As a representative organisation, VAI makes itself available for consultation on matters pertaining to professional visual artists. In preparation for the forthcoming election, Visual Artists Ireland recently contacted the political parties in relation to their policies and strategies pertaining to the visual arts. VAI’s particular interest is how these will effect the professional working and living conditions of visual artists.
Whilst we recognise that there are an unprecedented number of independent candidates in this election, we have confined ourselves to the main political parties who have a national representation. The following questionnaire was sent to: Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, The Green Party, Labour, and Sinn Féin.
1.1 In terms of ongoing social, cultural and economic development – could you outline your parties policies in relation to visual arts education at second and third level – for example in terms of ensuring educational support to foster a visually / design literate culture as part of Ireland1s competitive edge?
1.2 Third level and post-graduate education – could you outline your parties policies in relation to supporting the training of highly skilled and talented Irish artists in terms of third level and post-graduate levels?
2. Social Welfare & Financial Policies
2.1 Could you outline you parties policy’s in relation to understanding and supporting the often financially precarious status of the professional visual artist? For example in relation to the social welfare catogorisation/ employment status.
2.2 Could you provide your policy with regard the Tax Exemption for Creative Works, and provide some detail of your party’s policy with regards the recognition of the working environment of visual artists.
3.1 Public Art Commissions – via local authorities or state agencies such as the OPW.
3.2 Artists placement schemes?
4.1 Funding opportunities for the individual Visual Artist and the Visual Arts Sector as a whole (including your parties conception of the dept of culture and the arts council)
5. Other specific strategies
As of 1pm Friday 11th February 2011 there has been no reply to our questions from Fianna Fail. For the sake of completeness we have copied the relevant section from the Fianna Fail website.
Arts and Culture
Fianna Fáil values the positive contribution that a thriving arts and cultural sector makes to Irish society as a whole and is particularly conscious of the potential of the sector to provide opportunities for self-expression and participation. We also appreciate the economic potential of the arts and creative industries and their role in supporting enterprise and innovation in the economy as a whole, as highlighted at the Global Irish Economic Forum in Farmleigh. While resources for all sectors will be under pressure over the next few years, we will do our best to support arts and culture initiatives.
- Ensure that the arts and culture sector continues to be represented at the Cabinet table.
- Work to maintain employment levels in the sector.
- As resources allow, advance the capital development plans for the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Concert Hall, the Abbey Theatre, the National Museum at Collins Barracks and other major cultural centres.
- Seek to maximise the mutual benefit for the arts and tourism sectors of cultural tourism initiatives.
- Extend the Section 481 Film Investment relief to 2016 to maintain Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for film production in an increasingly competitive international environment and protect and grow the number of direct and indirect jobs supported by the industry.
- Establish a new development agency for the audiovisual industry, Screen Ireland, amalgamating the functions of the Irish Film Board, the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland in relation to film and multiplatform audiovisual content production in Ireland. The new agency will seek to grow the scale of the industry significantly.
(edited from Fine Gael Arts Policy 2010)
Ireland is more than an economy; we are a society, a nation. For centuries, our rich culture has sustained and animated us, and even at our darkest moments our artists have imagined and defined our future.
The arts are a big part of what makes Ireland such an attractive place for 5.5 million visitors a year.
- In Government, Fine Gael will nurture and support our culture, ensuring access to the best of the arts in communities right across our country. We will invest in today’s artists, confident of a wealth of dividends tomorrow. Principles of Fine Gael’s Arts Policy.
- That high quality artistic creation is a good in itself.
That there should be no barrier for any person in accessing arts and cultural experiences.
- The arts will be a core component of the school curriculum. Educators and artists will play a collaborative role in designing and implementing school curriculum. The cultural rights of children, who are in no way responsible for the current financial situation, are given a special priority.
- Cultural discussion will be driven up the agenda of government.
- The Arts and Culture will have a seat at the cabinet table in any future Fine Gael government. The arms length principle will be respected.
- That the success of this sector will be broadened and deepened across society.
- Opportunities to experience and learn about the Ireland’s arts, music and cultural heritage should be available to all our people. New and innovative ways will be continuously sought to strengthen and deepen cultural provision and activity.
