Dijanne Cevaal of Musings of a textile itinerant has raised some interesting issues about arts funding support for curators. As some people know but others I am sure are unaware of Dijanne is an independent curator who has toured a number of travelling exhibitions. Her main beef expressed in this post is that although she can do this off her own bat as a curator and trade under her own name effectively like you would any small business she has to be an incorporated organization in order to get assistance to tour exhibitions from any of the main funding bodies.
I thought she had some interesting and valid points as I was unaware that this was the case so I decided to poke around a bit and see what I could find out about it. For instance the Art on the Move site states that funding is available to “Independent curators with Institutional support.” I decided to take a poke around the Commonwealth Government’s culture and recreational Portal. After a number of searches on their site it appears that unless curators are supported or affiliated in some way with an arts institution they will not be looked upon favourably. I also checked out the Australia Council site which is the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body. It appears to be the same. On these sites and I must admit that I only spent an hour or so searching and reading criteria on various grants. It appears that unless you are trained, associated with a professional arts organization and with an established practice in some way you are not eligible for support. In other words someone who has a track record of touring exhibitions such as Dijanne in other words simply does it, is excluded.
The problem with having to be incorporated is that you need to form a committee. Apart from the ‘art by committee’ criticism it has some real problems as Dijanne points out in her post. For what it is worth I think more and more people are striking out as Dijanne has successfully done and working independently. Support in the way of financial assistance however is something else.
What is that Chinese curse? We live in interesting times? I intuitively feel that people are creating their own networks, particularly by using the internet, raising money to do what they want to do and simply doing it. No matter how well meaning people are within various institutions, institutions are about power. This applies to Arts institutions too because they support various value systems within a community. In other words what is perceived to be of worth and what is not. Value systems shift and as the community changes the institutions gradually shift. It takes time but issues within the community should be raised with the various groups particularly by people with a track record like Dijanne.
To wrap up take a look at Dijanne’s post, that has provoked my comments, celebrate her achievements and cross your fingers that that Dijanne will go in batting for the community and raise this issue with the various bodies concerned. For anyone in situations such as this, it may feel like a brick wall, but people who work in these institutions do care about the arts and are interested in peoples experiences ‘on the ground’. Something may not be changed immediately but people who work for the various bodies need to be able to put a case for change and what they need is practitoners to give them the ammunition to do so. They need to be able to say look this is not working – look at this case and this case we need to change this or that criteria. It will not happen quickly but it can happen and finally write to the person in the top position.