marcus westbury

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A facebook Experiment

March 1st, 2009 by marcus

I am conducting a little experiment over at Facebook. I’m trying to work out whether it is possible to somehow round up all those people who don’t quite fit the “Art” boxes and as a result never get a seat at the table. My theory is that a relatively small number of highly centralised and well resourced organisations get a disproportionate say in what happens cultural policy wise because they organised and visible.

From the blurb on Facebook:

Is Australia’s cultural policy is stuck in a time warp? In 2009 more than half of the Australia Council’s total arts funding (and an awful lot of its attention) still goes to symphony orchestras and operas.

This group is a forum for everyone else!

Whether you’re a designer, musician, film and video maker, blogger, artist, writer, performer, programmer, animator, craftsperson, photographer, or whatever- if you are creating something then this is a chance to show you exist and put your issues on the table.

Please join, get your friends to join, and demonstrate how many of you there are!

I am participating in several different arts/cultural policy development processes at the moment at both a state and national level.

It has become really obvious through those processes that the voices being heard in most arts and cultural policy discussions and debates tend to be those from a relatively small number of relatively well resourced organisations. Often they seem (to me at least) really quite out of touch with issues that most creators are facing.

The “Creating Australia” group is an experiment. The aim is to bring together a wide range of people who are “Creating Australia” as possible. They are people with a lot in common but no common voice or forum. The aim is to put their issues somewhere they can be acknowledged.

No, this group is not set up to whinge about funding or money. It’s open to ideas for smart funding strategies but we’d also like to see all the other issues that creators are facing and how they might be addressed come to the top.

Off the top of my head:

* Do you find that you often don’t quite fit the old artform definitions/ funding boxes/ organisational guidelienes?
* Do you spend more time administering than creating?
* How does copyright law in it’s current form help protect you or does it hinder your creativity?
* How hard is it to access the spaces you need?
* Does government provide or build the right kind of spaces/infrastruture for what you do?
* Do the rules and regulations that govern what you do make sense? How would you change them?
* How do you deal with the tax/ social security system?
* What policy settings could you change that would make it easier to do what you do?
* Are your audiences still in Australia or around the world?
* Has anyone ever sought your opinion on this stuff before?
* Is this a totally dumb set of questions?

The aim of this group is to demonstrate that Australia’s Creative community doesn’t just work in arts centres and for major organisations and to collect the ideas and input of people who don’t.

It’s an attempt to see if online networks can counteract the strong voices that centralised organisations tend always have in policy priority debates.

There won’t be a lot of spam. Please feel free just to show your support by joining even if you aren’t really looking to take part in the discussion. Allternately, feel free to get on the forums and let us know what you think.

Join the group if you are interested. Or let me know what you think.

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7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Amanda Muscat Mar 2, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Great work Marcus in starting the fb group. Let’s get the dialogue going…

    In response to:

    – Does government provide or build the right kind of spaces/infrastruture for what you do?

    The Australia Council has launched a new residency program called CONNECTIONS. This funding opportunity supports artist residencies with funding of up to $30,000.

    Artists who have existing relationships with business and industry partners, yet lack resources to carry out effective
    residency projects are encouraged to apply.

    Renew Newcastle seems to be a perfect example of the potential for such creative initiatives.

    For more info go to:

  • 2 Australian Rozie Mar 14, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    This looks interesting, I’ll join the group, but can you fix the link:

  • 3 Juliet Fowler Smith Mar 20, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Marcus
    I totally agree with you! I am an artist curently running a project in the upper hunter. I have 10 great artists coming up to my families farm in theWilliams River valley near Dungog- site of the Tillegra dam.
    They are developing work and engaging with the locals over a 6 month period. I missed out on a RAF grant (I don’t think we fitted their catagories) and my next stop is the Aus Co (category problems also!). I am spending many hours dealing with all the admin and the merry-go -round of regional galleries.

    Do you have any suggestions about how (and/or where) I could bring this show to Newcastle?

  • 4 Zippy the Pinhead Mar 24, 2009 at 8:57 am

    This is a very important initiative – hopefully the beginning of much needed changes in the old boys network of ozco & in arts in oz.

    One little niggle – participating in facebook requires full disclosure of ones identity – as someone who has witnessed what has happened to an associate who quietly questioned one policy of an established arts org then have that org go nuclear on them it is vital that some anonymity is catered for. ..

    Particularly in the wonks discussion – whistleblowers WILL be needed in this project and unfortunately in this country and many sections of the arts community speaking truth to power is a big no-no.

  • 5 Matt Moore Mar 28, 2009 at 9:42 am

    So state funding is one model – and one that can be accessed in different ways. For example a friend of mine got a job with a federal govt dept. The job was very frustrating because no one wanted to do anything. So my friend viewed his salary as an arts grant and wrote poetry for a year. He heard that a more famous writer had scored a whopping $15k grant for a year – and was mildly amused because his salary was several times that.

    I think we need other models that allow people to work creatively while also allowing them to eat. We need to apply the same creativity to business models that we apply to our other areas of creativity.

    How might a venture capital model work? What can we learn from Silicon Valley?

    How might a microfinance / Grameen Foundation model work? What can we learn from Bangladesh?

    I also happen to think that barter has a future but that’s for another time…

  • 6 Beau Healy Apr 2, 2009 at 8:37 am

    This is all Great and im finding it impossible to get contact and a reply to my message but i need somone to get back to me i need help i am forming what i call a cultural hub that is what i am trying to create i have a business plan and just want some feed back thankyou Beau Healy

  • 7 Sue Hill Apr 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Thanks Marcus! again!, for setting up something we all winge about about don’t work at changing. i’ll be sending your link out there-