Cuts To Arts Funding

In the recent Government Budget here in Australia, there is a controversy about the allocation of funds to an independent body, The Australian Council For The Arts. Part of the money, approximately 20%, is being taken and given to a new government body, controlled by the Minister for the Arts. Over the next four years, the money given to the arts is also being cut back.

It has raised the ire of arts bodies and artists, and rightly so; government controlled arts funding is akin to propaganda.

I am not a recipient of an arts grant, nor have I been one in the past. I may apply for one in the future.

In times of economic stress, the arts are one of the first to be cut back. 

I think for a lot of tax payers, the idea of paying for artistic people to paint, sculpt, develop plays, musicals or operas, is throwing money into a big dark hole to be buried forever and seeing no return on investment. I’ve seen in the mainstream media, editorials decrying the ‘waste of money’ given to a public piece of art. 

Art is seen as subsidiary to earning an income as opposed to seeing art as a way to earn an income. I see it in attitudes towards music, art, woodwork and the like. It is not seen as a serious career choice. At its best it is a hobby, a crafty interest, a sideline pursuit, something done on weekends or once a weeknight.

I want my taxes to be made available for public services: roads, education, health and hospitals, public transport AND the arts.

What I think needs to happen is for the conversation to be on the role and purpose of the arts in our society. People consume art: film, music, books as the basics but are not aware of the time and effort required to create it. 

We need to have the conversation about the value of art, what it contributes to society and culture, not just in monetary terms, but also in terms of its spirituality, ethos, mentally and emotionally. 

We need to have the conversation to demonstrate the need for the arts to be understood as an integral aspect of our society.

The arts are not a respite for those with mental or physical disabilities. Nor are the arts the domain of the ‘tortured artist.’ The arts are the domain of all; we should all be creating, all contributing, while allowing for those who want to pursue it as a career to make that choice freely and boldly.

We need to have this conversation for art’s sake.

Those Who Can, Do AND Teach

There is a saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

What a load of bollocks.

It’s said as an insult; a derogatory, snide remark to elevate one person and denigrate another.

As a teacher, it’s particularly insulting because it’s my profession, my career, my calling. To teach is to pass on knowledge, information, insight, technique, skills, habits.

To say those who can’t, teach, is to abrogate responsibility of all people to teach one another. 

Fundamentally, every interaction is teaching. We give it different names or titles like coach, mentor, professor, guru, but the interaction is the dissemination of knowledge and the acquiring of skills.

Teaching is an aspect of our relationships with one another. As parents we teach our children right from wrong, good from bad. We teach them to tie shoelaces, ride bikes, make sandwiches, treat people with dignity and respect, how to make friends. We should also teach them to create. Never let a child feel like creativity is a waste of time.

There are skilled and gifted teachers in every creative endeavour and every profession. While they may not receive the praise and accolades of some of their peers at the higher echelons, or their names are not well known, their work is far more significant. They allow the next generation to stand on their shoulders and see further. In turn, they pass on their skills and knowledge to the next generation, hoist them onto their shoulders and help them see further still.

To teach is to create. It creates interest, passion, wonder, curiosity, desire, engagement, questions. It creates a learner.

A student is never greater than the master. No, a master should ensure that the student IS greater than the master. This is creativity. This is teaching. Equip the student with the necessary skills and understandings to excel.

Explore the “family tree” of an artist in whatever medium. See where they came from, who they learned under, what ideas they developed and passed on. Know the origins of your art. 

Understand you can teach someone. It doesn’t require a degree, time in a classroom. Teaching is done in the quiet moments of conversation, time shared over tea and doughnuts.

Those who can, do AND teach. 

 

Creativity is a Team Sport

I like when ideas about creativity surprise me from random sources; when an idea is sparked by an non-fiction article, paragraph of fiction, line of poetry, a photograph, an emotion ignited by the news or the delicious consumption of a six-pack of doughnuts.

Recently I was reading an article, “5 Practices We Need Back In Our Lives,” and one section on mutual encouragement stood out. Here is the relevant section (my emphases):

Mutual Encouragement

As a kid, I played a lot of sports. Although I enjoyed the competition, I mostly loved being on a team and working toward a larger purpose. In that context, every teammate becomes a cheerleader. There’s nothing quite like the energy created by mutual encouragement. It lifts spirits and helps everyone perform at their highest level.

Why, I wonder, does this type of encouragement fade as we grow older? Instead of cheerleaders, we become critics of one another. Perhaps it’s because we’re no longer on a team—at least that’s how we choose to see it. Instead, it’s us versus the world.

It’s time to begin encouraging those around us—family, friends, even co-workers. God calls us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Practicing this won’t merely lift others’ spirits and improve their performance, it will leave everyone feeling as though they’re on the same team, working toward a common purpose.

So often as creative people we think we are working in isolation (every man is an island when it comes to creative work), disconnected and removed from other creative people. This is especially true of the mythology of writers (of which I am one), that we spend our time locked away in a distant castle/apartment/coffee shop/ball pit at IKEA, removed from the smothering cloying atmosphere of people, suffering for our art.

What are we to do?