- That the public and private spheres must work together in this area.
- That hard data and analysis will be used to support new developments of best practice.
That this sector will be promoted and advertised as a success story for the country.
New approach, new initiatives:
Fine Gael believes it is vital that there be better intra and inter departmental co-ordination and co-operation. Synergies between Tourism, Culture and Sport within the Department will be pursued. Co-ordination with other government departments is vital in particular the Department of Education and Skills in terms of the arts and education, the Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources when it comes to broadcasting and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.
Fine Gael understands the enormous value of the arts at local level in binding together our communities and in marking out as special and distinctive each village, town or city.
Fine Gael is committed to better government. In line with our new policy on state boards, we will ensure that members of the Arts Council do not have a direct conflict of interest. New members will be appointed in a new and transparent way, after vacancies have been advertised and qualified and appropriate candidates short-listed.
Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport
The Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport will commission comprehensive, concrete ongoing research on arts and cultural practice and delivery. It will use this data to drive and improve cultural provision across the range of initiatives like those outlined below
Fine Gael will appoint a Cultural Broker at interdepartmental level to ensure better understanding of cultural potential across all government departments, agencies and state bodies such that arts and creative industries can be facilitated to play a central role in Ireland’s future.
In order to support important commemorative key artistic and state events the Department will create a database of significant anniversaries and ensure that living culture is central to their celebration. In particular the Department will put culture at the heart of the 2016 commemoration, beginning immediately with a range of commissions of various scales building to their delivery in 2016. In preparation for that anniversary, it will create a large-scale digital archive of the National Cultural Institutions that will be a permanent record for the people of Ireland and cultural visitors to the country.
Local Authorities and the arts
Fine Gael understands the enormous value of the arts at local level in binding together our communities and in marking out as special and distinctive each village, town or city. Fine Gael commits to working with Local Authorities to ensure cultural representation on County Development Boards, and that all Corporate Plans, County Development Plans and Local Action Plans specifically address the need to create the right conditions for arts, culture and creative industries to flourish. The Local Government Fund, established in 1999 under the Local Government Act 1998, provides local authorities with the finance for general discretionary funding of their day-to-day activities. This fund will be looked at with regard to supporting local cultural development and activity.
In order to provide the artistic, educational, entrepreneurial and administrative skills necessary to deliver high-quality professional arts the department will works across second, third and fourth-level education to ensure there is adequate provision in this area. We will also work with partner organisations outside of formal education to ensure that extant arts organisations are equipped with the business planning, finance marketing and technology skills to raise the level of sponsorship and philanthropy in the sector.
Philanthropy, Sponsorship and Patronage
In the current climate it is unlikely that the state will be in a position to commit to higher levels of investment within the cultural sector, desirable as that may be.
Fine Gael will therefore create the circumstances for effective philanthropy, sponsorship and patronage, by working with partner organizations and through the provision of financial incentives. In particular The Community Foundation for Ireland and Business to Arts will be approached for further discussion and initiation of models of best practice in this area. It is intended that this should develop towards a National Endowment Fund for the Arts such that the private sector is facilitated to provide long-term sustainable support for the arts, and will be a legacy for future generations. The implementation of an incentive scheme which both creates a motivation and reward for arts organisations pursuing private investment and creates greater impact for supporters of cultural projects. Our proposal is that this would be implemented to create a stimulus for private investment in the sector in the short to medium term. It should be clear that this fund will be established for a finite period with the objective of developing greater private investment in the arts in Ireland and supporting the development of a philanthropic culture.
For example: Creation of a €2m fund which will provide €1 for every €2 raised privately, capped at €10k per project , supporting 200 projects. Innovation Fine Gael seeks to help the Cultural Sector expand and develop nationally and internationally. To this end, we will support creative partnerships in research and development between arts, educational and enterprise organizations. We will provide innovation funding appropriate to the needs of the arts sector, and ensure that the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, semi-state bodies such as Failte Ireland, the restructured FAS and relevant innovation bodies are working closely with the Cultural Sector. Fine Gael Ministers, when making appointments to these boards, will consider appointing people who have experience of the Arts/Cultural sector where appropriate but not to “represent” any sector. Fine Gael will seek to fuse and develop traditional artistic practices with new enabling technologies.
