Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Your tax dollar at work

Anyone looking at the latest round of general Creative NZ grants was in for a pleasant surprise. The majority of the funding for the 15 visual arts grants has been gone to women, 68.5 percent of it in fact.  And most of those grants (seven of nine) went direct to the artists concerned. That meant they received $271,965 all up plus another $25,000 to galleries for two publications. The guys got $95,680 (24 percent) although it was kind of supplemented by a separate $50,000 to the Serpentine Galleries for Simon Denny’s exhibition via Creative NZ’s International Presentation category. For some reason a similar grant of $26,160 to the IMA in Brisbane for a Luke Willis Thompson exhibition was included in the general grants.

There also seems to have been a significant rule change around the funding of university staff. Since the university art schools decided making art was ‘research’, the funding of their staff through Creative NZ was covered by a double–dipping rule (i.e. the same activity being funded by the state through both the tertiary sector and through Creative NZ) and they were specifically excluded in many circumstances by the following clause:

“employees of tertiary or other educational institutions, if the arts activity for which they are seeking funding is part of their job to include a written statement from your Head of Department, or the equivalent position, confirming that the activity is not part of your job”.

It was always hard to understand when their art making was not part of their research and hence their job so it will be interesting to see whether this change is bureaucratic (simplifying processes) or strategic (accepting the dominance of the tertiary sector over the contemporary art scene in NZ). While there is a case for staff at smaller educational institutions without much in the way of research resources to be funded, it's hard to understand in some other cases. In this round, for example, why couldn't a university the size of Massey stump up with $49,000 for one of its well-paid Associate Professors to prepare for a PBRF-rich public art museum exhibition?

You can see the former Creative NZ rules in full here on the Wayback machine (Let's hear it for the internet).