On paper, Canberra has everything going for it in means of supporting the arts – Big institutions, educated and wealthy population, government and community support. So why do so many people feel like arts in Canberra is like clean air in Beijing?
He’s great! And it seems that all of the hard work, cash for paint, and time dedicated to his craft has paid off. He’s now recognised. He’s won big competitions, he’s been on the cover of Art Monthly, and he got a good 5 minute story on the ABC – a true sign of success. But what’s great about him is that he’s from Canberra.
Yep, another Canberran artist makes it big, and so naturally, he’s moving to Melbourne. Of course he is!
You can’t blame him; Canberra just doesn’t have whatever it is that is needed to keep certain artists here. But what is that element which Canberra lacks? Why do artists (visual, performance, writers, musicians, interesting people) leave?
Population? Maybe, but Newcastle has a good 60,000 less people than Canberra and they have a reputedly thriving arts community – having even made news in the USA on CNN.
The demographics of Canberra’s population? I think we have the right mix of people to have the potential to be an arts capital. We have several universities which attracts young enthusiasm, government jobs attract creative, educated and intelligent people. Canberra’s population is very transient, but that could be seen both as a negative and positive for the arts.
The layout of the city? It could have to do with distance. I sometimes like to think of Canberra as not a city, but a collection of neighbouring villages. A trip from Belconnen to Erindale for a gig would be next to unthinkable. First you have to find your passport, and then you have to make sure you have the relevant currency, notify your loved ones of your location, etc. Canberran’s have a weird perception of time and space and that may stop them from attending events.
Is it because we lack a beach? Paris doesn’t have a beach, New York doesn’t have a beach. We have some lakes. And nature – we have heaps of that.
Is it Canberra’s young age? Does a city need history for art to build on?
Is it infrastructure? Canberra has national institutions, many suburbs have an arts centre sitting, waiting to be used. There are no good central music venues (yet) which definitely lets down the live music scene in the city, and that drives music underground, and in turn that creates a beautiful community, but it’s sheltered and unknown by the outside world, which in turn, forces musicians who want to ‘make it big’ move cities.
Is it the fault of the artists? Are our Canberran artists too apathetic? Are they too disorganised? Are they not good enough to compete on a mainstream level? Do they spend too much time asking “why?” and not actually doing anything?
WHY?! What does Canberra actually lack? Why are people forced to leave in order to pursue their artistic careers?
What does Canberra need to encourage its rising stars of the arts to stick around?
Please tell me… (constructively)