Tag Archives: The Arts

Creating communities with a common voice – the Arts Party

The-Arts-PartyA Writer talks to the political party for artists, coming to an election near you!

MOTORISTS, shooters and fishers have all got one, so have sex enthusiasts and christians … why not creatives?

Micro political parties have leapt into the Australian voters’ consciousness like never before – some would say they’re running the joint – so when one of my readers tipped me off about the formation of a new party named The Australian Arts Party (TAP), I was all ears.

They’ve been getting their act together, the people behind Australia’s newest micro party, but what else would we expect from a collective of creatives?

Meet digital producer and TAP founder and registered officer, PJ Collins.

ACTIVE ARTIST Digital producer - the Arts Party's PJ Collins.
ACTIVE ARTIST Digital producer – the Arts Party’s PJ Collins.

Michael Burge: Why an Arts Party?

PJ Collins: To provide something that’s long overdue – a dedicated voice to support and encourage arts and creativity for all Australians. We want a more unified and economically prosperous Australian society, built on thriving, vibrant communities, which benefit and improve the quality of all our lives. A thriving arts sector is a key component of preparing us for this future, as it creates a ripple effect of seemingly unconnected benefits throughout the community, both socially, technologically and economically.

Australia’s creative economy already generates billions of dollars in revenue each year and that is set to grow substantially, as it must do – we can’t base our future on the global price of iron ore or coal. The future of Australia will be decided by the quality of our ideas, and the skills we develop among us to make them happen. The best investment this country can make is in its own people. When we encourage creative activity we plant the seeds for innovation, and that is what will power Australia’s future prosperity.

Finally, after the last decade of watching and listening to our federal representatives in Canberra, we’ve grown tired of waiting for a positive win-win, cross-party parliamentary voice to appear in Australian politics, so we’ve created it.

MB: Is there a gap in representation for Australia’s artists?

PJC: Artists and our creative industries are certainly in need of a committed voice. There are many support organisations that do the best they can to help them within limited mandates, but there has been no committed political and federal voice to speak on their behalf until now. Like all Australians, these companies and individuals just want a fair go, the opportunity and support to achieve their potential – hand-ups not hand-outs. We all gain as a society when creative individuals and organisations fulfil their potential.

ArtsParty_posters_A3_Amanda-1_800MB: Which parts of the current funding models for Australian arts needs to be overhauled?

PJC: What we need is a more efficient, better supported arts industry, funding more creativity, taking more risks and offering greater opportunity for all Australians, as both creators and audiences, to get involved. The amount of pure funding that reaches artists and communities is simply too low, once all the ancillary administrative costs are deducted, and sadly no art or community project is funded on merit alone – there are just so many conditions to access funding. In fact there is no real autonomy for any of our arts funding bodies, and that needs to change.

We also want to see the audience, the actual funders, given central importance. Public investment should come with the proviso of connecting with as many members of the public as possible. For certain areas, such as major film funding, we’re even considering a crowdsourcing approach to deciding what projects get significant investment. We’re throwing around a lot of ideas at the moment!

MB: Regarding accountability for artists in receipt of government funding, what is TAP’s motivation for supporting an increase in responsibility?

PJC: We feel that artists have a duty to complete their publicly funded work, and that funding bodies have an equal obligation to create as large a public audience for that work as possible. Admiring our art and creativity should be a communal activity wherever possible. It should happen in neighbourhoods across the country and be as accessible as possible to the general population, so we all gain. So to us the responsibility rests with us all as a community.

MB: What sparked the idea to start TAP?

PJC: It was a discussion with friends over beer, about how hard it was to get any funding for an arts festival, which segued into the sorry state of the Australian film industry – hardly unusual conversations among Australians interested in those areas. In fact I think the idea of an arts party has been discussed literally thousands of times in bars and cafes over the years, but for some reason no-one actually got up the next day and did anything about it. Until now.

MB: What does TAP believe most artists want from the political process in this country?

PJC: Recognition, acknowledgement, respect and support. A fair go. It’s generally not a viable path to enter an arts career full-time, outside of administration. We would like to see tax breaks for those who create value with their minds above and beyond their daily work, and the opportunity for unknown artists to easily access small-scale funding to complete and share the fruits of their work. Creating value with your mind is not limited to fine arts either.

ARTY FARTY Minister for the Arts George Brandis.
ARTY FARTY Minister for the Arts George Brandis.

MB: How does TAP view the current state and federal Arts Ministries?

PJC: It’s terrible to see the closure of so many arts departments across the country, and the provocative comments made by the federal Minister for the Arts (George Brandis) surrounding the biennale controversy.  It’s hard to imagine any fundamental shift in the treatment of Australian arts and creativity in the current political climate, but don’t worry, we’re on our way!

MB: What has the process of founding TAP been like for you personally?

PJC: Well it was great to find that so many people shared my belief, that the arts needed a united voice, and cared enough to actually join and get this party going. We funded the party by way of a crowdfunding project, started by a couple of us emailing friends with the message – and that message just kept going. We then put together a committee of like-minded people with proven track records in the arts to help our progress. We needed 500 paid-up members to validate the campaign and ended up with over 700. The official paperwork is lodged and we’re just waiting to hear back from the AEC. Inspiring.

MB: Which electorates is TAP planning to stand candidates in?

PJC: Ultimately, we would like to be able to stand candidates across all states and the federal parliament, but our focus right now is on the next federal election.

