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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

“Can our leading arts institutions say with their hands on their hearts that there is no waste?”

Excellent article in The Independent – cutting budgets could radicalize culture – allowing for the messages of imagination, radicalism and challenge to be part of the business message, as well as that of the artistic output.

I guess the thing to think about when looking at the Arts cuts is finding a balance between an artist’s/organisation’s creativity and individuality and the need for them to run themselves as a business. Arts funding to date has made available space within which artists and arts organisations have the freedom, time and money to experiment without pressure. It has allowed mistakes to be made and learnt from without monetary penalty, allowing for the development of the individuals or organisations involved and often leading on to future successes.

This is all well and good, and I myself have benefitted for Arts Council grants which have given me the opportunity to experiment and create new work. What I’m feeling at the moment though, is that the funding isn’t so useful when artists and organisations rely on it at the expense of developing their own business skills and real world ability to function, compete and produce.

The funding should be an aid to creativity and innovation and not a crutch to fall back on time and time again for organisations who fail to learn from past (funded) experiences and move their business forward. The Guardian published a debate between leading theatre directors Adrian Jackson and David Parrish. Parrish says that actually cuts in arts funding might even do arts organisations some good. Unlike Jackson who is inclined to think that the cuts will limit what they can do, Parrish believes that it will encourage more innovative and resourceful thinking and it will stop the same things from being done again and again.

Instead of continuing to complain about the cuts, which won’t now change anything, it’s time to start looking forward. What can we do as artists and organizations to ensure we’ll survive? What are we good at? What skills can we learn from business so that we can thrive in the commercial world without constantly relying on funding to sustain us? The arts that emerge from the recession as winners will be respected, leaner, and highly deserving of longevity and success.

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