11/03/2014 - 10:27

Arts and culture a value spend

11/03/2014 - 10:27


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A whole-of-government approach to investing in WA’s ‘creative wealth’ should be part of the plan to diversify the state’s economy.

Arts and culture a value spend
SUPPORT: Record box office and ticketed attendance figures this year show PIAF is finding favour with Perth arts punters.

A whole-of-government approach to investing in WA’s ‘creative wealth’ should be part of the plan to diversify the state’s economy.

For many of us who either work in or enjoy arts and culture, the argument regarding the intrinsic value of the arts is a given. However it is the broader outcomes accompanying the feel-good argument that make such a compelling case for greater investment.

This element of the arts value proposition has been underlined in the past month in reports from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Queensland University of Technology’s Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, plus through the activity generated by Fringe World Festival and the Perth International Arts Festival.  

The festivals have rightly garnered praise from many quarters regarding their contribution to the wellbeing and enjoyment of the community.  

But what I found particularly interesting were the comments by Craig Parkin at the Perth police station regarding the positive effect the events have had on reducing criminal activity in the Northbridge. It may not be a case of music calming the savage beast, but there is little doubt that Fringe in particular transformed a number of city spaces that were under-utilised or avoided.

On the economic side the ABS cultural and creative activity satellite account 2008-09 report revealed a $86 billion national contribution by creative industries to Australia’s GDP. 

In Perth the economic contribution is no less pronounced, with PIAF this year recording record box office and ticketed attendance figures, and the festival on track to break even (as planned) with gross income of $6 million.

The month-long Fringe World returned similarly positive news, financially and on a social level, with the activity and amenity offered in the city supported by Inspector Parkin’s assessment (above).

So there’s a clear fiscal impact, but what is also clear is that more needs to be done to nurture creativity and increase the benefits that will invariably flow through our community.

This can be seen when you drill down further and look at ‘The Creative Industries Statistical Analysis WA 2011’, where you find that 69 per cent of the 41,317 creative workers in Western Australia are employed in creative industries. However 31 per cent are ‘embedded creatives’ working in other industry sectors such public administration, manufacturing, professional services and education.  

The growth areas were in the creative services segments such as software and digital content (5.3 per cent) and architecture and design (4.8 per cent).  This is not surprising considering the considerable construction and resource activity that took place between 2007 and 2011.

However the cultural production segment, which contains the broad range of arts activity, has remained relatively static overall with only a slight increase (0.3 per cent).

What does the ‘Creative Industries’ report mean by creative services and cultural production? The former provide contributions that are central to businesses across many industries, from manufacturing and construction to retailing and entertainment. Representing what is, in effect, a ‘creative services economy’, creative enterprises add value to production through design, technical performance, packaging and branding.

The ‘cultural production’ segments on the other hand include film, TV and radio; music, visual and performing arts, and publishing. These sectors embody the role of arts and cultural assets as contributors to quality of life and community wellbeing, and as important contributors to economic activity and economic development in their own right.

Creativity is not the sole province of the arts and culture but this sector is the only one in which creativity sits at the heart of its activity.

Current investment by the state government in arts and culture is less than 0.05 per cent of the total state budget. The creative workforce of 3.76 per cent of the state’s total workforce trails well behind the national average of 5.29 per cent, so we have a great opportunity to grow this workforce with a little strategic investment.

It is also clear from the percentage of creative workers embedded in unrelated sectors that increased investment in realising the creative potential of individuals could result in a much broader benefit to WA. We need to encourage and harness this talent and the mainstreaming of creative courses in the state’s formal education system would be a good starting point. 

A whole-of-government approach to investing in our creative wealth should be part of the plan to diversify the state’s economy as well as realising our sense of place and identity.  

That indeed would be a rich return on investment.

Warwick Hemsley is chairman of Chamber of Arts and Culture WA.


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