We can tap the intrinsic value of arts- The Age
By Alex Rafalowicz
With some sensible changes we could build a creative country.
TWO revolutions happened last year that affect creativity policy in this country. The first everyone knows about — it's been given the acronym GFC by our poets of public policy — and because of it we've started to become accustomed to the scripted lines of "times are tough, budgets are tight", not least if you're asking for money for something as ethereal as "the arts".
Here's hoping that the second revolution will save us. On September 3 last year the Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr, announced that: "I believe the creative arts … make a terrible mistake when they claim support on the basis of their commercial value. Whatever they may be worth in the marketplace, it is their intrinsic value we should treasure them for."
Culture does have an inherent value but the policy culture in which we operate isn't always great at building in inherent costs or returns (see climate change anyone?)
Thus, starting from the premise, as Mr Carr has, that creativity in our population leads to a vibrant Australian culture, which is a good thing, is, well, a good thing.
The next step is harder: how do we go from here, where times are tough, to there — where we can celebrate a golden age of Australian creativity?
The answer cannot simply be more money. Although we are kidding ourselves if we don't see that more money will lead to more and better outcomes, creativity in the 21st century finds itself best expressed, and most accessible, in formats that require a certain amount of digital hardware.
Even harder than finding money for "the arts" in a recession is reconceptualising the entire sector. That is, thinking about the arts not in an economic framework that diminishes arts' intrinsic value, but through a realistic lens that sees the creative sector could do with a more thoughtful and holistic policy approach.
The first step is linking and engaging. If we look at internationally recognised vibrant cultural capitals such as London or Copenhagen, they got where they are by thinking about their creative sectors — about their artists, writers, designers, filmmakers, musicians, and game designers — and actively supporting them.
Imagine if we had forums in which leaders in the sector could cross-pollinate ideas and could meet directly with government.
What if we provided incentives for private sector philanthropists to engage in exchanges of meaning with emerging artists, say by providing business skills in return for an artist-in-residency program?
Surely we could also think about broader policy issues that affect people's creative output and get better policy outcomes for everyone.
What would our urban planning laws look like if a "creativity impact" was required? Would this mean housing designed to provide creative hubs, with accessible space for artists? It would also certainly mean more bike paths and public transport.
Perhaps we'd see more traditional venues for performance or display — as well as consideration of more unorthodox space for artistic endeavour — places for outdoor live performances, surfaces for street art, and the possibility of projection and amplification in public areas.
Imagine if our intellectual property regime was designed with the interests of creators rather than corporations in mind. It could lead to a national cultural archive like they have in Britain. Perhaps more people would know of, and know how to use, a creative commons licence.
If we want a creative culture in this country, if we want creativity to be a national value that spawns both economic innovation and a more matured Australian identity, it will take time, money and a lot of effort.
I have tried to avoid discussing the direct investment we need in arts infrastructure, particularly education resources. I have tried not to talk about funding mechanisms or grants programs, because there are many other imaginative things we can do on the scent of an oily rag. Just ask the creative sector (that's how they've always done it).
But as much as that might align with the first revolution of last year, we need to ask how much better we might be than if we keep doing things the way we've always done them.
Alex Rafalowicz is a young actor with theatre, television and film credits and an unpublished poet. He appears in a new film: Family Demons that has its world premiere at the Night of Horror Film Festival in Newtown, Sydney, next week. He is also a co-author of The Future By Us and president of the United Nations Youth Association of Australia.