Measuring the economic value of Creativity

Art Press Release from Australia. Published by Rebecca Gabrielle Cannon on Tuesday 14 September 2010.

The Australia Council for the Arts has become one of the world’s first funding agencies to tackle the issue of how to measure the artistic vibrancy of the companies it funds.

The council has developed a set of resources to encourage arts organisations to measure their artistic achievement through audience surveys and internal assessments.

The council’s Executive Director of Arts Organisations, Tony Grybowski, says the new program marks an important enhancement of council’s priorities and those of its funded companies.

“Sustainability has been a strong focus for Australia’s major organisations, particularly through the global financial crisis,” says Tony Grybowski.

“That’s clearly still important, but if our industry leaders are to continue to develop and champion their artforms and artists, it’s time for a new conversation about artistic vibrancy,” he said.

“It’s vital that organisations are given the right tools to determine how well they serve their audiences, and how they can develop artists’ careers, produce innovative and excellent work and connect with the community around them.

“These conversations and explorations will also lead to a sustained level of collaboration within their artform sector.”

Further resources for companies to evaluate their artistic vibrancy will be released later this month, following trials by the State Theatre Company of South Australia and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

As part of the artistic vibrancy program, the Australia Council commissioned a series of discussion papers by industry leaders in theatre, dance, opera and the orchestral sector, published today on its website. The papers, often controversial, provide informed views of the “artistic vibrancy” of their artforms.

For one contributor, Chris Mead, Artistic Director of Playwriting Australia, artistic vibrancy is “a glowing objective, a powerful beacon, a combination of merit and significance, effervescence, stimulation and excitement.” While the Australian theatre sector is “alive, various, glorious, messy, idiosyncratic and even world class”, Mead suggests that “Australia does not yet have a vibrant theatre culture.”

The five major dance companies have long, proud histories but has the sector lost its reputation for drive and originality? Lee Christofis, Curator of Dance at the National Library of Australia, weighs in on the cost of innovation as he reflects on artistic vibrancy in the dance sector.

Amidst current debate around ‘new arts’ versus ‘heritage arts’, Dr Richard Mills AM, Artistic Director of West Australian Opera, argues strongly for the value and vibrancy of our orchestras and opera companies, asking “does ‘new’ mean ‘innovative’?” For Mills, “the value of heritage is that it lets the richness of the past inform the present for the future and in the future.”

Marshall McGuire, Executive Manager of Artistic Planning at the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, takes the artistic pulse of the Australian orchestral sector. He reflects on five keystones of what can make this artform vibrant, stating that “it’s imperative for the orchestras’ future relevance and vitality that we, as a sector, talk about these issues and opportunities.”

The four essays are on the website: http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/artisticvibrancy together with case studies in artistic self-assessment and a review of commentary around the world on measuring artistic best practice.