As artists find themselves at the end of the food cultural chain, Susan Jones suggests a new activism to reaffirm their status. Monday 24 June 2013 Guardian Professional by Susan Jones
The so-called golden age of arts funding has given way to debilitating austerity, particularly for artists who find themselves at the end of a long food chain, divorced from arts funding and policy decision making. But when did these divisions start and how can artists use activism to create meaningful change for the future?
The millennium saw arts funding increased through imaginative strategies and policies. Artists and the artist-led flourished. With the lottery-financed arts buildings came a new wave of curatorial positions – and in 2006, the advent of cultural leadership roles designed to "nurture and develop dynamic and diverse leaders to equip them for the challenges of the 21st century" (although scant few of these went to practitioners). Divisions between artists and the public were apparent too.
In 2013, the widening divide between rich and poor is manifesting itself clearly in the arts. Contributing to debates on more imaginative ways to measure cultural value, Louis Barrabas says: "The creative sector is full of scuttling scavenging bottom-feeders." What he's describing are the middle people whose infrastructural preferences over recent years have by default resulted in a steady nibbling away at budgets, resources and recognition factors – things that used to be the territory of artists.
In the arts infrastructure developed since the early noughties, artists weren't invited around the table with the curators, directors and consultants. Peer review was abandoned by Arts Council England as it was deemed too expensive, long-winded and subjective. In the arts ecology of today, it's almost as if artists have to be held in suspended animation, waiting for someone to need them. Read More
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Tammy Hampel (Isaacson)
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