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    P.S. Do it for Newie!….(The poor legend of a town that dreams of being a city)

  • 52 Tamsin Young Apr 16, 2008 at 12:10 am

    Hey Marcus thanks for the opportunity.

    What I can see would make an enormous difference is not more money but more chances for small arts orgs/ artists / bands / communities to get access to highly skilled people in areas such as marketing, accounts, grant writing, etc – teaching people to fish not just giving em one.

    Would arts funding bodies (national / state / local) be willing to employ people to mentor anyone willing to enter the application process for said skill? Instead of giving funding to individual arts org’s to support their administration costs (to learn these skills trial & error), it could teach many how to be self sustaining – where to look for alternate sources of funds, how to keep appropriate records, what and where they can find grants. People or organisations could apply for one, two, three days of training one-on -one or one to many, allowing many more artists to be knowledgeable outside their normal areas of expertise…. someone’s mum could go from being their bookkeeper to grant writer, paving the way for a greater pool of contribution to the arts.

    I have worked in this field for 15 years and freely give away all that I know. Many are surprised by this approach, others believe it is essential to keeping the arts industries afloat. So many times opportunities for expansion of individual projects / artforms are missed due to lack of knowledge about how to harness what you’ve got. Training those involved in these projects not only increases the likelyhood of success now, but moving forward, success in other future projects also.

    Other opportunities may be to have a suite of marketing materials produced so that the applicant can then go and seek sponsorship with a professional looking product, as artists may not be skilled in all these areas, but have a valid claim to such support. Basic website design is another peripheral area that would make a difference to many.

    Don’t know if this is the kind of thing you’re after… hope the weekend’s summit is an incredible experience and valuable outcomes are achieved for all ends of the spectrum.

    Kinjd regards
    Tamsin Young
    Cheshire Productions / the Village / Earthdance Melbourne /

  • 53 Ms Dash Apr 16, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Ooooh where to start! Firstly I’m heartened to hear you will be a part of the Summit Marcus! Your ideas regarding micro cultural reform are fantastic! I’ll try to be succinct as there are already so many great suggestions here. Some thoughts for your consideration:

    *I believe one of the greatest hurdles we face is artists of all sorts are predominately right brain thinkers forced to operate in a predominately left brain oriented society. I believe this is a key aspect to creative practice becoming ‘too hard’. I believe some sort of artistic union would go some ways to making the beaurocratic aspects of making art easier. This would include Tamara Marwood’s ideas of a peak support body for artists, ARIs and other small art organizations. Yearly membership could cover the costs of public liability insurance and offer access to services such as risk management assessment, and solicitors and accountants who understand the unique needs of the creative community.

    *The arts community as a whole faces the constant demand of proving their value to the community, especially in economic terms. I’ve experience this as a student, an artist, and an art teacher. When I see the question “How can we foster a population with wide-ranging intellectual and creative curiosity?” I think let teachers do their job! All the artistic subjects are constantly pushed to the side in primary school and in secondary school they receive very little kudos or respect.

    *Indigenous perspectives are required to be taught however teachers are not taught how to teach them! “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” said Nelson Mandela, however we are not embracing all aspects of this. We learn so much through examine the artworks of different cultures and times. For many students this is a more accessible ‘in’ to learning than reading dates and events.

    *Artists go where it’s cheap! They’re forced to. We get this cultural donut effect in cities. Artists move further and further out of the city as rent and cost of living increases in the areas that have become gentrified due to the artists’ contribution to the area. You get this cultural void like the centre of the donut as artists are forced out of the areas they improved. This is really evident in Sydney and I wonder if we’re getting a big donut void in NSW as artists move to other, more supportive, states.

    *Another common problem is the arts community looses valuable people as older skilled and experienced artists and art facilitators move out of the arts sector in order to survive. There is no way I could afford to buy a home or have children if I continued as a practicing artist.

    *I also love Tai Smith’s comments regarding quick turnaround grants. I think you hit the nail on the head Marcus, with your ‘competitive, dynamic and fluid’ funding comments.

    Sorry it’s not very coherent or cohesive but it’s better to get the thoughts out there, however unrefined, than not at all!

  • […] of the comments posted here over the last few days either explicitly or implicitly acknowledge this. While many argue directly […]

  • 55 sue Callanan Apr 16, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Federal government to provide some kind of recognition or support to local councils to facilitate art interventions/actions by artists in local areas, particularly for those working in the public sphere and wanting to respond to the rapidly changing nature of the urban surrounds. This might then enable artist involvement in producing installations in vacant shops awaiting lease or sale, or other bits of public space so that the process of application for permissions (where relevant.) can be short circuited
    Seems like there is a chain of concerns, Shopkeepers want the artist to have insurance and would be more confident if the proposal could be backed by council. Councils have relatively limited budgets and probably need some order of confidence or support to take on and recommend proposals to shop keepers.Arts and other cultural development officers have various statutory obligattions as government officials, and may feel more confident to enter in to this domain if there were a direct link for them to a body that can provide information support if this were not their sphere of expertise. It would be great if there could be things in place that would help them to take on projects that had a bit more of an edge. This need not be a new and different body. It could come within as exisiting body,The idea would not be to establish a new set of bureaucratic processes but rather set up something like a hotline or just access to information particularly on processes or precedents

