Friday, May 21, 2010

Arguing for the Arts: Advice from Britain

After attending rehearsals last night for Vaughan Williams' "A London Symphony" which the Harrisburg Symphony will be performing here this weekend, I find this bit of news from Across the Pond important advice for American arts organizations who will be facing state budget battles regarding support for the Arts.

Alistair Smith's article posted Wednesday at Britain's The Stage:
- - - - - - -
Arts Council England chief executive Alan Davey has called on the cultural sector to help it make a “rational” argument to government about the importance of funding for the arts, in order to avoid heavy cuts in this autumn’s spending review.

While frontline arts organisations look set to avoid significant cuts from the £66 million in savings that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will have to find from its 2010/11 budget because of spending cuts across government, it will not be known until later in the year how arts budgets will be affected from 2011/12 by the change in the country’s leadership.

Following June 22’s budget, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition will undertake a Comprehensive Spending Review, with the results expected to be revealed for the DCMS and the arts council in the autumn.

Davey said he believed that whatever government had come to power in the elections, there would have been a “hard case to make” for the arts because of the fiscal climate, but called on the sector to help ACE make that argument.

“You have to argue as hard as possible, but not be unrealistic about the outcome,” he told The Stage. “[The sector] is helping because we are talking to them and they are talking to local politicians and making the case to politicians generally, so everyone is getting the message that arts spending is good spending, it’s hard-working spending, and it’s important to the life of the country. It’s not a trivial thing or an optional add-on that’s nice to have.

“I think although that argument been won to an extent, we mustn’t sit on our laurels, we have to keep making that argument and justifying it, and given that spending overall is so tight, it’s going to get harder and more important to do it. The way the sector can help is to help us make rational arguments and make the arguments themselves. What clearly doesn’t work is shroud-waving.”
- - - - - - -

While 'shroud-waving' may get our lawmakers' attentions (even for a limited span), facts and figures speak louder than shrouds (banners, to the Brits).

I also love their naming this council the "Department for Culture, Media and Sport." While lumping Culture and Sports into the same bucket may seem strange to an American (many of whom would wonder why the Arts are included in the first place), at least the ordering reflects the long-range priorities of our society.  

Gear up - it's going to be a long summer if past budget cycles have been any indication...

- Dick Strawser

No comments:

Post a Comment