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Love the arts? Prove it this Friday.

By
Dee Jefferson
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Image courtesy National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA)

Launched on Wednesday June 15 at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Day of Action for the Arts brings together key organisations within the visual and performing arts community to spearhead a national campaign for better arts policy, in the lead up to the July 2 election.

Friday June 17 is the National Day of Action for the Arts, but the following two weeks, leading up to the election, will be filled with pro-arts actions by artists, theatre-makers and arts organisations. 

Why is this happening? It's spurred on by the anger within the arts sector about funding cuts over the last few budgets, leading to the recent "de-funding" of 65 arts companies in the most recent Australia Council grant round.

The National Day of Action for the Arts kicks off 8am on Friday June 17, with a protest outside the office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (287-289 New South Head Rd, Edgecliff), lead by independent artist collective The Protagonists

In addition, from June 17 theatre companies in Sydney – including Sydney Theatre Company – will be closing performances with a statement about the impact of funding cuts. From a statement by Theatre Network NSW: "During curtain calls for performances across NSW, an actor will step forward and briefly address the audience about the impact of funding cuts, asking audience members to show politicians what the arts means to them - no matter what party they support."

Read more about the Raising the Curtain campaign here.

Check out the full list of National Day of Action for the Arts activities taking place in Sydney and around Australia, and submit your own action to the list so that others can get involved.

You can also sign this petition to show your support for the arts in Australia.

You might think you don't have anything to contribute to this discussion, but you do. If you enjoy ANY art forms, sharing your story is important. As MCA director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE said, at the launch event: “Our job on Friday is to galvanise supporters to tell their stories and make what we mean when we talk about ‘valuing the arts’ have some reality.”

Speaking at the launch, Sydney Theatre Company director Patrick McIntyre quoted statistics from the 2014 Australia Council report Arts in Daily Life, including the following: 

  • 95% of those surveyed had engaged in the arts within the previous 12 months;
  • 71% had attended AT LEAST ONE art form;
  • 85% agreed that the arts makes for a richer and more meaningful life.


Here are the best bits of the press conference:

Tamara Winikoff OAM, Executive Director, NAVA

In her opening remarks, Winikoff pointed out that culture contributes $50 billion to the Australian economy, and employs more people than the mining industry.

Patrick McIntyre, director of Sydney Theatre Company

“There’s a paradox operating: we are indivisible from art and culture, and so it doesn’t look like an external topic to us… and I think that’s why it does ironically drop off the radar from time to time. We’re constantly reading, we’re constantly listening to music, we walk past our favourite buildings and admire them, there are pictures in our homes, our offices and our museums. We’re indivisible from culture.”

McIntyre also said that Australia’s theatre companies are proposing that following performances, the actors will talk briefly about the importance of the arts, and highlight the opportunities to campaign for better arts policy from Australia’s political parties.

Abdul Abdullah – Perth-born Sydney-based artist and co-host of FBi Radio’s Canvas (arts) program

“[Art] has allowed [me and my brothers, also artists] to make positive societal contributions, and it’s given us a voice, agency and independence. This didn’t come without support: the support of small and medium-sized arts organisations that gave me a platform to develop, evolve and articulate a voice. Last year I had the privilege of showing here at the MCA, but that opportunity involved a journey, and consistent contributions to an ongoing conversation that took place within and was facilitated by organisations like the now defunded Next Wave Festival, and with the advocacy of the also defunded National Association of the Visual Arts.”

“What’s so frustrating about this government’s understanding of value and worth is that they can’t separate it from dollars and cents. They don’t see what it gives, they only see what it costs. When I talk about value, I’m talking about the difference it makes to someone’s life. I’m talking about being told by a teacher in South Cairns, last week, about kids in her class who are trouble everywhere else in their lives, and have been kicked out of school – but still come back to finish their art project. What is art worth to that kid? And how do you put a dollar value on that?”

“Without the support of funding organisations, my art practice would left to the whim of the market. Commercial market viability eliminates risk, especially in emerging arts practice. The elimination of risk goes on to eliminate innovation. And the elimination of innovation results in the stagnation and retardation of art. Art stops being challenging. And if art stops being challenging, it becomes propaganda – another tool for propagating systems of power.”

Janet Laurence – artist chosen to represent Australia at the Paris climate change talks in 2015

“The very fact that art comes from within the individual is what it gives to society: it gives the soul of society, it’s what civilises society… Art is an interweaving of the intellectual, the emotional and the mystical.”

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Time Out is – and has always been – about doing more in your city: participating in its cultural life.

Do an art this Friday; do a theatre; sign the Art Changes Lives petition for Federal Arts Minister Mitch Fifield – tell him and his government that the arts are important to you, and why. 

NAVA have also prepared a full toolkit of resources making it easy to get involved in this campaign at any level.

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