bleak times for arts and culture

These are depressing days for the  arts and cultural sector in Australia, despite the commitment to greater access, participation   and diversity in the political party's  manifestos.  

The current federal  Coalition government's  strategy  is to officially reduce the deficit and this is being pursued primarily through reductions in public expenditure.  It is strangling Australia's  creative industries with  'austerity'  style spending cuts, without having any clear funding strategy for the sector's  long term future. There is a marked failure  to think long term and a failure to invest in our public spaces and cultural education. Instead there is a  hostile political environment that expresses a deep contempt for the knowledge industries (including the sciences). 

The Australia Council, our principal  arts funding body,  has just defunded about 65 art organisations across the nation.  The reason is that it was  not given enough money in the Coalition's Federal Budget 2016  for the Australia Council to properly achieve its mission of enabling a culturally ambitious nation and a richer and more meaningful life for Australians.  The decline in the number of organisations funded is a result of the  loss of $300 million in public investment in  the arts sector  since 2013.  

So the National Association for the Visual Arts, the Centre for Contemporary Photography (Melbourne), the Australian Centre for Photography (Sydney), the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia (CACSA) and the Australian Experimental Art Foundation (AEAF), which is based  in Adelaide, have all been defunded. Now there was a restructuring designed to bring new blood into the funding system --eg., 17 organisations working in Indigenous arts have emerged with new, long-term support---and this meant that  the status quo  was  rejected apart from protecting the small coterie of large performing arts companies. 

However, the Coalition cuts funding to  thriving small to medium  arts organisations and  to individual artists-and projects  (a reduction in funding to both in the order of 70%)  to create a space for new art organisations.  That is a savage decline in  the funding  to  individual writers and visual artists  who mostly work alone   by the Coalition  is a hacking into the  grassroots provision (seed-beds of start-ups necessary for the generation of “innovation” ),  which leads to the discovery and nurturing of talent and expressive ability.   This hacking into those who make the art and write the books is more than  the belt-tightening or "efficiency dividends"  of austerity politics. 

An indication of this 'more than'  is that though the economic impact of the creative industries (around   $50 billion per annum for an investment $7 billion), there   is the deep reluctance by the political elite (Labor and Liberal)  to  provide more reasonable  support arts and culture. There Coaltiion's  slashing the funding to the small to medium sector and individual artists runs counter to its  political rhetoric  about an  innovative, clever nation, an 'ideas boom', or their vision of Australia's ‘future built on innovation’, ‘agility’, and ‘excitement’. 

The implication is that our political elite do not accept that the arts and culture are the great engines of creative thinking, nor can they help to transition and invigorate our economy after the collapse of the mining boom.