Ensuring relevance beyond the boom

30/07/2008 - 22:00

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Ensuring the ongoing strength of the arts sector in Western Australia beyond the boom will only be achieved by building relevance of the arts in the community, according to participants at the WA Business News forum.

Ensuring relevance beyond the boom

Ensuring the ongoing strength of the arts sector in Western Australia beyond the boom will only be achieved by building relevance of the arts in the community, according to participants at the WA Business News forum.

"Relevance is that word that keeps coming to my mind. I love the passion in the arts. I love the people in the arts, I love the relevance in the arts when you get close to it and understand it, its importance in society," PricewaterhouseCoopers' Frank Cooper told the forum.

"The truth is, there are a lot of people out there who don't understand that."

According to Curtin University dean of arts, Ted Snell, the broader community's perception of the arts sector is a major hurdle to building relevance.

"If the arts is put as a group that requires funding because it's not for profit and not making much contribution, we need to change the perception," Mr Snell said.

"The discussion shouldn't be 'oh the poor old arts', they just need business to support them."

Forum participants agreed that the arts sector has to be seen as a professional entity that provides values to its partners and is in business as much as any other corporation.

Mr Snell said it was important to build an understanding that the arts sector was making an amazing contribution and would make an even bigger contribution in the future, with desirable content in demand right across the world.

"Look at the core arts funding that most organisations get and you look at the leverage funding that they bring to it," Form executive director Lynda Dorrington told the forum.

"For instance, we get 10 per cent of our funding from the Department of Culture and the Arts and we turn over $6 million worth of programming, now that's a business case for anybody to get involved in."

The matter of appropriate retributions for arts organisations staff and artists was raised as another element to strengthen the industry.

The Marketing Centre managing director Mike Smith said management staff in the arts sector had long been undervalued.

"I think the people running our arts agencies are doing a remarkable job; that deserves greater rewards," he said.

Mr Snell added that artists were too often taken for granted.

"Every artist should be paid a professional rate. Currently, artists do things because they want to and people exploit them because they can," Mr Snell said.

WA Art Gallery acting director Gary Dufour said recent developments from overseas could be adapted to WA.

"An interesting phenomenon that has grown in America recently is a capped superannuation fund for artists; they're capped at 20 participants who put their art in each year. It runs for 20 years," Mr Dufour said.

"The fund manager actually controls the sale of the objects; and they are all making roaring profits."

Ms Dorrington said that, while Western Australians valued the arts, she didn't know whether they would happily pay more tax to support the sector.

"Arts is something you grow up with, it's implemented in our education systems. We grow up valuing it," she said.

"No parents say, 'I don't want my child to do arts' in a very one dimensional understanding of what that means. But they're not going to be thinking, 'because we value that idea we are going to increase our tax by such and such to make sure that there is a system that can accommodate this'."

Australian Business Arts Foundation WA manager Henry Boston said sustainability in the arts sector depended on what sort of society people wanted to live in and what values they wanted to support.

Ms Dorrington said the state government should develop a communication strategy to build the relevance of the arts in the community.

"The newspapers usually tend to report areas that don't fall across the good news story of the arts. Maybe in some way with the support of government, that strategy could be developed," she said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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