Arts West Submission to Creative State Strategy 2020-2024

6th September 2019

Arts West Submission to Creative State strategy 2020-2024

At Arts West we believe we can make a profound contribution to the wellbeing of our community as a collective voice progressing the arts in the West, and supporting, sharing and advancing the creativity of local artists.

The West is home  to a diverse and vibrant workforce of artists and creative workers: the 2016 census showed us there were 14,023 people employed across cultural and creative occupations, accounting for 3.825% of the total electorate workforce, compared to 3.9% of the national workforce. (Source: Australia Council). Access to creative opportunities and cultural representation are not only key drivers to influencing a cohesive and healthy community, but also represent a sizable contribution to the economy of Melbourne’s West.

At the core of Arts West is an Alliance of seven Arts organisations: 100 Story Building, cohealth Arts Generator, Footscray Community Arts Centre, Snuff Puppets, The SUBSTATION, Western Edge Youth Arts and Women’s Circus and a growing community of Creative Members made up of independent Artists, small companies and ensembles living and creating work in the West. Our organisations and artists work to create opportunities for communities to engage with Australia’s vibrant arts and culture; to create opportunities for Victorian artists to develop and present new work; to reduce harm on vulnerable people; to alleviate the pressures on youth services by engaging young people; and create social and cultural cohesion through bringing people together to celebrate both diversity and difference and contribute to the development of a contemporary Australian narrative.

In order to support Arts West’s vision and adequately recognise the impact that arts and culture have in the west, Creative State 2 must commit to the following:

1.     Increased funding for Victorian Independent artists and Small to Medium Arts organisations.
Creative Victoria’s Organisational Investment Program (OIP), has been instrumental in providing stability and long-term growth of arts organisations in the west, however, a higher level of investment in these organisations will yield significant return on investment for the Victorian State Government. Arts West requests an additional investment of at least 25% to increase funding for the OIP program and for OIP funding to be indexed annually to align with the Consumer Price Indexation as set by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and account for inflation and annual increases in operational costs. This increase would enable greater representation from a diversity of artists, companies and artforms from the west, and support arts organisations to build a sustainable financial model for growth over their OIP funding period.

2.     Investment in, and support for sector development providers.
The Arts West Alliance is the peak arts advisory and advocacy body of Melbourne’s west, and holds a vital place in the local arts ecology in building and supporting the diverse and thriving arts sector in the West. Sector development providers are integral in assisting Creative Victoria to achieve its goals of building a stronger Victorian arts sector. For example, Arts West advocates on a localised level (to developers, tourism providers and councils) to increase local investment and incorporation of the arts in communities. Like other peak arts bodies, (some of which have recently closed due to lack of funding), the difficulty in securing funds to support Arts West compromises the efficiency and impact of our work. We urge the Creative State Strategy to address this lack of support through increased funding for our peak advisory and sector development providers.

3.     Investment in existing arts infrastructure, rather than building additional ‘White Elephant’ venues.
As larger cultural institutions look to the western suburbs for affordable infrastructure, there is a risk that established arts practitioners and organisations from Melbourne’s west will be overlooked and negatively impacted. Arts West recognises the importance of investing in and upgrading existing arts infrastructure and institutions in the western suburbs of Victoria to ensure they can continue to support our rapidly growing communities. With the development of new arts and cultural infrastructure, Arts West is concerned that the limited funding for artistic programming will be further stretched across competing venues.

Arts West is also very aware of the need for affordable and accessible studio and rehearsal spaces for the independent and small to medium arts sector. With gentrification on the rise in the Western suburbs of Melbourne, the area is at risk of pushing local artists out due to increased rents and over development. We would like to see the Creative States Strategy 2020-2024 provide increased support for artists and small to medium organisations to ensure their art practice remains viable, and support changes to local government planning schemes to recognise and foster the creative industries in the west.

4.     Increased professional development support for independent Artists and Small to Medium organisations.
Arts West’s Strategic Plan 2020-2022, Strategic Priority 2- CAPACITY BUILDING: Strategies 4 through 6 aim to improve the skills and professional pathways for local artists and arts workers. We believe it is vital for Artists and small to medium Arts organisational staff to be given the opportunity to build their skills, learn from their peers and hear from leaders from outside of the Arts sector. The Creative State Strategy should address this need and provide opportunities to support the sectors developmental growth.

5.     Advocacy for climate accountability across the sector but particular amongst the MPA organisations.
According to a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in October 2018, we need to rapidly improve our global community’s response to the current Climate emergency if we are to avoid irreversible global warming. This must be done at every level of society, including across the Arts and Culture sector. Australian independent artists and small to medium arts organisations are already having these conversations and challenging us to think more deeply about the world in which we live and how we live in it.

The Arts West Strategic Plan 2020-2022 outlines our commitment to Environmental Sustainability through Strategic Priority 5: Strategy 15; where we will aim to ensure Arts West members have a low environmental impact profile through the circulation of relevant Arts & Sustainability resources to our members and the wider Arts community and encouraging our members to undertake an environmental sustainability audit to ensure we are leading the way in best practice sustainable arts.

The arts sector generates a significant amount of waste and energy consumption through touring, production, marketing and administration. Arts West would like to see the Creative State Strategy 2020-2024 promote transformative change across the sector and provide support for artists and arts organisations to reduce their own environmental footprint.

6.     Support the Arts Sector in leveraging Philanthropic and Corporate support.

In addition to direct Government funding, the sector requires support in leveraging additional finances from Philanthropic and Corporate partnerships to ensure long term sustainability of the sector. This could be done through Government advocacy and business incentives for participating Philanthropic bodies and for-profit organisations.

7.     Provide additional support to organisations servicing growth corridors and CALD communities.

According to the 2014 Australia Council report Arts in Daily Life: Australian Participation in the Arts, “People born in a non-English speaking country are less likely to creatively participate in the arts: 38 percent, compared with 48 percent for those born in English speaking countries. Fewer people who do not speak English at home agree that ‘There are plenty of opportunities for me to get involved in the arts’, at 64 percent compared with 73 percent. Though cost and opportunity may inhibit access to creative participation for people speaking English as a second language, they show a firm belief in the right to artistic freedom of expression. 78 percent agree that ‘Artists should have total freedom of expression’, 10 percentage points more than those who speak English at home.”

The Creative State Strategy 2016–2020 acknowledges that more work needs to be done to ensure the diversity in our cultural experiences reflect the diversity of our population but little has been done to support our diverse artist, and the organisations servicing these CALD communities, particularly through Melbourne’s West growth corridor. Arts West would like to see the Creative State Strategy 2020-2024 address this gap through increased funding and partnership opportunities for organisations well placed to support our diverse communities.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Creative State Strategy 2020-2024.

Yours sincerely,

Angela Pamic
Arts West Project Manager

on behalf of Art West; 100 Story Building, Footscray Community Arts Centre, cohealth Arts Generator, Snuff Puppets, The Substation, Western Edge Youth Arts and Women’s Circus.