  • 56 Tara Gilbee Apr 16, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    I think you know these points and so i will explain what i think are two important points and experiences i have had ( iam sure they will enter your dialogue in your own way):

    The importance of subcultures, of cultural practioners to identify, transform and innovate spaces which are open to use, this has often occured in the forms of old industrial sites, bowling clubs or empty store houses etc. Artist are the ultimate often at recycling. Governments (esp. in australia) are adverse to risk taking, its in the vernacular – risk aversion/ risk management (rember the containers village!!) which is almost the opposite to the mantra of art making, risk taking, how do governments allow for innovation and space (plenty of it) without stiffling the necessary risks of art making.

    second point (i probably have more but want to escape this darn computer) is the relationship of perception towards regional arts practice (one thing again you innovated quite effectively) the idea that all important activities occur in large metropolitan settings, going from a scale of small town, to major cities in aus to then overseas cities. The distinctive nature of location can mean just as much in terms of cultural experience and production than the generic homogeny that can occur in self referential cities, regional settings are often seen as place to do “community art” and art which is a replacement for health programs etc. However their is no reason why exchanges cannot be more profound, the recent next wave approached me about proposing a project, i wanted to explore city artist coming to the country to explore their practice in a different setting …. no uptake, however i think its necessary to shift this idea of all artists needing a leg up in the city…. oppps think i have run out of words, perhaps that was less than articulate my second point.

    good luck with the summit, hope it hasnt happened allready??? no date on the notice i recieved..


  • 57 Trewlea Apr 16, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    You could argue for a minorities stake in digital, cable and/ commercial television like Roger Newell and Ralph Lee Smith partitioned for in the US in the 1970s. They argued that cable was an opportunity for community projects to be publicly informed and operationally involved in creating media content.

    In 1972 the Federal Communications Commission issued regulations which required every cable system with 3,500 or more subscribers to originate local programming and to provide one dedicated, noncommercial public access channel, available without charge at all times on a first come, first-served, non- discriminatory basis to carry that programming. This legislation developed public access programming and established equipment and training resource centres all over the country. (There is a lot more to this, but I’m not writing my thesis here, so I’ll get to my point…..)

    … If our government made it policy for large commercial broadcasters to pay a percentage of their taxes to develop and maintain Community Media libraries and facilities (urban and rural), and a percentage of on air time to be dedicated to some of the developed content, it would give individuals, regions and small groups a voice in the main stream media.

    The Community Media libraries and facilities could run workshops that train individuals and community groups how to use the equipment and create their own media content, when people have qualified for their media “licence”, they could hire out equipment and develop media content. The libraries could also hire out their tapes to the general public and the public could donate content for public access as well.

    I know, I’m an eternal optimist! Good luck.

  • 58 marcus Apr 17, 2008 at 8:07 am

    If anyone is interested, we will be talking 2020 summit and the future directions of Australian art and cultural policy type stuff on Radio National’s Australia Talks tonight at 6pm (EST). I’ll apparently be joined by fellow summiteers Robyn Archer, and Trevor Green from the MSO. If people want to be part of the discussion, the talkback number for listener input into the conversation is 1300 22 55 76.

  • 59 maureen obrien Apr 17, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I’m a singer/songwriter/touring performer based in Newcastle nsw – commonly referred to as the “meat ‘n 3 veg town” ! Similarly to many places in Australia, we have a wealth of talent that rarely gets a chance of exposure. I’ve been driving a number of initiatives over the past couple of years to help local talent get performance opportunities. the biggest problems are [1] finding suitable venues that aren’t pubs and clubs – because there’s a significant number of patrons who won’t go to such places – and the pubs/clubs are only interested in putting on popular music which draws the heavy drinking crowds
    [2] councils that are overloaded with people who don’t have a cultural/artistic bone in their blinkered bodies, who only open their eyes and let the light shine on their brains when international “stars” bite them on the arse. They make it too hard, too restrictive or too expensive to hire council facilities. They see no political benefit in providing support or quality performance space for local artists and musicians. Have next to no understanding of art beyond popular/commercial.
    [3] federal and state governments seem to have money to support the arts – but applying for it requires that an applicant has an understanding of the land and language of Downtown Bureacracy! For the average musician, for example, the practicality of applying for funding is a nightmare.
    [4] it would help enormously if the legal requirements for allowing cafe/dining venues to provide live entertainment for their patrons were a whole lot easier. It would also help if governments provided education for such business owners to understand the value of supporting live entertainment to encourage growth and development for their business. [and contributing to the development of local economies!]
    [5] Why can’t the Australian government recognise the value of its artists/musicians and provide income support? Every full time musician I know [and that’s an extensive network!] recognises that they can’t make a living at their art in this country and have to supplement the income to survive. [applying for the dole is a waste of time because they’re expected to work in fields other than their chosen career]. In other countries, full time artists/musicians receive a stipend to follow their art because it contributes to the culture of their country. The Australian Culture consists of…..SPORT…..finite! There’s always money for new footy stadiums – but build a new performance space ???? huh?!?!?!

    good luck at the summit ……most of us working artists on the ground won’t be holding our breath.