THE GREEN PARTY
We support and have contributed to the rollout of full broadband provision at all second level schools. This would facilitate a migration to cloud computing which enables access to a more cost effective and diverse range of materials, including software that would would facilitate certain aspects of the visual arts. Our proposal for an Arts Education Fund, which would enable artists of all disciplines to travel around the country and visit schools would assist in this regard. Through the Department of Educations and Skills, ensure that contemporary art education is introduced at primary and secondary level to grow artists and audiences for the future. Regarding third level, the provision of courses should be demand-driven and in the current economic climate we would not seek to specifically subsidise Arts courses above and beyond current levels through Departmental funding. This is an option that the Arts Council could play a role in, using its own funding channels. Social Welfare & Financial Policies.
We recognise and value the creation of original works and support a tax exemption up to and above the current level. In recognition of the vital role the film industry plays in bringing investment into this country, we support the continuance of the Section 481 tax breaks for the industry.
The Green Party was a great supporter of the Per Cent for Art scheme.
This is very much dependent on the funding availability. We will continue to press for the prioritisation of Arts funding. I would not make a distinction between visual arts and performing arts, architecture, literature or collaborative arts in this regard. The Arts Council remains in my view the best channel for funding at national level, although the Department of Education also has a role to play.
Other specific strategies.
The Green Party has long been a strong advocate for the arts. Many of our supporters are involved in the arts, media and film, and we successfully fought to ensure the viability of the arts in Ireland during our time in Government. In successive budgets, the Green Party protected arts funding from further cuts. We also secured the future of the Irish Film Board when it was at threat of being scrapped. The Green Party recognises the immense contribution made by all sectors within the artistic and cultural community including the visual arts. We believe that all people living in this country should have access to the means to be creative in an artistic sphere. There should be access to all forms of the arts, regardless of age, gender, social circumstances or race. We also believe that the arts should be an intrinsic part of the school curriculum so that children grow up assuming the arts to be a natural part of their lives.
The Green Party wants to continue to support the artistic community through the following measures:
- Ensure the continued representation for the Arts and Culture at Cabinet.
- Maintain current levels of funding to the statutory agencies for the arts, including Irish Film Board, Culture Ireland and the Arts Council.
- Legislate to expand the definition of the arts as currently laid out in the Arts Act.
- Creative activity and cultural development should be valued for their own intrinsic worth and the enjoyment that they engender. However, it is also vital to recognise the vital role that arts and culture will play in our economic recovery.
- Ensure that Local Authorities allocate sufficient funding to allow the fulfilment of long-term strategic culture and arts plans.
- Recognising the role that technology and innovation will play in the future of our artistic and cultural life, we will seek to form joint ventures between our enterprise and tourism bodies and our artistic and cultural organisations.
Paul Gogarty – Green Party
We need to ensure that our children receive a meaningful arts education both in formal and non formal settings and the Labour Party would look at the best programmes from abroad and those developed in Ireland, such as the Points of Alignment report, to ensure that children receive the arts education which they deserve.
We will also work to provide educational opportunities in arts and design at third level, as it is just as important as having arts education in our primary and secondary schools.
Social Welfare and Financial Policies
In our policy document we outlined that relatively low pay, lack of job security, poor pension provision and difficulties accessing social welfare payments are all significant barriers to Irish artists to follow their desired career path. Our response is to work with the with the Departments of Finance and Social and Family Affairs to address areas that make it difficult for artists to access Social Assistance payments and pensions while remaining eligible for the artists’ tax exemption.
We believe that the Artists Tax Exemption should be set at €40,000 per annum but with a capacity to spread income over a period of years. The rationale behind being able to spread income over a period of years stems from the fact that artists often have low and irregular incomes.
Working with the youth work sector, we will work to realise the potential of young people through good quality arts practice within youth work organisations and to develop appropriate policies and activities at local, regional and national level
We do propose to investigate the possibility of artist placement schemes in arts education. It would be very important to ensure that practitioners with the requisite skills are delivering programmes to children and young people.
