Saturday, November 5, 2022

Cool little capital - the ambition to make Canberra Australia's creative city

Arts policy in the ACT has been more miss than hit, even though intentions have been good and there have been some worthwhile achievements. Unfortunately often the achievements don’t seem to have sprung from an overall vision of a consolidated strategic policy, which has meant that their full value hasn’t been harnessed. There has been a history of consultation stalling and not producing fruitful results. However, the ambition is currently there and building on some of the previous work, there may finally be a policy that focuses support for the arts and links it to the broader landscape of culture and creativity - if only all the interlinked components can be recognised and implemented.

The history of arts policy – let alone any sort of broader policy about culture or creativity ­– has been an uneven one in the ACT. There’s been a succession of Arts Ministers, the last two of whom – Dr Chris Bourke and Gordon Ramsay – each made valuable contributions in their own way. Chris Bourke in particular established a long-running history of support by the ACT Government for ground-breaking DESIGN Canberra. Gordon Ramsay hinted at a vision by the ACT Government for a broader view of creativity and culture linked to creative industries just before the 2020 ACT election in which he lost his seat. Before them there was also an earlier consultation process to develop a new arts policy in 2015, which didn’t produce much in the way of new useful outcomes.

Craft ACT stall at DESIGN Canberra, it's major public initiative

Now Tara Cheyne, an energetic Arts Minister with strategic vision, has overseen the launch of a new, considerably improved policy, ‘Canberra: Australia’s Arts Capital – Arts, Culture and Creative Policy 2022–2026’. This means we currently have a national process underway to produce a National Cultural Policy to succeed the 2013 Creative Australia policy and complementing that at local level a recently-announced ACT arts policy. How the two policies might intersect will be an interesting question. It seems an ideal opportunity to revisit some of the critical elements that help ensure the success or otherwise of any policy aiming to foster creativity, culture or the arts.