Blah-blah blueprint for the arts

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Joy Burch.
 THE latest ACT Arts Policy Framework is just plain uninspiring.

A far cry from the visionary words of the early 1990s, when the ACT Cultural Council rose out of the ashes of the Arts Development Board, this framework is written in impenetrable bureaucratic language.

In the section that deals with creative thinking, we read instead of “funding parameters that empower artists and arts organisations to direct resources to self-identified areas of artistic enquiry and growth.”

And if you wondered what artsACT does, it provides “inter-governmental advice on initiatives and entering into dialogue with arts communities to address sector issues and promote innovative sector development.”

As expected, the document ticks all the boxes – community participation and access, artistic excellence and diversity, innovation, creative thinking sustainability and social and economic outcomes.

The Framework is wrapped up in an attractive piece of graphic design, where the dull words are balanced with images of brilliant Canberra artists at work and quotes from those artist about the joys of practising here.

Existing programs include The ACT literary awards, start-up grants for young artists, funding of key arts organisations, ACT Creative Arts Fellowships and out-of-round funding and start-up grants.

I looked hard to find much that was new, though there was a nod to the 2010 Loxton Report in references to arts hubs and links to business and philanthropic sectors and the national cultural institutions.”

Also in line with Loxton, the ACT Cultural Council seems to have been reduced to that of an advisory body to the Arts Minister, with separate peer assessment panels providing “independent expert advice” to the minister on funding decisions.

Other more contemporary elements include the development of the Kingston Arts Precinct, an online grants management system, and funding support for the Australia Business Arts Foundation to maintain an ACT office.

In light of recent changes, community cultural inclusion officers based in the Tuggeranong and Belconnen Arts Centres are identified, replacing the more targeted ArtsAbility, indigenous and multicultural officers.

Finally and most worrying, is the complacency inherent in the document.

Robyn Archer may be busy countering Canberra-bashing with a Centenary program of cultural events for 2013, but from Arts Minister Joy Burch’s idealistic preamble we get words about how vibrant, exciting, excellent, international, etcetera we are. But these are words that cannot disguise the fact that we’re not getting that across to the nation.

Alas, the ACT Government is not in a position to fund a significant arts strategy, one that, like Singapore’s hugely successful “Renaissance City” strategic plan of 2000, matched programs with cash.

This new report can safely remain in the bottom drawer until 2014, when there will be a chance to review its content “to ensure that it continues to be a relevant and engaged policy”.

The full report is available under the “Resources” tab at

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Helen Musa
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