Moving along

This week I resigned from one of my jobs. It’s been fun working at Western Riverina Arts and I’ve learned a lot but it’s time to move on.

When I began I thought too much arts funding went to artists with an overblown sense of self-importance. Now I know that the funding available doesn’t go far enough to encourage everyone to experience the joys of creating.

Before I started working at WRA I had a conversation with the previous Regional Arts Development Officer where I argued that more funding should go to fund workshops and less to fund individual artists.

The former RADO argued that individual artists raise the profile of the arts and this encourages everyone but I still think the greatest benefit would be greater participation, rather than just greatness for a few individuals.

Just as most people know that physical exercise is important for their health but probably realise they need to do more; it’s the case that creative exercises are important for mental health.

The small amounts of money doled out to people trying to promote creative activities in our communities do not go far enough.

The arts are important for bringing people together and also for prompting reflection. It develops empathy, for example, the skill of understanding how other people are thinking and feeling.

So often we’re force-fed answers in the form of marketing, when the process of thinking of a question is far more stimulating because there’s usually more than one answer. Harrison Young has nice line about poetry that captures this idea:
Poetry is full of metaphor, and metaphor is where one thing means another, it is saying two things at once. And this to my mind is like reality, there are often two aspects. Or more.

The experience of working to promote a regional arts board has educated me. I’ve gained a better understanding of the hoops one jumps through to access those small amounts of funding. I’ve also helped develop projects and, as someone who throws around lots of ideas, it’s been gratifying to see some of them develop.

My idea that the arts should engage and develop understanding has shaped projects and also encouraged me to run workshops. The knowledge I’ve gained from helping assess CASP applications has led me to successfully apply for CASP funding.

There’s more I want to do to promote the arts and their benefits but I’ve come to realise that there is only so much one can do while working within a regional arts board. There’s a significant issue in managing the perception of self-interest if you’re an artist hoping to secure funding to promote the arts. People don’t see the small amount of money, they see that you’ve gained an opportunity. These people don’t see the hoops that you’ve got to jump through or are unwilling to do so.

So it is time for me to allow others to have the opportunity to gain experience in the arts and to learn to jump through these hoops. I hope they will continue to develop and promote creative activities for everyone in our communities.