A vast transformation of contemporary culture not seen since the breakdown of traditional arts and crafts in the industrial revolution is under way due to the impact of the digital and online environment. Not only artists, but also culture managers and cultural specialists today are confronted with radically different challenges and opportunities to those they faced in the 20th Century.
|Dior exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2019.|
In parallel with the traditional focus on the arts and arts funding, there has been growing interest in the broader area of the creative or cultural economy and the related, more commercial, creative industries. While the arts and culture sector cannot be reduced simply to economics, it would be a mistake if, for that reason, we ignored the fact that it plays an important economic role. The economic role parallels the broader social role it plays. What the two roles have in common is that both spring from the reality that creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up.
With arts funding increasingly becoming a fragile and declining source of support for arts and culture and artists, it makes sense to consider what other opportunities are available in the broader creative economy and to what degree it is possible to move across the creative economy and build a viable career in and beyond Australia’s arts and culture sector. There are also a range of interconnected issues that need to be clarified and understood. The relationships between creativity and culture, art and culture and culture and economics are all complex and confusing. Like innovation, creativity has become a buzz word and it’s easy to overlook these two important concepts amongst the hype.
Strategic outlook essential
Essential in order to recognise and grasp these opportunities is a widespread strategic outlook within the cultural sector and a grasp of the major long-term forces shaping the sector. To help foster this a new flagship Master of Arts course, Creative and Cultural Futures, partly drawing on the experience of several earlier initiatives, was launched at the University of Canberra at the beginning of 2019.
I became involved in the course because it is important that what is offered within tertiary education combines the best of the analytical and research strengths of universities with practical experience drawn from the cultural sector itself. Having worked for 40 years across the diverse arms of the cultural sector, in community arts and broadcasting, publishing, museums and Government, I was interested in seeing how this could be related to considered analysis and research.
Vital resources for ideas and evidence
Universities are vital resources for government, community and business. In a rapidly changing world, with major challenges to be faced and countries often divided down the middle on critical directions for the future, the importance of research, analysis, evidence and ideas generally is greater than ever before. While university resources are increasingly stretched, no other sectors have the expertise and experience to grapple effectively with these matters. The history of Government is particularly telling, with research capabilities underpinning policy and programs having been steadily eroded.
Those working in industries relying on creativity or centred on the significance of culture, including arts and heritage, increasingly need to have a solid relationship with universities and their expertise. In the many decades I have worked in the arts and culture sector, across an extremely wide range of areas, it became absolutely clear how critical research, evaluation and measurement is to understanding what the arts and culture sector does and what works best.
Major gaps in understanding and knowledge
In the more than 13 years I spent working in the Australian Government, it was apparent there were major gaps in understanding and knowledge about creativity, arts and culture. It came up as a critical issue during the development of the comprehensive but short-lived ‘Creative Australia’, the National Cultural Policy. To help remedy the situation, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet called on the services of renowned cultural economist, Professor David Throsby.
A shortfall in research was a fundamental issue almost a decade before when I worked as a Research Manager with the Research, Statistics and Technology Branch of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. To help address these shortcomings the Department became involved in a three year Australian Creative Digital Industries Mapping Study, funded by the Australian Research Council. It involved the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, the National Office for the Information Economy and the Australian Film Commission as industry partners.
At the time there was a considerable amount of work underway to research our creative industries and to develop Australian Government policies to support the growth of major, globally competitive Australian industries producing digital content and applications. From the perspective of the Department of Communications, the main aim of the project was to generate research which would feed into policy development. The research also laid the groundwork to help establish a larger and more ambitious project, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology.
Impact and Enterprise
Within the new course at the University of Canberra, the unit I am responsible for, Impact and Enterprise, surveys and analyses key theories and concepts of cultural and creative industries and economies. It examines and analyses the ways and means by which cultural works are produced, valued, distributed, regulated, consumed and debated within the professional context of the creative and cultural industries. Students engage with real world cultural sector contexts to analyse key components of the creative and cultural economy, including sources of funding, measurement of impact, entrepreneurial approaches, governance and management issues.