  • 60 kate Apr 17, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    hi – Marcus – If you can get them to acknowledge the existence of an avant garde, that would be useful. there always is one in some way, shape or form and it DOES need support and nurturing in various ways (as noted by heaps of comments here) – incubation, govt at various levels etc. But to some extent the mainstream creative industries should be market driven – why should people who want to see opera be subsidised? if its seen as crucial to be in touch with classic cultural it should be considered an educational imperative. And this brings us back to the necessity to generate markets – govt agencies can focus on generating markets, educating audiences, helping with distribution etc.

  • 61 Polash Larsen Apr 17, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Hi Marcus,

    I had a listen to you guys on RN tonight. They’re wacky things those talk-back forums… EVERYONE wants to get their two cents in – a bit like here. Pity you need at least five cents these days…

    Even if you do ask people not to dwell on needing more money, it won’t work. It’s a bit like asking people not to mention the war, or talk about the elephant in the room.

    Maybe there’s a different way of talking about money?

    I kind of cringed when Paul brought up the dreaded funding “pie”. You can’t do anything with a pie except eat it. People get defensive about the size of their slice (or their appetite!) and if you don’t eat it all at once the chef won’t let you save a bit for later. Worst of all – no matter how you cut it up – SOME PEOPLE WILL GO HUNGRY.

    Please! No more pies!

    What about a different round shape? How about a wheel? A wheel is dynamic, load-bearing and moves the societal cart forward. It’s easier to accept that some bits of the wheel HAVE to be solid like the hub and the spokes – but maybe the rim varies in thickness, yeah? Maybe, as the wheel turns you can accept that you might not have a thick bit of the rim and the ride’s a bit bumpy, but you can see the thicker bits approaching and plan for them accordingly?

  • 62 Alison Young Apr 18, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Hi Marcus, good luck at the summit and thanks for the opportunity to comment. I’d like to see the summiters acknowledge that the way ‘Creative Australia’ gets defined leads to exclusions and inclusions, and that a lot of creative, valuable activity gets left out. For example, will there be anyone at the summit who thinks that street art or graffiti is an example of creativity? My worry is that there will not, apart from yourself. I’d love it if you could raise the issue of how law, social policy, and social conservativism combine to have an effect on the very definition of creativity itself – sometimes with the effect that artists get placed outside the law and at risk of prosecution (as has happened with the State Govt of Victoria’s new laws on graffiti and street art). What’s the point of developing new cultural policies if government won’t acknowledge that it sometimes actively delegitimates artistic practices? I think it would be great to try to get people to think outside the square on what constitutes creative activity, as a kind of prior question to the problem of how to promote and support it. And to acknowledge that those who fall outside the ‘official’ definition of legitimate creativity get left to struggle with no resources or – even worse – left to face the risk of legal consequences.
    Cheers, and good luck!

  • 63 Zero summit games Apr 22, 2008 at 11:39 am

    […] have to thank Ben Eltham and the comments over at Larvatus Prodeo and Christian McCrea for drawing this to my attention. Despite the fact that one of the agenda items for next […]

  • […] not a joke. It’s the question that I have been mulling over since my last minute call up to the “Towards a creative Australia” stream of the 2020 summit next weekend. The […]

  • 65 brodie murray May 8, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Hey there, my name’s Brodie, I’m a HSC student and I’m currently conducting a research project (pip) as a component of the subject society and culture. When I watched your series of not quite art it was really the food for thought that inspired the area of interest my investigation delves into
    To give you an overview I’m exploring the nature of 3 AUSSIE contemporary forms of youth culture, focusing on: graffiti, hip hop and skateboarding .My objective aims to evaluate how these individual outlets have changed over time (is their a connection between them), and further so the different perspectives each outlet has received over time.(1960 Stretching through to the present.)
    To give you more of an insight in the direction I’m heading, I’m trying to evaluate the process these mediums of expression have gone or are still going through to be validated in society .Alternately I’m seeking to identify the opposing agents (including authority etc) of change that may have initially impeded/rejected these forms of culture or in contrast have encouraged, supported and accepted the growth of these activities overtime.
    I REALLY NEED YOUR AND ANYONES HELP in obtaining contacts who don’t mind participating even if I send you some questions that you can fill in… informed by your own opinion .So whether your involved or not in the above mentioned activities your assistance would be greatly appreciated.
    ….To give you more of an insight, I want to question the mechanisms you may perceive are driving youth counter culture and how have the above genres place become accommodated in society? etc the rest shouldn’t be to challenging.

  • […] policy and as with the period leading up to the 2020 summit (you can see various posts about it here, here and here) I would strongly encourage input from you […]