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Posts Tagged ‘arts’

See? It’s not just me

April 10, 2011 Leave a comment

David Puttnam has also weighed into the debate on arts, in an interview in The Observer today: Arts spending will be vital for economic revival, says Lord Puttnam.

Headline quotes:

“We have no chance of an economic revival without a full understanding of the role that creativity plays. It is warm words and apple pie at the moment.”

“In the House of Lords, the same 15 people turn up to discuss the sector every time. Most members, I am sure, think of it as a good thing, something they might go to once a fortnight. But do they realise what an economic driver it is?”

 

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Arts, (lack of) money and the need for inventiveness

March 30, 2011 5 comments

The unsurprising news emerged yesterday that many UK arts organisations will have their public funding reduced or cut entirely. The arts generally is always a bit of a soft target, open to a range of criticisms from less eligibility (‘how can you spend money on the arts when there are no many funding shortfalls in health/welfare/education?’) to profligacy to poor taste (‘you mean my taxes paid for that crap to be displayed in the gallery?’).

I have, I confess, very mixed views about this. On the one hand, my own ‘involvement in state funded art’ amounts to reading my stories at a couple of events that received Arts Council and local authority subsidies. That’s probably about as much as any writer does. On the whole we work in a sector of the arts that gets probably less public funding than any other. On the other hand, I’m aware I go to events, exhibitions and the like that cost vastly more to put on than can be paid for through ticket sales, so I’m benefiting from arts funding in that sense.

State funding isn’t always the best kind of funding to have, and a lot of the most innovative work often happens in obscure holes and corners of the art world (I mean ‘art’ in its broadest sense to include the whole spectrum of artistic endeavour), funded in ways that range from impromptu to implausible, and in some cases the artwork itself is carried out in secretive and illegal ways – yes, I’m thinking here mainly of graffiti. But that said, we also need to recognise that what’s obscure and innovative at one point in time is the orthodoxy twenty years later, and that the UK as a whole is a major global producer in the economy of signs and images. It relies heavily on the flow of artistic and cultural talent in all kinds of areas from music to art to scriptwriting, screenwriting, niche areas of film and even niche areas within film such as special effects. And, of course, development of computer games… it would wind up being a long list.

Anyway. Rant over. What intrigued me today was a BBC article, ‘Arts world gets creative in funding crisis‘. Ideas being tried out now are crowdfunding through multiple small donations via the Wedidthis, Sponsume and Wefund websites; sponsoring individual members of an orchestra, with side benefits including dinners with them; venues being opened up to events such as weddings and receptions; and increasing numbers of in-person and online courses in creative areas run by people who have public reputations in those areas.

The arts are being squeezed in all sorts of directions; not just public funding, but the role of the internet in providing free access to many arts products, whether because the artists have to put it out free for promotional reasons, or internet piracy (which in music and now increasingly in writing means that artists get paid nothing for their work and need to build other income streams – live performance or whatever).

It probably won’t all work out alright in the end. There will be casualties along the way, including, probably, the collapse of some well-known and well-respected organisations. The people who are most recession-proofed, however, will be those who’ve struggled without funding already, trying to get their artistic vision across in unconventional ways. I’d hope that those people, who are often the real cutting edge of new art talent, will be able to struggle for a bit longer, become even more inventive about how they operate, and not just survive but prosper. I’m hoping at least some people will find that what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger. And I’m hoping that’s not a vain hope.

On being creative and discovering resources

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment

If you’ve seen some of my older posts about finance and creative work, you’ll be interested in this: Art of Hustle’s post ‘Baller on a Budget: Turning Resources into Riches’, which expands on and exemplifies themes similar to the ones I’ve been preoccupied with for some time.

Headline details: as a creative person you sit on a number of resources – ones that are yours (skill, networks, imagination etc.) and ones that are part of your network (places you go, things you do, people you know). You may not even recognise those things as ‘resources’, but that’s what they are. Equally, ‘folks aiming to equally give and receive can build lasting partnerships, expanded patronage, and repeat business’. So there’s a creative business model there, and the post is a detailed working through and example of how to put it in motion.

 

Creative networks and redundancy

October 23, 2010 Leave a comment

This is just a thought that came out of a late night conversation.

