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Canberrans paying too much for public art? [With poll]

By johnboy - 5 September 2011 37

the owl

Liberal Leader Zed Seselja is up in arms over new ABS data showing the ACT spends $268 per head each year on public art compared to $110 in NSW.

One has to wonder what we could do with the art scene in Canberra if we each had a $200 voucher to spend on the artworks of our choosing or contribute to public subscriptions for art.

“ACT Labor is clearly sending the message to the community that they regard public art as a higher priority than the improvement of basic services like roads, health and education.

“Canberrans have a right to question the priorities of ACT Labor. This is a tired government that has forgotten what Canberrans are going through,” Mr Seselja concluded.

[Photo of the Belconnen Way “Owl” ($400,000) by Gerry Built]

Public art funding at $270 per head per year

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UPDATE: This from a spokesperson for Arts Minister Joy Burch:

just to correct the record on the art funding story the libs put out. While they use public art in the headline of their media release, the $268 per person figure is for all “arts and culture” funding, of which public art is a very small component. If you read the media release you will note they don’t attach this figure to public art.

So the $268 per person figure covers museums, galleries, funding of arts organisations, arts grants, arts events/festivals etc.

Also, no public art funds have been appropriated (ie from an ACT budget) since the 2008-09 Budget. That budget committed funds through the percent-for-art scheme for four years, as is typical for budget appropriations. A decision was made in early 2009 to not allocate any further funds to public art once the 2008-09 funding allocation was exhausted (2011-12 is the fourth and final year).

In light of this, the poll is a bit misleading, as the government would agree that $268 per person on public art alone is a bit excessive!

What’s Your opinion?


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37 Responses to
Canberrans paying too much for public art? [With poll]
Sleaz274 5:14 pm 05 Sep 11

Well the problem with the public art scheme was attaching it to a percentage of capital expenditure then embarking on the largest sustained capital program in the history of the ACT. A selected cap would have been much easier to administer. The Chief Minister could have simply said I’d like to spend $2.5 million on public art per annum, instead it got increasingly huge amounts and once they got given the orders to procure and spend the servants went off and procured and spent.

Should externalise it anyone and say to the institutions or big business in Canberra that if you want to operate premises here you need to add x% or $xxx,xxx of land/building value in the form of publicly accesssible artwork. Make the profiteers give something back to the community they profit from. You’d end up with more art in more places and a greater variety without hitting the public purse.

WilliamZ 4:28 pm 05 Sep 11

That’s right, zippy! That’s about $94 million a year spent on public ‘art’. Zed’s dishonest and slanted statement disregards other aspects of “art”, which include music and poetry. He isn’t fit to lead anybody anywhere!

zippyzippy 4:03 pm 05 Sep 11

Deref said :

EvanJames said :

What about using the budget to run a competition, artists could submit either works, or prototypes, and an Archibald-like public judging ensue, maybe with the public acting as the Packers.

+1. Excellent idea!

Wait a second. Is it really $268 per head for “public art”? I thought the paper said that the money was for all cultural spending in the ACT. Actual public art would be a fraction of that. I feel like there might be some magic numbers going on here, just to support some public art politicking.

Deref 3:01 pm 05 Sep 11

EvanJames said :

What about using the budget to run a competition, artists could submit either works, or prototypes, and an Archibald-like public judging ensue, maybe with the public acting as the Packers.

+1. Excellent idea!

Doc Dogg 2:22 pm 05 Sep 11

$400,000 for that “owl”…I would have done it for half that considering Bunnings is just down the road and I could have bought a bunch of chicken wire, plaster and wood there cheaply 🙂

EvanJames 1:00 pm 05 Sep 11

The way they spend the money is the issue, I think. As someone just above said, they blow large amounts on a few objects from outside the ACT.

What about using the budget to run a competition, artists could submit either works, or prototypes, and an Archibald-like public judging ensue, maybe with the public acting as the Packers.

This would govern what works were purchased, and presumably we’d get a lot more bang for buck.

I don’t give a rat’s bum how famous the artist is, I care about the thing we end up with. So a contest might act a bit like a film festival, to bring up new people who are judged on their art, not on their reputation.

I’ve never heard of any of these “famous” artists anyway. And I’m blowed if I know how any of them got famous, going by the art they’ve inflicted on us.

sepi 12:55 pm 05 Sep 11

The poor old Cube which lights up really needs to be moved somewhere where it can be appreciated.
It used to be gorgeous near Canberra Theatre, and attracted a lot of passers by, but now it is stuck between two carparks, and surrounded by signage and neon lights, it is just lost in its chaotic environment.

It had to move due to residents of civic not likeing people shouting and singing at it to make it light up. Maybe it could go somewhere near Woden post office – noone lives near there do they, and it is a nice diim space where the lights would stand out.

