The Blog

No Artists Need Apply

The Social Welfare Pilot Scheme for Artists

So the government has announced a new pilot scheme that “allows” artists to be self-employed and claim social welfare. Of course, this is a pilot scheme and only applies to visual artists (subject to verification by the VAI) and writers (subject to verification by The Irish Writers Centre). For the twelve month duration of the scheme performing artists will not be eligible, because as we all know they’re not really artists at all. (There’s an interesting facebook thread on this here led by Declan Gorman)

According to the Irish Times report on the scheme the artist will have to be registered as self-employed with the Revenue Commissioners and be able to demonstrate at least 50 per cent of their income has been derived from their art in the preceding year to be eligible.

“Once a person has been classified as a self-employed artist on the DSP system they would not be subject to activation process for at least a year.

The conditions associated with jobseeker’s allowance will continue to apply, as they do for all other claimants. Artists will have to prove that they are genuinely seeking other work, taking part in courses or classes like CV preparation, job-searching or referral to JobPath, Tús and Jobs Clubs, for example”.

I want you to think about that last phrase for a moment: “Artists will have to prove that they are genuine9ly seeking other work, taking part in courses or classes like CV preparation, job-searching or referral to JobPath, Tús and Jobs Clubs, for example”.

Its time we got something out in the open, so here it is:

THERE ARE NO JOBS FOR ARTISTS. NONE.artist_coder_featured

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman}

Continue reading No Artists Need Apply

Arts and The Cannibal Economy

I was going to write a blog in response to the funding allocation made to the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector in the recent budget, until I remembered that the allocation is actually irrelevant.  Even if we got to the almost mythical level of 0.6% of GDP (difficult given the near fictional nature of our GDP) we still wouldn’t create the kind of sector we all dream about, we still wouldn’t create meaningful careers or alleviate the systemic poverty and its associated illnesses.

Here’s a fact that nobody’s acknowledging: the vast majority of Artists across Europe (and the world) are poor – regardless of the levels of state subsidy. Its possible – as leading Cultural Economist Hans Ebbing points out  – that subsidy itself is responsible for the poverty.

Continue reading Arts and The Cannibal Economy

Everything you wanted to know about Arts Marketing

An old theatre colleague of mine – a brilliant teacher of actors – once remarked that you could take any single acting exercise and if you explored it deeply enough for long enough it would reveal everything you need to know about acting.  Watching that person in action made me wonder if the same principle applies to any practice.

So if we look at the very current practice of Arts Marketing what will it tell us about Arts and Culture? About our perception and understanding of Arts and Culture? After all  academic courses and modules in Arts Marketing abound; there are MOOCs, there are countless books on the topic, thousands of articles and many journals – not to mention endless opportunities for consultants to conduct audience research, run pilot schemes and develop organisational strategies.

But when we say “Arts Marketing” what are we actually talking about and what actually is the practice of Arts Marketing? Continue reading Everything you wanted to know about Arts Marketing

The Log that would be King – Cultural Policy and Process

Business Process Design is a fascinating and highly creative practice.  What happens if we apply this highly creative practice to an analysis of our culture, arts and heritage sectors in an attempt to improve efficiency, productivity and outcomes – because lets face it there wont be any serious investment in the sector in the coming budgets so we might as well play with internal improvements.

First its important that we understand the idea of Process. So here’s a nice picture:


As you can see its a straightforward concept. You take a load of Inputs that are Transformable, feed them into a Transforming Process that changes the inputs, adds value and creates the Transformed Outputs. A rough-hewn log being fed into a wood mill and emerging as regular planks is the perfect image for process thinking.

If we look at the Culture and Creative sector then its pretty apparent that the process is “Individual Creativity”.  The output is a whole range of stuff and ideas and behaviours that we can group under arts, heritage and culture, which in turn become inputs.

The question then is where does the Department of AHRRGA and its various “arms length” agencies sit in the process. Are they inputs, part of the process or are they outputs?  This is an important question, because when we’re dealing with intangibles the status of each element can become confused.

I would argue that the transforming process is creativity. It’s creativity that transforms talent, ideas, money etc into cultural artifacts and value. It follows that the Dept and it’s agencies are clusters of inputs – some ideas, some human resources but mostly money. It’s the creativity that creates the value. 

All well and good, except for the fact that in our cultural sector the Dept and it’s agencies behave as if they were the transforming process. They set up policies and criteria and put out funding calls. The creative practitioners put their creative ideas into this as inputs, certain inputs are selected in the belief that the agencies can shape the outputs – essentially deciding what is and isn’t art and culture. In doing this they actively prevent and retard the effective working of the process, the creation of the culture.

It’s like trying to feed a timber Mill into a Log.

So what needs to happen? The dept and it’s agencies need to stop trying to shape and determine the outputs. The creative practitioners need to stop thinking that they are inputs into a culture Mill.  We need to ask are the legislation and funding tools feeding the creativity or are they impeding it? If they are impeding it we need to change them so that they feed and support the creativity.

In short we need to accept that dept and agencies serve the creativity and not vice versa. We need to stop getting the process arse about tit. 


