Thursday, July 03, 2014

Under performing

The Auckland Council have just published an arts and culture draft action plan (you can read it here -pdf). The thing is it's dead set on Auckland becoming the world’s most liveable city. But there's hot competitiom fanned by lots of top ten lists. In the Monocle Magazine list Auckland comes in at twelfth, tenth on the EUI list, and on the Mercer list, third. So doing well but not number one, not the most liveable.

Apparently Auckland wants to put arts and culture “in its rightful place: within us, amidst us and about us.” To get things started they’ve come up with six objectives of the 'Auckland-can-be-a-totally-cultural-city and super-interesting-to-be-in' kind. You've got it, this is another marketing plan. The killer app turns out to be Auckland's Maori, Pacific and Asian communities. And the way to the top of the lists? More festivals, more activities, more performances, more events leading to more access and even more diversity. 

The existing visual arts infrastructure is spectacularly underplayed in all this more, more, more approach. OK, Auckland Art Gallery is mentioned a few times but it's mostly being lauded for its award winning building (although it has to be said not a building specifically designed to cater for Maori and Pacific cultures). Its first big Pacific Island show Home AKL held exactly two years ago this month gets a mention but there’s no suggestion of them doing it once a year or even doing it again.

The tertiary education sector is probably one of the biggest investors in the visual arts in Auckland through countless art schools but it gets no mention at all. There’s a nod to Te Papa North and how its “multi-agency approach avoids duplication and maximises the regional and national benefits for storage, provision of education and hosting of exhibitions” which doesn’t sound very sexy. Te Tuhi and the Mangere Arts Centre are mentioned once in a list called “something already happening in Auckland” and the Fresh Gallery is not mentioned at all. A Regan Gentry project is used as a case study but there's no mention of Artspace and only a passing reference to the network of dealer galleries.

So how will the visual arts contribute to Auckland's most liveable future? Not very much by the look of it. The plan is undercooked when it comes to this sector. Their main role is described a filling 'our city with art and design that tell our stories [that] give us a greater sense of civic pride and belonging." There's not going to be a long queue to play that game.
Submissions close on 24 July.