Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Don't Be A Dancing Bear

Some rough drawings heading towards linocut stage

  Back in the 80’s and 90’s we used to do, and enjoy community arts projects. We would chase funding, run projects and then acquit the funding for the auditors. Pretty simple, and we got some regular pay for a while doing what we love to do - Art! Not so easy now. Often a director, curator, events manager, etc will soak up the money and you will be left with glib lines about how its good for the community etc, etc.  Working for a big nothing. This is a level of bureaucracy that has inserted itself between the art funding bodies and the artist.    Never stand between an administrator and a bucket of money, something I learned early as a college art teacher. The last person to get funded is the person at the edge - be it teachers, health workers, or artists. The middle soaks it up.
  I fell for this twice (putting work into “community arts” events locally) - never got more than a photocopy label, not even PR, or a web/media publicity plug, and then found out this was a publicly funded event.  I may have been less angry if everybody was in the same boat as volunteers but I felt completely ripped off.
  When I complained to our local arts committee I was treated to a display of complete rudeness from people who are not even professionally linked to arts - having made their collective living elsewhere and dabbling for a bit of a social life. Small towns!!
Don’t you just love working for nothing! We wouldn’t want wealth to spoil artistic imagination would we? Are artists just Dancing Bears?
  Seriously though, this kind of behaviour is not isolated. Its going on all over Australia. Its time to demand a fair go for artists. The National Association of Visual Artists is the peak advocacy body for artists and it is mounting a national campaign collecting signatures to push for paid fees for participation or use of their work. Artists need to reclaim control over their career in the culture of Australia.
  When you are thinking of any art event ask to see the funding sources. Ask about fees for services and use of work. If its not fair don’t do it. Remember something done for costs or free is actually being done at a loss. Intangibles don't pay the rent. In particular too, find out about publicity etc - just what are you getting for your involvement. Remember too that someones political connections to liberal or green causes doesn’t mean they will give you any better or fairer treatment.
  I was once asked to quote for printing (by offset) a very large run of leaflets - the paper for which had to be sourced from pulp processed in Sweden from regrowth pine. I asked what side of the hill should the trees have come from. At that point I bailed out but I did get asked to print by these groups for costs. That is, cost of materials but not my time! In other words Kodak got paid, paper companies paid, plate, ink and consumable suppliers paid but not the local monkey on the press handle. You can imagine what I said!
  We will be producing some campaign cards by Letterpress but you can help signing NAVA'S petition :  www.visualarts.net.au/ or http: //auxiliarymuseumtasmania.blogspot.com.au/p/fair-go-for-artists-now.html

No comments: