Saturday, February 09, 2008

Arts Funding Models

One Australian - at this stage also nameless - local council is currently reviewing an aspect of it's cultural funding. These being two national - and relatively high-profile - visual arts awards.

Awards are always contenious not only for the screening and/or judging criteria but also the idea that we have to compete for our treats.

Arts funding is a difficult mine field to navigate from either side of an often tumultuous river. We have crossed paths with various concepts, some of which are over-complicated for over-complication sake and others that appear utopian in their ideals.

The later being all roses until you read between the lines and realise that the balance between objective page after page of detail vs intensely subjective 200 words or less is mindnumbingly difficult to get right.

Last year we read an article on the NY Times about the United States Artists fellowship grants. These have that rare aspect in the arts funding field - trust.

They trust that the artist will use the funding constructively to advance their practise without demanding tangibles from said artist.

A similar idea on a smaller scale - ie. 10 grants of $5,000 as opposed to 1 of $50,000 - would seem appropriate to get projects up and going or - much more importantly - to keep people active in their chosen field.

The New Work Grants from the Australia Council are similar in structure but suffer a little from ambiquity in brevity.

We especially like the idea of nomination rather than application. Similar models are applied to professional bodies - Design and Photography organisations being the classic examples - and are extremely successful. Not least of which because the valuing of output is done in peer review.

The major problem with civil funding is that tangibles are the centre of the universe as far as politicians are concerned. A result - preferably safe and public with suitable space for an opened by... plaque - is much more approachable by the dreaded voter than something that might advance ideas and discourse. Especially if the later might confront the status quo.

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