MB: What does TAP offer to voters who do not identify as artists?

PJC: Well this party is about the audience just as much as it’s about the artists and creatives. You can’t have one without the other! We want to give voice to the countless Australian creators who are desperate to gain the recognition they deserve and share their work to widest possible audience. By repeating this across the country, in neighbourhoods large and small, we will ultimately strengthen the entire Australian community. We are about community first and foremost, and all of us contribute to that.

To find out more about The Australian Arts Party, visit their website www.theartsparty.org or check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

This article first appeared on No Fibs.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.


Long live The Yartz

SIR LES Cultural attache and Minister for The Yartz.
SIR LES Cultural Attache and Minister for The Yartz.

A Writer’s first column.

WHEN Margo Kingston asked me to consider writing a regular arts column for No Fibs, I thought she was pulling my leg, simply because art and politics didn’t seem like a natural blend.

Aren’t artists a government’s greatest nightmare, grudgingly budgeted-for, the black sheep’s back on which Australia’s great nation couldn’t possibly be built?

The one time I was part of a policy discussion for a state election campaign, when we got around to considering the arts, someone reminded us of Sir Les Patterson, Cultural Attache and Minister for ‘The Yartz’.

We all had a laugh, and The Yartz got slotted under some other subheading, which is why I have come to the conclusion that the arts belongs on No Fibs somewhere between the black sheep and Sir Les. If you work out where that is, let me know.

Inspired by Margo, I’ve explored a 12-month plan of arty subject matter, and I’ll edit arts writing submitted by citizen journalists, which is what No Fibs is all about.

We’re calling the column ‘Creating Waves’, because we want it to push the envelope a bit, and I’m also looking forward to writing about the arts from an artist’s perspective.

I am an artist. There, I’ve said it. Roll the polemic, cue the manifesto.

Actually, this black sheep is not about to start bleating, he’s going to start dreaming. My only real beef is that artists have gotten into the habit of allowing others to speak for us, and in the social and new media, this stands to leave plenty of artists and their work behind.

“We are creating at a time when old media paradigms are shifting and reinventing themselves, which comes with plenty of economic pain and ego-bruising challenges.”

I have been a practising artist for three decades – an illustrator, designer, director, writer, producer, actor and now a journalist, because I believe there is an art to quality journalism.

Writing is probably my strongest suit, and it comes naturally, but for years I failed to get paid work as a writer. Waiting around led me into very strange country, primarily to shape corporate fantasies for big companies. Not art, not by a long shot.

In 2008, 21 years after I left a very expensive school which taught me little about being an artist, I finally learnt for myself that in order to be a writer, I just needed to start writing.

I figured that as an art form, writing was something nobody could stop me from doing. I just had to create great content. How it would get out there was a question I should no longer waste time answering. I had to trust that a pathway would become apparent as I was writing.

I started on a play and feature articles (some were picked-up by the mainstream print media), then added a novel to the mix, then another play, and landed a job as an editor required to write regular feature articles.

When that 2-year contract was not renewed due to a decline in advertising revenue, I started a blog, and committed to writing on it every week. The publish button has provided a great panacea for my need to be read, but I can’t help feeling there is a lot more to be had from online publishing.

We are creating at a time when old media paradigms are shifting and reinventing themselves, which comes with plenty of economic pain and ego-bruising challenges. Arts communities are making the same transitions, simply because audiences, readers and consumers are accessing art in an increasing number of platforms that traditional marketplaces cannot capitalise on unless they evolve.

When my first play went through the development process with a theatre company for more than three years, and it still didn’t make it onto the stage, I got frustrated enough to see if there was such a thing as YouTube for theatre.

Turns out there is, and it’s growing exponentially, using live streaming, a technique developed for corporate conferencing, but now distributing performing arts to the online community.

The real impact of this movement lies in the realisation that performing arts don’t need to be streamed from a traditional theatre venue.

Suddenly the world seemed a lot smaller; Australia’s theatre companies weren’t such powerful gatekeepers; the script-based content I’d been sweating over had a new platform; and an Australian playwright writing about foreign subject matter didn’t feel so isolated.

EBOOKS ANYONE? One of the greatest publishing revolutions.
EBOOKS ANYONE? One of the greatest publishing revolutions.

Within a few short years, E-books have gone from an industry laughing-stock to a viable means of pursuing a career as a published author. While I edit my novel, the possibility of self-publishing hangs temptingly in my consciousness.

Not long after I started tweeting I stumbled into writing for No Fibs, which has shown what political writing can achieve in the hands of voters, not politicians and their mainstream media mouthpieces.

Now we have an opportunity to see what arts writing can achieve in the hands of artists.

I will be covering topics on all art forms – nothing is off the table. If you want to review plays, movies, exhibitions, or write about your own arts practice, check out the citizen journalism training drop-down menu for No Fibs submission guidelines, and please submit.

You’ll also need to be on Twitter, which is how you’ll contact me if you’ve written something you’d like No Fibs to consider publishing. Find me @burgewords

Arts practice, policy, access, and innovation are the main areas I’ll be covering.

Practice, because artists need to create art, no excuses (no fibs!).

Policy, to discover what the Abbott Government has in store for artists, since we designed the campaigns, but didn’t make it into any three-word slogans.

Access, because all artists want to be where the action is.

And innovation, because it’s already shaping the artists’ new world faster than you imagine.

This article first appeared in No Fibs.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.