Symphony Orchestra Chairman’s Lunch
‘Why supporting the arts makes sense for everyone’
My hunch is
that this is one of the places on the planet, which truly, madly, deeply gets
why supporting the arts makes sense for everyone.
You are first
amongst the growing number of Australians who experience and participate in the
arts as part of their every day, and you already believe that the arts enrich
and create meaning in peoples’ lives, that they have the capacity to unify
communities, activate spaces, promote sustainable development, investment,
tourism and economic activity, supplement education and improve health,
increase well-being and shine the spotlight on local, national and global issues.
often referred to as the instrumental benefits of the arts, that is, what the
arts do. They are quantifiable and
demonstrably prove the link between the arts and great community outcomes. Of course, they are inextricably linked to
the intrinsic cultural benefits and these are harder to measure with such
In an attempt
to channel some of these intrinsic benefits, I am going to share a couple of
observations with you.
was sitting at the entrance to the Tasmanian Museum and Gallery, just there,
and I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation, close to closing time, between
an elderly male visitor and the person on reception. The visitor wanted to speak with someone at
the museum who could assist him in determining whether some skeletal remains
that he had found near his home were of a thylacine. That is meaningful.
Each one of us
has connections with our cultural institutions: a sense of being part of them,
not apart from them, a feeling of belonging, attachment, accessibility, proprietorship
even. We perceive them as informed,
authoritative and influential in the curated experiences that they create for
us, and as places of exchange, pleasure, delight as well as awkwardness,
confrontation, disappointment, enlightenment, challenge.
A few weeks ago, on a cold late winter day at dusk,
I sat in the pavilion at Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park. What a
brilliant tough inner urban opportunity, squat and lithe, translucent, perched
on the edge of endless possibilities. What a discovery
for me and for which GASP’s Director Jonathan Kimberley is no doubt growing a
Up the road at Contemporary Art Tasmania there is an exhibition of paintings entitled, ‘Tiefenzeit’, by
Australian artist, Tricky Walsh, which is the culmination of a three month
Australia Council residency last year at one of the most influential residency
programs in London.
In literature, in addition to many obvious examples of some of the world’s
greatest authors living here, just this week, Sarah Holland-Batt who is poetry editor of
Island Mag was awarded a Prime Minister’s literary Award for her book, The Hazards.
Opening last week, MONA is presenting a quite exceptional and
extraordinary exhibition entitled, On the Origin of Art, that explores
what art is from the perspectives of four non art historians, namely leaders in
bio-cultural science and philosophy. I can’t resist saying how much I was quite
unexpectedly deeply moved by one of my favourite music videos of all time being
legitimized as an artwork alongside objects from different centuries and other
places. The masterpiece of a musical
performer who grew up in Balnarring, Victoria is one object removed from,
amongst a great deal else, an ancient hand axe, a shell necklace and some of
the most influential artists of today and of all time. It is bewitching,
beguiling and deeply satisfying.
A number of us in this room are anticipating attending tonight a
performance of the TSO. Exactly what is it that we are anticipating? I suppose
it is a shared experience of Australia's most recorded orchestra comprising
talented musicians drawn from this community being enthusiastically and
skillfully conducted, and playing some of the most beautiful music ever
composed on this planet. That's something. We are promised elegance and
nuance, the alluring, vigor, tenderness.
That’s what music is.
And just to give some further context, we will be watching a Japanese
conductor conduct, and be listening to a French pianist play a music selection
of a concerto, composed in Egypt by a Frenchman, a symphony composed by a
German and first performed in Leipzig and an orchestral work composed by a
Japanese composer whose influence, incidentally, was significant for a number
of Australian composers.
I know that you know about the observations that I have just shared and
the nature of what is culturally intrinsic to what is happening here. I hope
that you recognise that it is extraordinary.
The artistic and cultural landscape has changed almost unrecognisably
and now it is timely to think of what might happen next.
First, I believe that there is an imperative to bring the whole
community on the journey. For all of the
success of the last several years, some of Tasmania’s communities continue to experience
complex barriers to economic advancement, community participation and
wellbeing. Many in the community are being left behind.
If we are to
have learned anything in the political ruptures of the very recent period, it
is that our arts and cultural activities are part of, and for, the whole
Second, with the achievements to date, there
is a generational opportunity to create right here and now new resources and
new opportunities for artists, composers, writers, dancers, performers to live,
to study, work, form partnerships, take residencies, present, perform, be
critiqued and reviewed. Developing those
specific opportunities is a key priority.
Third, increasingly, there is a decent
chance that Europeans, Asians and North Americans will interrupt their summer
sojourns to high tail it here for Dark MOFO's mid wintriness, long nights and experience
‘south’ with all that is implied by the ‘otherness’ of the cultural expression
of this place. The often-cited MONA effect is a hugely significant part of that
disruption to the migratory patterns of cultural participation and, prospectively,
there are many other opportunities yet to ensue.
Fourth, I submit that there is a real case
to lead government here and not be led by it. Tasmania is streets ahead on this
with the models of co-investment, collaboration, co-creation. However, government is still absolutely critical in that world. One of
the key advances over the next several years would be to move away from seeing
government funding for the arts as ‘support’ and ‘subsidy’, replacing those old
concepts with the notion of ‘investment’.
Subsidy and support imply market failure and a mendicant
relationship. The language of investment,
with the expectation of long term, sustainable and beneficial outcomes, propels
the arts to be dynamic and enduring.
Government’s promotion of private sector investment
into the arts will also be critical. The
Commonwealth government pays for philanthropy, as it loses the revenue through
tax deductions. Therefore, the State
Governments should promote it. To create
a culture of giving, you have to start with a culture of asking and support it
with a culture of thanking. We already have
a great architecture of incentives to promote philanthropy.
One further orientation of government should
be to ensure that our key tourist messages of sun and sand and natural beauty
are entwined with cultural seductions.
Many we are trying to attract here can’t swim, don’t sunbake and are
terrified of spiders and snakes. Our promotional
campaigns need to give emphasis to the great cultural experiences on offer.
Finally, a future here could be built where
the status of the artist is raised, where respect and recognition is afforded
to those who make the choice to be artists and creators. Creative originality
has become deeply under-valued in the wake of the IT revolution with the
conventions of copyright and intellectual property slipping into obscurity with
income levels for artists sliding away.
Most artists still struggle to make a living. This is entirely reversible. Creating a place
where there are new models for financially and fairly rewarding creative
innovation would be a great path to follow.
Australia Council set its strategy two years ago for Australia to be a Culturally
Ambitious Nation, it was intended to be a call to the entire cultural sector to
mobilise. We wanted a strategy to
reflect elements of pride in what we have but impatience and dissatisfaction as
what we have and impatience to make it better are generally two pretty good
motivators for private sector support for anything.
11 November 2016