The unit aims to equip students with knowledge of the key theories and examples of cultural policy, cultural and creative industries, and creative labour, help them identify specific practices, policies and programs within the cultural sector that are relevant to their chosen fields of work or practice and undertake effective communication of ideas and concepts central to their chosen field of practice.
Impact and Enterprise is delivered through online interaction with students and a set of assignments chosen by them individually which draw on the online material and a two-day face to face group Intensive held on campus at the University. Topics are wide-ranging.
Integral to everyday life
Impact and Enterprise is distinctly different from anything else available, because while many other courses focus on creative industries and the economic aspect of culture, Impact and Enterprise considers both the economic and social impact of culture as complementary aspects of the same inherent characteristic of culture – it’s close connection to everyday life. As I mentioned earlier, what they have in common is that both spring from the reality that creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up.
- Differences and similarities between concepts of art, culture, heritage, the creative economy, creative industries, copyright industries.
- Culture and cultures – culture as a way of life or world view and culture as creative expression.
- The distinctive nature of culture in the knowledge economy – managing meaning.
- The limits of Government-funded arts, culture and heritage – and the universe beyond. Operating in both the commercial world and the community world, in an environment where Government, the private and community sectors are likely to intersect even more than at present.
- The relationship between the private sector and the community sector and the differences and similarities between both.
- Predicting and managing impacts for the cultural sector of a likely backlash against decades of neo-liberal economic philosophy.
‘indefinite article’ on Facebook – short arts updates and commentary
‘Short arts updates and irreverent cultural commentary about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age’, 'indefinite article' on Facebook.
‘After ABBA, in an unexpected break from its traditional way of building national wealth from natural resources, Sweden managed to discover a new source of income. It was not as you would expect coal or oil. Rather than oil what it had discovered was song royalties, part of a fundamental change in the nature of modern economies which transformed them from relying solely on natural resources, transport and manufacturing to make creative content a new form of resource mining. Examples like theirs point to potentially major opportunities for the Australian music industry to become a net exporter of music,’ Music makes the world go round – the bright promise of our export future.
‘Survival in the creative sector in a post-COVID world will require enhanced literacy in the opportunities of the new industries of the future, the clean and clever knowledge economy which is altering our world on a daily basis. Now a new short course delivered completely online in the new digital universe we are all increasingly inhabiting will look closely at the creative and cultural economy and the broader impacts of creativity and culture, both economic and social. It will outline the role of the creative sector in managing meaning and explain how telling Australian stories puts us on the international stage in an increasingly globalised world’, Creative and cultural futures – understanding the creative and cultural economy.
Shutting down Australian creativity and culture – timeline of a trainwreck ‘In its response to the pandemic the current Government came a long way in terms of its narrow economic views about minimising the role of Government. However the longer history of neglect of the creative sector shows how severe the Government's economic limitations are and how its grasp of the economy (without even mentioning the social sphere) is too narrow and out of date. It has missed a whole sector of the economy that was large, fast growing and included many of the jobs of the future. It's most recent actions have merely compounded a seven year history of neglect and damage,’ Shutting down Australian creativity and culture – timeline of a trainwreck.
Caught in the past – economic blindness overlooks the creative sector
‘The last few months have been a wild ride. First the national bushfires and now global pandemic. In February people were being encouraged to visit fire-ravaged regional centres to help boost local economies. By March they were being urged to stay home to help reduce the spread of pestilence. I’m quietly seething at governments which knew this was coming, but just didn’t have a fixed date, and thought they could make savings by pretending it wasn’t coming. Now the Australian creative sector has largely been infected as well, but without the ventilators required to keep it alive,’ Caught in the past – economic blindness overlooks the creative sector.
Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture
‘Understanding, assessing and communicating the broad value of arts and culture is a major and ongoing task. There has been an immense amount of work already carried out. The challenge is to understand some of the pitfalls of research and the mechanisms and motivations that underpin it. Research and evaluation is invaluable for all organisations but it is particularly important for Government. The experience of researching arts and culture in Government is of much broader relevance, as the arts and culture sector navigates the tricky task of building a comprehensive understanding in each locality of the broader benefits of arts and culture. The latest Arts restructure makes this even more urgent.’, Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture.
What is art good for? Understanding the value of our arts and culture
‘With arts and cultural support increasingly under pressure, arts and cultural organisations and artists are trying to find ways in their own localities to respond and to help build a popular understanding of the broader social and economic benefits of arts and culture. Much work has been done in Australia and internationally to understand, assess and communicate the broad value of arts and culture. The challenge is to share and to apply what already exists – and to take it further’, What is art good for? Understanding the value of our arts and culture.
Creativity and culture in change: Change in creativity and culture
‘A vast transformation of contemporary culture not seen since the breakdown of traditional arts and crafts in the industrial revolution is under way due to the impact of the digital and online environment. Artists, culture managers and cultural specialists today are confronted with radically different challenges and opportunities to those they faced in the 20th Century. There are a number of strategic forces which we need to take account of in career planning and in working in or running cultural organisations’, Presentation at ‘Creative and Cultural Futures: Leadership and Change’ – a symposium exploring the critical issues driving change in the creative and cultural sector, University of Canberra, October 2018, Creativity and culture in change: Change in creativity and culture.
See also – indefinite articles in a definite world
‘If you are losing track of the articles I have published to my 'indefinite article' blog over the last few years, this is a summary of all 133 articles up until mid July 2017, broken down into categories for easy access. They range from the national cultural landscape to popular culture, from artists and arts organisations to cultural institutions, cultural policy and arts funding, creative industries, First Nations culture, cultural diversity, cities and regions, Australia society, government, Canberra and international issues – the whole range of contemporary Australian arts and culture’, See also – indefinite articles in a definite world.
Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity
‘When I was visiting Paris last year, there was one thing I wanted to do before I returned home – visit the renowned French bakery that had trained a Melbourne woman who had abandoned the high stakes of Formula One racing to become a top croissant maker. She had decided that being an engineer in the world of elite car racing was not for her, but rather that her future lay in the malleable universe of pastry. Crossing boundaries of many kinds and traversing the borders of differing countries and cultures, she built a radically different future to the one she first envisaged’, Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity.
Taking part – Arts involvement in a divided Australia
‘The arts and culture sector has long suffered from a shortage of high quality, useable research and statistics. This makes what is available doubly important as we argue the case for the central relevance of arts and culture and the broader social and economic impact of involvement. New research demonstrates the positive scale of involvement, views on importance and trends in participation in Australia’s arts and cultural life, especially hands on involvement. It also shows a worrying decline in engagement and recognition in recent years and points to the need for a more strategic view by government’, Taking part – Arts involvement in a divided Australia.
Making ends meet – the brittle new world of arts funding
‘Everyone is still recovering from the shock of the announcement by the Australia Council back in May this year of which organisations had been successful in obtaining four year operating funding – and which had not. It’s not so much directly due to the transfer of funds from the Australia Council but more a matter of new applicants applying in a competitive funding round, with an expanding sector, yet limited funds and a shrinking arts budget. Planning how to operate in the arts landscape of the future is something everyone needs to do. Having a Plan B and Plan C will be critical’, Making ends meet – the brittle new world of arts funding.
Quadruple whammy – the long-running factors that together threaten our cultural future
‘The real danger for Australia’s arts and culture is not funding cuts but steady, unending neglect. The decline of Government arts and culture support can be attributed to four long-running factors. This I call a quadruple whammy, caused by lack of indexation, the cumulative effect of ‘efficiency dividends’, the trend towards project funding rather than operational funding and falling behind as the population and economy expands’, Quadruple whammy – the long-running factors that together threaten our cultural future.