A past student of mine was a long distance marathon swimmer. He become the youngest male to swim the English Channel. While it was him in the water for many many hours, he spoke of the team around him who lifted his spirits when he was exhausted, dejected, and wanting to give up.

I feel there has been a shift in thinking and in culture regarding the isolated creator. We are moving towards a group consciousness and collectivisation in support of one another.

Whether this is groups that meet in real life or virtually in online groups and forums, the mutual encouragement gained shows that we are a team working towards a common goal and purpose.

Personally I’d like to see collectives grow organically, places where creatives of all pursuits and passions can meet to create, discuss, encourage, critique, edit, beta, inspire.

Imagine a salon of poets, writers, musicians, artists, dancers, sculptors, IT gamers, apps developers, philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, any type of creative person. A cultural think tank, brains trust, hot house, backyard barbecue  where we all bring a plate of food to share (a very Australian idiom) and get to enjoy each others’ company, ideas and encouragement (sorry to mix metaphors).

At its most basic, creativity is a team sport. We might work in isolation but our success depends on our community and relationships.

Here’s my game plan:

  • Join a team.
  • Create community.
  • Foster relationships.
  • Encourage and equip others.

A Little Prompting #15

Welcome to another week of A Little Prompting.

Our environment, be it physical, spiritual, internal, external shapes much of who we are.

We get to shape, restore, challenge and confront our environments through our creativity. 

THEME Environment 
RANDOM LINE PROMPT The soil cascaded through her fingers, a dwindling resource.
PHOTOGRAPH  


SONG/MUSIC VIDEO  Gojira – The Art of Dying

SENSORY SUGGESTION The waft of petrichor on summer’s afternoon.
QUOTE That human behaviour is more influenced by things outside of us than inside. The situation is the external environment. The inner environment is genes, moral history, religious training.

Philip Zimbardo

 

The Significance of Creativity

The Significance of Creativity, or to put it another way, creativity creates significance (the noun/verb, subject/verb is a little awkward, not to mention the repetition. Oh, the vagaries of the English language).

Creativity is an act that begins with you, as an internal locus of control. It is inwardly focused, a way of understanding who you are, what you stand for and what you believe in. 

What Does Creativity Create in You?

Whether you’re at the start of your creative journey, been at it for a little while or have carved highways for others to follow, creativity creates four things within an individual: significance, community, conversation and legacy.

Significance

* Creativity creates an understanding of who you are.

Perhaps you started creating to work out the impact of a significantly emotional event in your life or as a way of exploring new ideas. 

Whatever the reason, it forms a significant part of who you are, what you identify with and how it is manifested in your creativity.

It is intensely personal, even private, and may never be shared with anyone else. It does not negate the significance of who you are. As intensely personal as creativity is, when shared with others, it gives them an insight into who you are. You have purpose and meaning, a spiritual dimension to your life.

Community

* Creativity is not a field limited to the individual.

It is often done as an individual but you should not be without a community.

Finding like-minded people as a support helps you continue what you are doing. They are a back up for when life is brutal and you want to chuck it all away. They are your confidantes and encouragers. They are also those who will love you deeply and tell you the truth about your work, especially when it sucks and needs more work.

In turn, you can teach others and expand the creative community.

Conversation

* talk to people about what you do and why.

You have a cause to champion, a positive reason to speak into people’s lives. It’s not all about you, dominating the conversation about your most recent creative project or endeavour. If people are willing to listen, speak. 

However, can you steer the conversation around to what makes your listener creative? Can you open up their mind to the possibilities of a creative project? Can you encourage them to take up an old hobby, long neglected, or aim for something new, something they have always wanted to do?

Legacy

* your work is a testament to others.

It is your character imprinted onto your creative work like children; lived, learned and loved, cherished as valuable and positive traits to have. Your commitment to others as teacher, or encourager, facilitator, supporter, collaborator.

Contribute your verse and know the significance creativity plays in your life and potentially in the life of others.

A Little Prompting #14

Many apologies for the lack of prompts last week. There are many excuses possible; some fanciful, some hyperbolic, some completely fictional.

In truth, it was my wife’s birthday so that will be the focus of this week’s prompts.

THEME Birthday 
RANDOM LINE PROMPT She waited patiently for her father to pass the silver mixing bowl and purple rubber spatula so she could feast on the streaks of cake mixture left inside.
PHOTOGRAPH  party-fails-a-winner-was-you-birthday-cake-sperm(I couldn’t resist).
SONG/MUSIC VIDEO Things of Stone and Wood – Happy Birthday Helen 
SENSORY SUGGESTION  The burnt magnesium smell of sparklers wafting on the air.
QUOTE Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
Dr Seuss

Go forth and (pro)create!

A Little Prompting #13

THEME Faithfulness/Faithlessness
RANDOM LINE PROMPT With one phone call a decision would be made; right now the dial tone reverberated consequences.
PHOTOGRAPH FaithlessnessThe Faithlessness of the World – Pieter Brueghel the Elder

 

 

SONG/MUSIC VIDEO Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals – Steal My Kisses

SENSORY SUGGESTION Rubbing a cigarette paper between thumb and forefinger  like the page of the Bible
QUOTE Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.” 
― Confucius, The Analects