The cuts are coming: the pain will be felt everywhere, and that includes the arts. Initial reaction seems to be that the impact is going to be felt hardest at among smaller, more specialist, and regional groups for whom the withdrawal of relatively small amounts of funding – for a part-time administrator, say – will be the difference between the group functioning and not functioning.

It’s not as though many of the individuals receive funding directly, because they don’t – I’m thinking here of the archetypical starving artist in his/her garret, the musician whose interest is circuit-bending old electronic toys to make different sounds, the writer who’s trying to find some new literary voice or style. But they all benefit indirectly from public money supporting events and social networks in ways that are often hidden, such as subsidising conferences, seminars, guest speakers/performers at events, finding the odd couple of hundred quid for a group to be able to publish something, and so on.

If that kind of ‘seed money’ and organisational capacity is going to be reduced in future, we’ll need to find alternative ways of operating. Creatives are good at that. Maybe we’ll end up reinventing 19th century styles of socialising, with private soirees and informal groups in people’s front rooms. Maybe we’ll see more of something that already happens to a certain extent, with workshops tacked on to commercial events. But the lifeblood of creative endeavour is networking: the ability to stay in contact with like-minded people, or find others with the same interests in order to share skills, opportunities and so forth.

One way to ensure the capacity for this to happen is, in informational terms, building in redundancy. In practical terms this means that for any one individual, connections to others can come through multiple channels so that if some of those channels disappear, others will remain. Even in these days of Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal, Google and WordPress it’s often harder than you might think to connect to actual real people who share your interests and live close enough together that they can meet face to face occasionally.

So while the opportunity is still here, I personally am going to start cultivating networks and building my personal ability to stay in contact with those who are doing things that keep my creative juices flowing. And we probably all need to be doing this far more intensively now than we have done in the past.

Shortfuse last night (and a rant)

May 19, 2010 Leave a comment

We got there late, unfortunately, but it turned out to be something of a miracle we got there at all.

Intriguing collection of stuff – a range of semi-autobiography, well-crafted tales and wonderfully evocative language. Also, unusually, some live music from The Orange and then from the First Monday Ukulele Club, which was as unlikely as it sounds – a stage filled with people playing rock’n’roll on ukeleles… a sight to behold and extraordinary (in a good way) to hear.

Shortfuse is next on 18 June, I believe (their website should soon have updated information – shortfusefiction.com). The theme for that night will be ‘taboo’. Then it’ll be taking a long break for the summer, so it’ll be a case of ‘get there or miss out for the next 4 months or so’.

Discussions afterwards were interesting and left me musing on how hard it is to organise any kind of arts event – and how much harder it’s likely to become in future in the current financial climate. So this is the ‘rant’ part of this post.

I don’t just mean things like literary readings, but art exhibitions, dance performance, theatre… we’re already at a stage where a huge amount of cultural activity is done for free, or for pennies, because the people who do it have some longer-range vision or dedication and are essentially prepared to put time and effort into making it happen.

This is so even in ‘popular’ culture – I’ve been to places like goth/industrial music events where the DJs organise the event, put in huge amounts of time flyering and advertising on social websites, etc., all for a split of the door takings after they’ve paid venue costs. They do it because they’re dedicated, which they have to be to put in the number of hours it takes in background work to make something happen and walk away at the end with less money than it will cost to get a taxi home.

And that’s just for an event with DJs. If you have a PA system, props, admin costs, or any of the myriad of other things it takes to get some kind of performance together, anything that might be called ‘alternative arts’ is going to struggle. Sure, it always has. Think for example of the number of artists whose paintings now sell for small fortunes, but who never saw a penny from their work in their own lifetimes (and whose work wasn’t even thought to have artistic merit in their own lifetimes!). And there are plenty of writers with experiences on similar lines…

But it does leave me wondering if there’s any financial model (other than working off arts grants) that would help keep ‘marginal’ events alive, because so much of what they do can’t be valued economically. I’m just thinking here of the many painters, dancers, actors, and writers whose work starts off in the margins of culture and develops there until the mainstream is ready for it…

Well, ok economists will usually say everything has an economic value; what I’m arguing here is that the value of fringe cultural events doesn’t lie in the present but the future, and usually exceeds the extent to which it can be monetised in the present. Does that make sense?

If anyone wants to start a debate or discussion about this, I’m up for it.

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