Many of the employment problems facing artists also affect a considerable amount of the wider workforce as a result of the economic climate and as such they can only be addressed by an improvement in the general economic situation. We do however recognise the role the cultural and creative sector can play in facilitating this recovery.
While the current public finances prevent any guarantees over budgetary allocations, the Labour Party will seek to work towards a situation where a funding is provided on a multi annual basis.
The Labour Party proposes to establish a National Endowment for the Arts to support Irish artists. We also propose to examine alternative private funding sources to complement public support for Irish artists and future capital projects, be it through philanthropy, patronage or sponsorship. It is our belief that this private funding should not be seen as a substitute for existing public
We also propose to introduce greater Ministerial responsibility and accountability for the formulation of arts and culture policy and the expenditure of public funds.
We announced in our jobs plan yesterday our proposal to extend the R& D tax credit to the video game industry. This sector has shown huge potential for growth in recent years and we believe Ireland can become a European hub for online and console game development.
Mary Upton TD Labour Party Spokesperson on Tourism, Culture and Sport Deputy, Dublin South Central
Sinn Féin is fully supportive of visual arts education as part of an overall policy that recognises the social, cultural and economic importance of the arts. As part of our broader education policy we wish to liberate and facilitate the potential of all and deploy resources to promote access to visual arts education for disadvantaged and marginalised groups. The potential for the development of the arts sector in Ireland is immense, and we wish to take a more integrated, imaginative and innovative approach to arts (including visual arts) that could open up markets which generate indigenous business and craft sectors and serve as a dynamic to reinvigorate Irish culture in general. In government, we would encourage north-south co-operation of the arts councils.
Sinn Féin supported the National Campaign for the Arts, and our Arts spokesperson Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh lobbied Minister Mary Hanafin to voice Sinn Féin’s opposition to the cuts. Unfortunately the Arts Council budget was cut by 5%, but it is our view that the strength and importance of this campaign is evidenced by the fact that it succeeded in staving off a significantly bigger cut by the government.
During the Budget debates Deputy Ó Snodaigh criticised the artists tax exemption cap of €40,000 as it does not account fully for the context in which artists earn their money – a sum of €40,000 may sound like a lot of money, but if one is an artist working on a commission that takes two years, one must pay tax for one year rather than two years when one gets paid. We do not wish to see an open-ended exemption but we recognise that a threshold that would actually benefit artists should be higher than €40,000. The current arbitrary arrangement is not helpful to artists or development of the arts in Ireland.
We recognise the very often precarious status of the professional visual artist and as a result, we also propose to further explore the prospect of overhauling the social welfare system to introduce a basic minimum income system for all in view of its positive potential for more equitable income system to ensure people do not fall below the poverty line.
We support Public Art Commissions via local authorities and state agencies such as the OPW, as well as Artist Placement Schemes. Local councils have considerable powers of provision for the arts, galleries and other amenities, but their ability to deliver is largely dependent on available resources and political will. Sinn Féin public representatives advocate for the full exercise of all local powers, and have lobbied for additional resources to ensure that each community has and equal access to basic public arts and cultural services.
We have called on the government to ensure that there is provision of a funding package for local authorities to deliver community-based arts education projects in disadvantaged communities, and local capital arts funding to support development of local arts infrastructure and for the removal of the restrictions on subventions for temporary arts spaces. Sinn Féin will engage directly with arts and community groups to determine local needs and promote local leadership and participation in arts, and ensure that better use is made of existing civic buildings (including town halls and libraries) to deliver access to the arts, while also ensuring that all such facilities are accessible to people with disabilities. We will establish clear and fair criteria for public art contracts and ensure local community/artists input into the selection process.
In advance of the last budget we called upon the government to ensure that budget maintained existing levels of funding to all agencies for the Arts including the Arts Council, to protect local authority arts funding and make significant new funding available to the arts and cultural sector in order to build on our cultural tourism potential. We see Artist Placement Schemes as part of a bigger picture – they are not just good for culture. We see spending on arts sector as an investment for the long-term.
Brian Keane Director of Administration Sinn Féin