Culture-led Renewal

A 2017 inquiry into the civic role of arts organisations in the UK identified the economic and social impacts of culture-led revival as being –

  • Employment Creation
  • Attracting visitors and boosting tourism revenue
  • Stimulating patronage of city and town small businesses
  • Stimulating and supporting creative sector growth
  • Developing the skills, knowledge and confidence of residents
  • Enhancing community cohesion and pride
  • Bringing enjoyment for residents
  • Attracting inward investment
  • Enhancing an area’s image, helping to attract skilled people and business investment
  • Attracting visitors and boosting tourism revenue

This would suggest investment into the cultural and arts sector (not just football) by both Commonwealth and State Governments would create benefits greater than the cost.

Central to a culture-led revival is a shared vision. This could be lead by the Federal Government. A shared vision provides a rally point and gives people a reason to work towards a new future.

State Governments could then work with all sectors, including culture and arts, to develop State visions aligned to the national vision.

The challenge for Government is that investment in a strategic direction takes time to evolve and pay dividends. Government at all levels should commit to a long term strategy for maximising the benefits from a culture-led revival.

Greater financial investment is needed, however money alone is not sufficient, and alone may achieve little. Government could become guarantor to underwrite significant arts events for the next 3-5 years. This will provide financial stability for museums and galleries which have been hit hard by the sector close down.

Iconic, large galleries and theaters could assist smaller and regional galleries and theaters through shared, travelling exhibitions and events, thus extending the Government guarantee into the regions and rural areas.

Government departments and local government can ‘Buy Australia’ and invest in new art by Australian artists when refurbishing facilities. Galleries and theaters owned and operated by local government can plan 3-5 years ahead with bold, exciting programs designed to bring the public to events. Perhaps just as importantly, take art out of the galleries and theaters, into the public arena.

It is clear that through Government-led policy, Government support for the arts, and Local Government operation of arts venues; in partnership with major iconic galleries and theaters, private operators and the public, involving minimal financial investment by Government, the culture and arts sectors could become an integral part of the rebuild of a nation, and the Australian economy. Perhaps even a significant contributor; equal to football, horse racing and Grand Prix events.

While current funding is the minimum level needed, and while greater investment would be helpful; the future of Australia as a cultured nation is not primarily about money. It is about a shared vision of the type of nation we want to be, of how we want others to see us and its about all groups working together for the next 5 years in a coordinated and collaborative manner, for the nation, as much as for the sector or for themselves.

John Coxon is founder of art4u.australia, a consulting agency helping arts organisations become viable and sustainable through application of The Cycle organisational framework. Reach out to John to discuss how effective governance within your organisation can ensure you are a part of the recovery from Covid-19.

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