Dealing with the Challenge…

In the current and forthcoming economic conditions, the seriousness of the funding situation for the arts sector cannot be underestimated. The Arts Council’s 2009 grant from government was reduced, however due to the Council’s management of this, the impact of the reduction was somewhat softened for the arts community compared to what we can expect in 2010. Further cuts to the Arts Council by government can be expected; and this time there is little hope of the effects not being directly felt by artists.

Even if the Arts Council were to receive standstill funding at the 2009 rate, it would in effect suffer a €6.6 million cut for 2010.  Moreover if the recommendations of the McCarthy report were to be implemented – which suggests that the Arts Councils grant be cut by E6.1 million, then the agency would actually have E12.7 million less to spend in 2010 that it did in 2009.

In light of this situation, the visual arts lobby has become more and more important.  Visual Artists Ireland is currently active in this area with political parties and also with members of the Oireachtas Culture Committee.  The publication of The Social, Economic and Fiscal Status of the Visual Artist in Ireland has proven to be timely and also effective in getting the attention of both politicians and the media.

The Arts Council are also very active; with the important Indacom report due out soon that will indicate the arts contribution to the economy.  Prior knowledge of this report indicates that 50,000 people are employed in the arts in Ireland – compared to the 70,000 employed in the information, communication and technology sector. Arts jobs are indigenous and spread countrywide; and individuals working in the arts are creative, flexible and innovative – exactly the people valuable to the ‘smart economy’. Cultural tourism contributes E5.1 billion to the Irish economy; and represents the only part of the tourism sector that has seen growth in recent times.

We are now in a time for activation rather than passive acceptance. Nothing can be left for granted at this stage.  As we have seen in the An Bord Snip Nua report and also in other reports back to government, the arts are under serious threat.  An Bord Snip Nua have made a series of recommendations that at the very least would throw Ireland’s cultural industry back to the 1950s.  Their recommendations include, but are not exclusive to: the reduction in funding to the Arts Council; the discontinuation of The Department of Art, Sports and Tourism as dept in it own right; and abolish the allocation (of funding) Culture Ireland.  The cancellation of government funded artistic programmes (for which no definition is given), and the removal of the provision of arts in some rural areas.  Other reports directly recommend that removal of the tax exemption scheme for artists.

The extent of the implementation of these recommendations is currently in discussion as the government parties prepare for the 2010 budget. As you will see there are many reasons for us to contact our local representatives and therefore VAI would like to encourage our readers to join both national and local area initiatives such as the constituency groups, that are taking our case to the doors of politicians at national and electoral areas.  Politicians are very anxious to maintain their seats, therefore now is a good time to remind them that we are the voters who provide them with their place in the Dail.  Further information on who and where your local group is can be found at VAI will continue our work at the government level and we will publish our list of current recommendations to government in the next issue of the Visual Artists News Sheet.