Monday, December 07, 2015

The Money Train on platform one has been delayed, passengers should seek alternative transport

For a few years now the government has been signaling that it's expecting the private sector to stump up with more of the cash and services needed to run the arts in NZ. This follows the UK example where severe cuts to arts organisations and grants have been made to try and shock the private sector to put its money where the government’s mouth was.
Last year the main source of Creative NZ funding, the Lotteries Commission via its Lottery Grants Board, suffered an unexpected 17 percent cut (from $37.379 million in 2013-14 to $31.074 million in 2014-15). It caught Creative NZ by surprise but by digging into its reserves it managed a successful 2014-15 financial year. For the coming year the cuts in Lotteries funding will be even harsher and Creative NZ is expecting funding that will be ‘materially lower’ for the forseable future. So we could be talking 25 percent down, even 30 percent. That's not good. 


Creative NZ's strategy to counter the sharp drop in funding is to build fund-raising capability. That is, by teaching institutions (and we presume artists) how to increase the funding they receive from individual donors, businesses, trusts and foundations. They call it Creative Giving. And it would need to be creative as there isn’t much on offer to make philanthropy/sponsorship attractive or worthwhile for the givers. Unlike most countries NZ only accepting cash contributions to registered charities for tax breaks cutting out a lot of services, and gifting of course. 


One organisation that is already off into the ├╝ber commercial world is Te Papa. It looks to be in the process of converting itself into a production house with private sector wunderkinds WETA to build and flog exhibitions (no, Jennifer they won’t be art exhibitions, now go to bed) to the museums (read Asian) of the world.


Now arts organisations can make do and cut back but the real worry about this growing reduction of government investment is more insidious. In the UK art institutions are already talking about the ‘freedom’ they will achieve by being supported via the private sector rather than by government. This is deeply deluded as anyone who has worked in a corporate communications office will know. Even in the arts, nothing is for nothing.


So you might ask why doesn’t Creative NZ rally the troops, go public and push the government to increase its spend? Hang on, rather than ask CNZ it's probably better to email your local MP and copy the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage (it’s Maggie Barry).