SA Arts Plan light on substance

The South Australian government today released its long-awaited arts policy, the first for the state since 2000.
SA Arts Plan light on substance

Adelaide Festival Centre. Image Shutterstock

Launching the The Arts and Culture Plan South Australia 2019-2024 at the APY Gallery today, Premier Steven Marshall said it will lead to wide-reaching improvements across South Australia’s cultural sector, which employs more than 16,000 people.

Its release follows recent criticism from Shadow Arts Minister Jayne Stinson that ‘ArtsSA barely exists anymore’. Stinson told ArtsHub today, 'While much of the Arts Plan is positive and uncontested, what’s disappointing is there’s no new money in this plan at all. What’s worse than delivering no money – is the threat that limited funding to our artists will be further reduced.'

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Last year the Marshall government slashed $4.9 million from the 2018-19 arts budget, increasing to $31.9 million over four years, and effectively dismantled ArtsSA.

Former Chief Executive of the Australia Council Tony Grybowski – in partnership with strategic consultant Mr Graeme Gherashe and a team of experts – led the development of the policy following a comprehensive review of the state’s arts, cultural and creative sector and funding structures.

Mr Grybowski said the the plan was developed after consultation from a cross-section of more than 2500 South Australians.

'The consulting team was determined to meet with as many from across the arts community as possible – in city, metro and regional areas,' he said. 'This rich engagement generated diverse thoughts and insights that have been incorporated right across the Plan. The Plan is really the voice of the community.'

Light on substance

The Plan is supposed to invigorate SA’s arts and culture sector and to inform government decision making. 

While strong on rhetoric ('The Plan encourages all South Australians To DREAM, To EXPLORE and To CREATE a future where arts and culture flourish in everyday life'), it's light on substance, with no new funding to implement any new initiatives. 

Its various aims are illustrated by a number of case studies, which include prominent SA arts companies such as Slingsby Theatre or an 'imagined future' that features musician 'Malcolm' plugging into the business of online sales in 2026.

‘This Arts Plan is about igniting a new level of connectivity – between artists, organisations, institutions and governments – that will inspire bold exploration, innovation, and lead to a vibrant ecology of new relationships and networks,' the document said.

'Above all, this Plan is about how people collaborate, cooperate and communicate, how artists and the community work together, and how everyone can engage with arts and culture.’

Focus on digital

The plan consists of four key values – leadership, strategic collaboration, diversity and experimentation – and six goals. The goals include promoting arts and culture, empowering artists, championing First Nations arts, amplifying South Australian strengths,  including enhancing physical and organisational infrastructure and co-ordinating arts advocacy.

The Plan points to a focus on digital and future technologies, capitalising on South Australia's participation in the 'smart city' movement and creative industries such as games development. Stinson is skeptical of this and told ArtsHub, 'The Plan talks about wanting artists and organisations to become more financially "independent" and "entrepreneurial" – we’re worried that’s code for less public funding for the arts.'

This year’s State Budget put $150 million towards the development of the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Gallery, $500,000 towards the next stage in the planning of the gallery, and $2.6 million to upgrade the storage facility housing the State’s extensive collection of Aboriginal cultural material. A further $1.25 million a year for the next three years has been provided to the Adelaide Festival.

Staff writer

Monday 2 September, 2019

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