My day has been lost to The State of the Arts (#SOTA11) Debate a conference hosted by ACE National and the RSA. Like many people actually working in the arts (a huge, eclectic and diverse sector) I couldn’t afford to attend and the actual conference is largely full of the heavy weight art organisations and sector *players* or dinosaurs of the industry as they are rapidly becoming not least ACE, for its slowness in embracing openess and digital communications and held back by it’s over awareness of ‘brand’ and ‘message’ and ‘City Centric’ culture. I can say this because they do not fund me, and it is my own opinion, which I can have because they do not fund me. I have worked with them, been to their conferences and events and some of their staff have inspired me with their dedication, understanding and knowledge of the sector but not many. My finest example being an Ace officer who would send out emails as if they were a primary school teacher and we were their class… “Hello lovely people, I’m here on the beach, in the hot sun (Clearly being overpaid whilst we are slaving in grimy dark spaces, doing overtime to get a project finished, with little hope of holiday…..) or “How are you all doing with the changes in the world of Child Protection? anyway onto more important matters…. (Who let this child into the Arts Council Office’s email system, find their parent and get them out of there!!!). It’s not that inexperienced people shouldn’t work for ACE it’s just that I shouldn’t be expected to respect them just because they do. For me, ACE has become ‘the elephant in the room’ and dislocated from the people it purports to represent: that’s audiences, the public and artists and arts organisations and arts bodies. It is kept propped up by organisations who are too reliant on their funding support and approval to step back and take a good look at themselves.
#SOTA11 is an example of the distance, ACE are hosting this important, unequivicable event but it is geared for, chaired by and aimed at ‘the old arts establishment’ building bound, funding led, old established organisations and arts figures who once may have been challenging, provocative, innovative, demanding, progressive but got comfortable along the way and underneath all the posturing really don’t want change if it involves any form of ‘prickly discomfort’ or embarrassment. There has been a valiant attempt to re-dress this via, a somewhat underwhelming livestream and @SOTAflash http://j.mp/hi6JtZ there has been talk about cultural bush fires, that the young are not the saviours of tomorrow but the audiences of the now, capitalism v. consumerism. We have heard people saying things like “We must build better relationships with our Local Authorities” Hello! Name me one arts organisation worth their salt who hasn’t been doing exactly this ever since God created the apple and the snake! They’ve been doing nothing but. Why did no-one say we’ve done that, it isn’t working not even NALGAO has managed to crack this one, what else should we be trying, doing to change this? We’ve heard Culture Minister Ed Vaizey proclaim his unchartered thoughts, it wasn’t inspiring. Andy Field did his bit, I like what he says http://lookingforastronauts.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/state-of-the-arts-11/ and the twitterati have tweeted thoughts, questions and responses and their utter disgust/anger at panelists views, statements and ideas but where’s the connection between what is felt, what is known and what is learnt? Distance, white noise, worm holes of parallel universe’s this is SOTA11
That’s not to say important discourse has not occurred but whilst apparently Local Authorities still don’t know how important the arts are (as they sit watching their TV’s and listening to the radio, reading the papers….planning the new look for their City/Town/Village centres…) and we all have to go away and grow our own Philanthropist and collaborate (because we haven’t been doing any of that over the past ten years either, have we!!?) I can’t help but wonder where some of the people at the conference have been these past few years? Thank goodness for twitter and the #SOTAflash team and those in the room who made it worthwhile. We’re artists, we’re communicators, we’re expressive, we bleed when cut and we shine when you hold us up to the light.