Gungahlin Al 12:49 pm 05 Sep 11

Sheesh nothing like flogging a dead horse until it’s even deader…
Newsflash Zed: you cranked up the court of public opinion and won that one.
Katy has already said that once any works already in the system are finished then that’s it.
So surely it is time to find a new issue…?

(Declaration: I’m on the board of the Belconnen Arts Centre, and generally favour public art that is appropriately located, robustly built against vandalism, and not overly expensive.)

Deref 12:32 pm 05 Sep 11

If Zed’s agin’ it, I’m for it. Of course you’d expect nothing else than simplistic false equivalencies from him.

I’m not a great fan of some of the choices but, in general, I think public art’s a Good Thing, and NSW has a somewhat higher population base than we have. $110 per person in NSW gives them a lot more money to spend than our $268 contribution.

One job of governments is to balance competing demands – for every dollar spent on A, someone’s going to complain that it should have been spent on B and, of course, I’d always make much better decisions than any government.

If Z feels that he’s on a winner, let’s see him promise to spend $268 per person per year on “basic services”, with details, instead of on public art.

p1 12:08 pm 05 Sep 11

I don’t really have a problem with the amount of money being spent on art, but rather how it is being spent. And my problem isn’t that I think the art being bought is stuff I don’t like and in the wrong places (although mostly I don’t and it is). My problem is that (for example) $400k was dropped on a single “big thing” (like we are Coffs Harbour or something), and the majority of that money went outside the ACT.

I know “Value for Money” is pretty much an impossible concept when it comes to “art”, but I really do think for $400k we could have paid four local artists each $100k to produce a “big thing” each.

We’d have four times the chance of getting something everyone likes, and the money would all go locally.

sarahsarah 12:04 pm 05 Sep 11

harvyk1 said :

The problem is that the choices and the locations of such things. For example the bits of twisted metal at the GDE \ Barton Highway overpass I’m sure there are people there who love that sort of thing, but the majority don’t (I personally think it looks like a contractor F’ed up and then couldn’t be bothered cleaning up).

Furthermore it was not an appropriate place to place such things as people should be paying attention to the road considering it’s in the middle of a collection of off \ on ramps.

When my brother obtained his provisional license my sister and I took him out to Pickles Auctions (I think – it was a while ago!) where they had rows upon rows of totalled cars, presumably kept for parts stacked on top of one another. We tried to impress upon him the results of driving like an idiot. Yes, certainly not all the cars in there were caused by idiot drivers but it certainly brought home the point that cars do crumple and twist like they are made of paper. It was an eye opener for all of us and every time I drive past that “Native Grass” (yes, I believe that is really what it’s supposed to be) art installation I think of those twisted, crumpled cars and double check my speed.

So I guess as much as I loathe to admit it, that one piece of art actually does something for me, but I hardly think that was the point of it!

Angelina 11:43 am 05 Sep 11

WilliamZ said :

Your point about using $200 vouchers to fund “public” art misses the who point of public art. Placing strings on the money to fund art ensures that art like the Belconnen Owl could never happen! By the same token, why don’t we stop all public funding of private schools in the ACT? Why should my tax money go to support religious instruction? If private schools open their enrollment “blindly” to all religions and socioeconomic groups, then maybe some funding would be reasonable…

Because private schools are useful and floppy-penis-owl public arts are not. And opening the door blindly to all socio-economic groups is silly, how would we keep out the rabble?

harvyk1 11:27 am 05 Sep 11

I think the problem is not so much the amount (although because of the expense of the art we seem to be buying I have put in “Way too much”), but the choices of the art… Public art is suppose to be in the “everyone can enjoy without thinking about” category. It’s suppose to add something to a city. Perfect example, the coloured lights cube, people loved it and you didn’t need to think long and hard about it…

The problem is that the choices and the locations of such things. For example the bits of twisted metal at the GDE \ Barton Highway overpass I’m sure there are people there who love that sort of thing, but the majority don’t (I personally think it looks like a contractor F’ed up and then couldn’t be bothered cleaning up).

Furthermore it was not an appropriate place to place such things as people should be paying attention to the road considering it’s in the middle of a collection of off \ on ramps.

Primal 10:50 am 05 Sep 11

WilliamZ said :

Placing strings on the money to fund art ensures that art like the Belconnen Owl could never happen!

Au contraire! (French = cultured, right?) I would totally give my voucher for that freaky thing!

(daylight second, third, fourth… Adelaide Ave windmill fifth, stupid metal thing on the GDE sixth, stupid Things of Stone and Wood on the GDE seventh… you get the drift.)

WilliamZ 10:32 am 05 Sep 11

Your point about using $200 vouchers to fund “public” art misses the who point of public art. Placing strings on the money to fund art ensures that art like the Belconnen Owl could never happen! By the same token, why don’t we stop all public funding of private schools in the ACT? Why should my tax money go to support religious instruction? If private schools open their enrollment “blindly” to all religions and socioeconomic groups, then maybe some funding would be reasonable… Zed, would your government be so bold and innovative?

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