Tuesday, February 20, 2007

You say banana

It’s that time of year again: many people involved in the visual arts are writing references for artists or projects they think deserve public funding. As in the past, Creative NZ grants are decided by peer group panels. Last year’s visual arts members were: Pele Walker (chair),Simon Morris, Denys Watkins, Ann Shelton, Felicity Milburn and Scott Eady. But the panel members change from year to year, so when we emailed CNZ to ask who was on this year’s panel, we were surprised to be told it was not public information before the panels met. This was to help protect “committee members from any potential influence.” Some of you might reasonably think that in an open and transparent process the ability to work with influence was something panellists would be chosen for rather than something they had to be protected from. And isn’t influencing what the whole referee process is about? Well, not everywhere. The trend in arts decision-making seems to be for thicker layers of insulation from real world opinion.

Take Arts Council England. It has dumped peer panels. There, the Arts Council staff make all the decisions. As they say “We have designed our grants in a way that allows us to make fair and unbiased decisions.” Bear this trend in mind as you study CNZ’s Draft Strategic Plan 2007-2010 and read the talk of CNZ taking increased accountability.

Submissions on the Plan have to be in by Wednesday 7 March. We'd suggest avoiding the Cosmo Quiz-style Feedback Sheet. It invites you to describe your response to “International Success for New Zealand Arts” as: strongly support / support/ against and (you got it) strongly against.

Image: Click on the image to make it full size then cover your right eye and stare at the red circle on the right with your left eye. Next, slowly move away from the screen (or if you're already faraway, move toward the screen). As you move away from/toward the screen (do not look at the blue star), there should be a point where the blue star disappears from sight. This is your blind spot.