Creating the future for Australia's arts and culture
‘Australia’s arts and culture is at a critical stage. One of the issues confronting it is lack of any kind of shared sense of what the role of government is in encouraging our arts and culture. The whole set of interlinked problems with the relationship between government and Australia’s arts and culture can be reduced to a lack of strategic vision and a long-term plan for the future. This deficiency is most apparent in the lack of any guiding policy, like trying to navigate a dark and dangerous tunnel without a torch or flying at night without lights or a map’, Creating the future for Australia's arts and culture.
Arts and culture part of everyday life and on the main agenda
‘There’s an election in the air and I was thinking about what would be a good list of positive improvements that would benefit Australia’s arts and culture, so I jotted down some ideas. They are about recognising arts and culture as a central part of everyday life and an essential component of the big agenda for Australia. They are about where the knowledge economy, creative industries and arts and culture fit, how arts and culture explain what it means to be Australian and how they are a valuable means of addressing pressing social challenges’, Arts and culture part of everyday life and on the main agenda.
Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans
‘In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. Design is often misunderstood or overlooked and it's universal vocabulary and pervasive nature is not widely understood, especially by government. In a rapidly changing world, there is a constant tussle between the local and the national (not to mention the international). This all comes together in the vision for the future that is Design Canberra, a celebration of all things design, with preparations well underway for a month long festival this year. The ultimate vision of Craft ACT for Canberra is to add another major annual event to Floriade, Enlighten and the Multicultural Festival, filling a gap between them and complementing them all’, Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans.
Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities
‘It is becoming abundantly clear that in our contemporary world two critical things will help shape the way we make a living – and our economy overall. The first is the central role of cities in generating wealth. The second is the knowledge economy of the future and, more particularly, the creative industries that sit at its heart. In Sydney, Australia’s largest city, both of these come together in a scattering of evolving creative clusters – concentrations of creative individuals and small businesses, clumped together in geographic proximity. This development is part of a national and world-wide trend which has profound implications’, Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities.
The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival
‘Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation’, The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival.
The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia's industries of the future
‘The swan song of the Creative Industries Innovation Centre, ‘Creative Business in Australia’, outlines the experience of five years supporting Australia’s creative industries. Case studies and wide-ranging analysis explain the critical importance of these industries to Australia’s future. The knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, is both clever and clean. Where the creative industries differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture’, The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia's industries of the future.
Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture
‘The developing creative industries are a critical part of Australia’s future – clean, innovative, at their core based on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally.’ Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture.
‘I have been dealing with the issue of creativity for as long as I can remember. Recently, I have had to deal with a new concept—innovation. All too often, creativity is confused with innovation. A number of writers about innovation have made the point that innovation and creativity are different. In their view, innovation involves taking a creative idea and commercialising it. If we look more broadly, we see that innovation may not necessarily involve only commercialising ideas. Instead the core feature is application—innovation is applied creativity. Even ideas that may seem very radical can slip into the wider culture in unexpected ways’, Applied creativity.
Creative industries – applied arts and sciences
‘The nineteenth century fascination with applied arts and sciences — the economic application of nature, arts and sciences — and the intersection of these diverse areas and their role in technological innovation are as relevant today for our creative industries. From the Garden Palace, home of Australia’s first international exhibition in 1879, to the Economic Gardens in Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens these collections and exhibitions lay the basis for modern Australian industry. The vast Garden Palace building in the Sydney Botanic Gardens was the Australian version of the great Victorian-era industrial expositions, where, in huge palaces of glass, steel and timber, industry, invention, science, the arts and nature all intersected and overlapped. Despite burning to the ground, it went on to become the inspiration for what eventually became the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences — the Powerhouse Museum’, Creative Industries.