New ‘ambition’ positions arts, creative industries to take major economic role in the future

Genevieve Jacobs 6 October 2021 32
Tara Cheyne

Tara Cheyne MLA. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Arts Minister Tara Cheyne has signalled a major new direction for the arts and creative industries in the ACT, positioning them as a key economic driver for the city’s future.

Her arts “ambition statement” was released late last week, coupled with ACT Budget announcements that include an additional $13 million in funding for artists, arts organisations and facilities.

But beyond the money, there is a broader vision as Canberra diversifies beyond its public sector economy. The intention is for the city to become Australia’s arts capital, creating a future where we attract and retain arts-based tourism, events, research and creative industries.

Ms Cheyne says it isn’t an arts policy – the existing one has been in place since 2015 – but rather the vision that will drive the policy.

“The theme from every single person in the sector is that we’re on the verge of something extraordinary in this city, so why don’t we set that common goal? Beyond that comes the policy and the arts funding model. Those are the vehicles or specific implementation plan about how to reach the destination,” she told Region Media.

There are three key planks to the ambition, arranged under ‘create, develop and promote’, with a belief that the city has sometimes failed to promote its local arts sector as effectively as possible.

Ms Cheyne denies that the ambition is more focused on business than practitioners but argues that a common goal is necessary across the sector. She’s also insistent that the lack of major project funding for the Canberra Theatre to date does not indicate that it’s stalled.

The Theatre has received a total of $4.5 million in budget funding, of which just under $3 million is destined for site investigation and planning.

The Theatre project is widely seen as a central plank in the city’s performing arts future and for the tourism, nighttime economy, hospitality and accommodation sectors. The government has promised construction will begin in 2024, proposing a city arts precinct, but at this stage, there’s little other detail available.

“This is a really big investment for the Canberra Theatre Centre … that is, I would hope, a real signal to everyone that we are getting on with this,” the Minister says.

“That work informs the business case and the broader precinct plans; it’s not a number to be sneezed at.”

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Among the broader goals is a months-long arts expo, inspired by the World Expo 88 in Brisbane, showcasing the city as a major arts tourism destination. There are also plans to make Canberra a global City of Design, a proposal Craft ACT has campaigned on for some years.

There are smaller plans, too: hawker fees, for example, are being waived to encourage individuals and groups to perform or sell their wares. Permits will still be required, but the hope is that removing costs will also remove a barrier to street engagement.

Other modest changes include an increased emphasis on way-finding, so there’s significantly more awareness of Canberra’s arts facilities and centres. Part of the intention is to show tourists and locals that there’s more to the city’s arts scene than the national institutions.

“I wonder how many people drive to the Canberra Theatre for a production, have some time on their hands and know that the Canberra Museum and Gallery is right there?” Ms Cheyne says.

“I think we can do better at assisting people without costing a lot. We can remove barriers and make it more obvious how people can have the best arts experience possible as a resident or visitor.”

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So can the new vision position the arts as a significant economic force in the community? Ms Cheyne says yes.

“The Chief Minister and I firmly believe the arts is a growth centre and growing it is a good thing for our collective wellbeing,” she says.

“From here, it’s about engaging across the sector now that we have a framework and the arts community does know best about what specific things we need to do that will drive us to get there.

“We’ve got it all here. If we have a common ambition, that will grow the sector. It will grow the sector and that will do great things for the economy, but great things for who we are as people too,” she says.

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32 Responses to New ‘ambition’ positions arts, creative industries to take major economic role in the future
Chris Endrey Chris Endrey 8:47 pm 08 Oct 21

Really glad there’s a strategic framework to guide decision making and that it’s ambitious.

I hope the next generation of people who work within it will be able to afford to live any sort of life in Canberra, otherwise it’ll be perpetually hobbyists and the handful of people who are financially provided for outside their practice. Which doesn’t make for the scene described here.

    Warwick Lynch Warwick Lynch 9:40 am 14 Oct 21

    Chris Endrey Where is this "Strategic Framework" you speak of???

