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.