Why are Artists Poor?

The Dáil debate on the motion put forward by Fianna Fail’s Niamh Smyth was an historic event.  For me the most exciting aspect of it was that the words Culture, Creativity, Community, Arts, and Heritage were used with almost equal frequency. This is an important development, signalling a fundamental shift in language and understanding.  The in-principle support offered by all TDs was to be welcomed and banked for the future. Enormous congratulations are due to the NCFA for their tireless lobbying.

The language from the Government benches was unambiguous. There will be no dedicated department of Culture Arts and Heritage; there will be no Minister of State; we all love the arts; more money will be made available as the economy improves.  That last phrase was repeated several times from the Government benches.

If that is the case then what possible strategy can be put in place now to address the ridiculous conditions under which the majority of artists live and work? How can we stop being poor? Continue reading Why are Artists Poor?

Culture 2025 – I wouldn’t start from here at all!

What should an effective Cultural Policy look like?

It would accept and work with the UNESCO definition of Culture (as the new Dublin City Cultural Policy does for example)
It would understand the critical importance of every citizen’s individual creativity throughout all of life and every strata and section of society.
It would explicitly state it’s understanding of the relationship between Creativity, Culture, Arts and Heritage, and point out that arts and heritage are the result of the culture.
It would grasp the opportunity to replace the current outdated, patronising and divisive legislation with laws that enshrine, protect and celebrate all of the above,  and all the people earning a living from the culture industries.
It would understand the impact of a vibrant culture on health, welfare, community, citizenship, creative industries and the wider economy.
It would understand that Culture works through every agency and department of government.
It would understand that culture cannot be controlled by a central agency and that culture constantly changes.
It would understand that policy and strategy must respond to culture not attempt to direct it.
It would state actions that would free creativity not constrain it.
Actions that would free creativity not constrain it
Culture2025 will do none of these things and here’s why.

Continue reading Culture 2025 – I wouldn’t start from here at all!

This Time its Personal – Why Arts Dept Now?

When I started writing this just over a week ago 7,572 people had signed a petition for the creation of an adequately resourced Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage. I put the petition on Uplift  because I was angry and frustrated that the tireless efforts of the many people who work in arts, culture and heritage, that the incredible impact their work has – and could have – on the community, on the lives of so many, had been downgraded again. The new department has droped culture and heritage entirely from its name and it appears, as Emily Mark Fitgerald said in her blog that Arts had been stapled onto the end. The response to this petition has been overwhelming.

Continue reading This Time its Personal – Why Arts Dept Now?

Let’s Deal with the Funding – quickly.

The Uplift Campaign for an adequately resourced Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage now has 13,120+ signatures.  That is phenomenal.

The Minister, on radio, in print, and on social media, has tried to move the debate to a question of Funding. The phrase “seeking more funding” has been used by the Minister again and again. I don’t think this is a deliberate strategy.  I think it is the result of a political confusion of policy and budgeting.

If we engage with the Funding debate for a moment, we need to ask are there quick ways to create funding opportunities for all artists without increasing the department budget? Wouldn’t that be interesting? Continue reading Let’s Deal with the Funding – quickly.

Part II – In Every Crisis an Opportunity….for the Government

The Uplift petition launched in response to the downgrading of the Arts brief and the complete denial of Culture and Heritage as areas of significance or interest has now gathered 12,400 signatures.  It has prompted unparalleled media coverage, a brilliant social media response (with some really creative threads), and is rapidly turning into a political hot potato. The support for this petition is unquestionable and its importance to people (not just “the arts community”)  is undeniable.   Well done everybody.

What the Minister and the Taoiseach – and the whole of government – need to realise is that this is the single greatest opportunity they have ever been offered.

It is an opportunity to redesign the culture, arts and Heritage sector, and build a department and associated agencies, legislation and funding tools that will create a thriving, sustainable sector capable of creating real wealth, real jobs, and real social value in terms of health, education, welfare, and innovation. An opportunity to create a cultural sector and  policy that would be a shining example to the rest of the world.

That would be a magnificent legacy.

So, Minister, Taoiseach, elected representatives. Have you the desire to leave that legacy? Have you the Leadership to grab this opportunity and turn it to the advantage of the whole nation?

Because those are the real questions you have to answer now.

Continue reading Part II – In Every Crisis an Opportunity….for the Government

When To Not Follow The Money

As I write this 10,394 people – artists (of all types), teachers, parents, dog lovers, cyclists, computer heads, gamers, teenagers – have signed a petition calling for the creation of a dedicated department of Arts, Culture and Heritage, adequately resourced, and for the rollout of a national cultural policy to be ratified by those who work in these sectors.

The petition has sparked a flurry of activity in the media, and forced the Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht to request a meeting with the  National Campaign for the Arts. Be in no doubt, it is the actions and expressions of 10,000+ people that have forced this meeting – not a concern for or an understanding of culture, or  creativity or community or “The Arts”. 

We have their attention: the only real question is what can happen now?

Continue reading When To Not Follow The Money