Charles Godworth Charles Godworth 9:50 am 08 Oct 21

Uh oh! Cheyne oversaw the complete debacle of the voucher scheme for Canberra businesses just a few months ago. She simply lacks the experience to ensure this is successful. Prepare for another failure.

Max Bourke Max Bourke 9:14 am 08 Oct 21

Art is about creativity not about economics that is so Reagan/Thatcher Chicago School failing capitalism!

Rusty Nash Rusty Nash 4:41 pm 07 Oct 21

Ok stop construction and see how much money U lose

Danny Corvini Danny Corvini 2:59 pm 07 Oct 21

Hopefully. Because as ever, there’s a risk of losing talent to the major cities

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:40 am 07 Oct 21

The unused MPowerDome at Fadden Pines would be a good venue.

Elaine Margaret Johnson Elaine Margaret Johnson 8:05 am 07 Oct 21

I remember hearing once that the Australian Band Association couldn’t hold the national competition here because we didn’t have two venues to use. We might get Llewellyn Hall, but I’m pretty sure the canberra theatre would never be able to be used. Maybe another performance space? Queanbeyan is too far away to hold a competition like this.

    Siân Victoria Siân Victoria 5:09 pm 09 Oct 21

    Elaine Margaret Johnson Queanbeyan is 20 minutes away... It's arguably more central than much of Canberra...

    Elaine Margaret Johnson Elaine Margaret Johnson 5:55 pm 09 Oct 21

    Siân Victoria not for a competition where you need to halls running at once and many of the bands visiting may not have private transport (coming from all over Australia)

    Siân Victoria Siân Victoria 5:59 pm 09 Oct 21

    Elaine Margaret Johnson centenary hall is just next to the Q plus many venues around which could arguably used similar to the Merimbula jazz festival. There is a lot of accommodation within walking distance which is cheaper than Canberra and if there is a strong desire to stay in Canberra instead regular coaches could be arranged. Council has also showed genuine interest in helping support these types of events such as with Good Folk and Oktoberfest.

    Elaine Margaret Johnson Elaine Margaret Johnson 6:12 pm 09 Oct 21

    Siân Victoria it’s never come to canberra or queanbeyan but goes everywhere else

Warwick Lynch Warwick Lynch 5:24 pm 06 Oct 21

How about releasing an actual plan? Where is the actual funding??

How does a statement of "Ambition" position arts and creative industries to take a major economic role in the future??

    Sally Greenaway Sally Greenaway 5:00 am 07 Oct 21

    Warwick Lynch also we need a venue... How can we perform our art and be a hub for art music with no suitable venue?

    Warwick Lynch Warwick Lynch 6:13 am 07 Oct 21

    Sally Greenaway How so? We have the Street, multiple venues at The School of Music and Jazz school, School of Art, Smiths, etc etc etc

    What do you mean by suitable venue??

    I'd argue we need an audience first, not just for art music but for ALL music and ALL art in Canberra and the statement is a nice thought that seems to pick up on the need to grow Canberra's profile artistically but doesn't seem to offer any plan of how to get there.

    It seems that part is up to us, the "HOW" is being left to the artists, which is just ridiculous, they should be showing better leadership[ and come to us with an actual plan, not a statement.

    Or perhaps a "FRINGE" festival like we used to have????

    Where did the Fringe go and what justification was there for that??

    Peter Hislop Peter Hislop 1:43 pm 08 Oct 21

    Warwick Lynch Sorry, there is no purpose-built acoustic venue in Canberra between the Wesley Music Room (90 seats) and Llewellyn Hall (1400 seats). A 500-600 seat recital hall would make a logical part of the Canberra Theatre redevelopment.

    Warwick Lynch Warwick Lynch 2:52 pm 08 Oct 21

    Peter Hislop I can think of several venues between Wesley Music Room and Llewellyn Hall that accommodate between 200 and 600 people.

    Not purpose built acoustic venues, more multi purpose spaces that can also be used as perfectly adequate acoustic venues.

    Llewellyn Hall wasn't always a great space acoustically, many would argue it still isn't that fantastic, perhaps you could modify an already existing venue to be closer to what you imagine?

    Peter Hislop Peter Hislop 3:07 pm 08 Oct 21

    Warwick Lynch There are certainly spaces that can accommodate that many people, but require extensive modifications to make them suitable performance venues. Most suffer a combination of these flaws: acoustic or daylight intrusions from the outside, have flat sight-lines, no or small stages, no foyer or toilets, inadequate or no performer facilities, poor lighting, no loading dock or poor acoustics.

    Warwick Lynch Warwick Lynch 3:31 pm 08 Oct 21

    Peter Hislop You could probably add Wesley Music Room and Llewllyn Hall to your list, I can't think of one venue in Australia that meets those requirements.

Tramcar Trev Tramcar Trev 5:16 pm 06 Oct 21

Oh novel, an arts led economic recovery.

Jak Kanard Jak Kanard 4:39 pm 06 Oct 21

...nothing more than a vehicle to justify hundreds more bureaucrats to administer the few dollars dripping out of that machine to the arts/creative communities.

More bogus public administration from the graduates of ‘Yes Minister’ university...

Humbug !

Maddie Ten Maddie Ten 12:47 pm 06 Oct 21

Because it's one of the few ways to actually create money now. The rest is debt repayments.

Alison Pallister Alison Pallister 11:53 am 06 Oct 21

Where is the $13m being allocated? How do individual artists access any of this?

    Richard Johnson Richard Johnson 1:20 pm 06 Oct 21

    Alison it seems they don't ...6 -7 million or more for infrastructure for Theatre's the Gov run and most of the rest on other infrastructure with a modicum going to home fund for artists during the pandemic (which of course you have to compete for) .... it appears to be another "look-we-are-investing-in-the-Arts" procedure which does nothing directly for the Artists doing good work in and for the community......

    Alison Pallister Alison Pallister 1:22 pm 06 Oct 21

    Richard Johnson Hmm, its disappointing.

    Richard Johnson Richard Johnson 1:23 pm 06 Oct 21

    very very disappointing .... they still do not get it ....

    Richard Johnson Richard Johnson 1:26 pm 06 Oct 21

    it is almost a Urban Developers take on the Arts and not an Artists knowledge and perspective .... How do you develop the Arts? more infrastructure 🤷 rather than ...lettting the arts community develop organically and being more authentic ie funding actual artists and small arts organisations to build a stronger Artistic focus in the ACT.

    Sally Greenaway Sally Greenaway 5:04 am 07 Oct 21

    Richard Johnson we need a bricks and mortar investment in building a recital hall. Fine Music arts are completely blindsighted... "ANU will fill the need" but most musicians can't access anu's spaces and it still doesn't address the issue of no medium-sized venues. It's either ≤180 seat capacity, or ≥1100 capacity. Nothing in between (and I'm including theatres in this broad sweeping statement - and theatres are not suitable venues for fine music for so many reasons. Also before someone tells me 'but what about the playhouse's ... Have you tried booking the playhouse? $$$$$)

Jenny Bruce Jenny Bruce 11:45 am 06 Oct 21

There seems to be lots of promises but nothing set in concrete, I realise COVID has put a stop to that but at the same time politicians are out of touch with what the community wants, maybe it's time for a community committee to be developed instead of community consultation

Mary Liz Partridge Mary Liz Partridge 11:32 am 06 Oct 21

Nothing for the grassroots though.

    Simon Mitchell Simon Mitchell 12:52 pm 06 Oct 21

    Mary Liz Partridge well said. There needs to be funding for ongoing community programs, from which the headline events spring.

    Mary Liz Partridge Mary Liz Partridge 12:53 pm 06 Oct 21

    Simon Mitchell and for children too.

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