The letter, which is republished in full below, says that while South Australia has an “illustrious record” of support for arts and culture, artists and arts organisations have been “starved of new funding” in recent years. In addition, it says important cultural institutions have endured significant budget cuts.
The dismantling of the arts department by the former Liberal Government is blamed for creating “a lack of focus and strategic leadership”. And while the letter acknowledges that the current Labor Government is offering more support for some of the state’s festivals, it says it has “failed to recognise that the arts require considered investment across a complex cultural ecosystem”.
“Your government emphasises the economic benefit to the state of car races, football and similar sporting activities,” it states. “Yet, the creative industries were recorded in 2018–19 as providing $1.45 billion in added value to the state economy while employing at least 15,785 FTE employees.”
As reported by InDaily in June, the latest state budget had no apparent new arts funding other than for the Adelaide Film Festival, although it did reference the fact that the previous budget included an extra $8 million over four years for Adelaide Fringe. (The State Government also announced this week that a further $2.3 million would be allocated to the Adelaide Festival over the next three years.)
The letter to the Premier is signed by visual and performing artists, writers, critics, current and former arts administrators, directors and curators. Among the high-profile signatories are former Adelaide Festival artistic director Anthony Steel, Samstag Museum of Art director Erica Green, writer Peter Goldsworthy, former CEO of Arts SA Tim O’Loughlin, Wakefield Press publisher Michael Bollen, Feast Festival co-founder Margie Fischer, former senior arts executive Rainer Jozeps, and GAGPROJECTS director Paul Greenaway.
Adelaide-based arts writer and academic Jo Caust is one of the people who initiated the letter and says all the signatories have extensive experience in the arts but do not have a role that makes them vulnerable to funding cuts.
“After this we’re hoping to get up a petition as well… we’re hoping then that the Government will take notice of the situation,” she told InDaily.
Caust said a lot of people contacted her to share their concerns after she wrote an article for The Conversation following the latest state budget. In the article, she argued that continued cuts to arts funding were seeing South Australia fall behind other mainland states and leaving it with a critical lack of infrastructure.
This is echoed in the letter to the Premier, which calls on the South Australian Government “to immediately increase funding to artists and arts organisations, provide additional funds for statutory organisations, and reinstate a strategically focused arts department within government”.
“Unless these issues are addressed urgently, South Australia’s status as a leader in the arts will continue to deteriorate and we will be viewed as the most backward of Australian states, where once we were seen as the most progressive,” it states.
The letter also emphasises the impact of the sector on the “overall wellbeing of a community”.
In response to the letter, a State Government spokesperson told InDaily it believes the arts have “a significant economic impact, create jobs, and bring people from around the world to our state”.
“While the former Liberal Government made cuts and dismantled Arts SA, the Malinauskas Government has brought back a dedicated Arts Minister, and has provided significant new funding to the arts,” they said, pointing to this week’s announcement of extra money for the Adelaide Festival and the additional four-year funding being provided to the Fringe.
The Government added that other “new investments” included an additional $8 million in grants to support artists and smaller arts collectives to develop new work, more than 2760 vouchers to support venues to host more live music, and $250,000 for mental health support for musicians and performers.
“Given our track record of new money investments, and the desires of many in the sector, we are currently considering options for greater strategic coordination of arts within the Government,” the spokesperson said.
Jo Caust said the focus in recent times had been to view the arts from a purely economic viewpoint, rather than as part of a larger arts ecosystem. The lack of support for the broader sector mades it difficult for people in the performing arts, especially, to stay in Adelaide because they struggled to make a living.
“The actual sector, which is artists and arts organisations and cultural institutions, are not getting any further support and have been seriously neglected for many years… it’s just really sad that the arts have been so neglected and that is certainly what all those people who have signed the letter have expressed.”
The full transcript of the letter to Peter Malinauskas:
The Arts in South Australia
We, the undersigned, would like to highlight the dire state of the arts in South Australia in 2023. All of us have a long history of active involvement in the arts in the state and feel compelled to share our concerns about the present situation.
South Australia has had an illustrious record of active engagement with and support for contemporary and heritage arts and culture. In the 1970s, South Australia created a national reputation with innovative approaches to government support of both arts infrastructure and artists, and was seen as a role model that other states followed.
In recent times, the arts have become gradually less important to South Australian state governments. Artists and arts organisations have been starved of new funding and are not seen as critical to the state’s development. The SA State Government reduced its spending on arts and culture by 6% in 2019–20 and then by 3% in 2020–21. Further, crucial state cultural institutions such as the SA Museum, the State Library and the Art Gallery have been forced to make annual cost savings, endured significant annual budget cuts, lost staff, and compelled to reduce their programs. They are in desperate need of government investment in both their operational overheads and their capital infrastructure development.
The previous Liberal government dismantled the government arts department, with, in addition to funding cuts, aspects of the arts portfolio scattered across three departments, resulting in a lack of focus and strategic leadership. Your Labor government is offering more support for some of the festivals, such as the Fringe and the Film Festival, although so far it has failed to recognise that the arts require considered investment across a complex cultural ecosystem.
Your government emphasises the economic benefit to the state of car races, football and similar sporting activities. Yet, the creative industries were recorded in 2018–19 as providing $1.45 billion in added value to the state economy while employing at least 15,785 FTE employees. The blockbuster exhibition presently showing at the Art Gallery, Frida and Diego, is a case in point. The arts don’t just provide economic benefits, however. They also contribute social and cultural benefits that can dramatically impact on the overall wellbeing of a community. This was well demonstrated during the pandemic. The arts are an essential foundation of a healthy, civil society.
It is time that South Australia became serious about the arts once again, developed a vision for the future of the arts by recognising the enormous social, cultural, and economic contribution the arts make. Other states are now acknowledging the importance of the arts and are generously funding their own cultural sectors, supporting new initiatives, and using the arts to promote the image of their states.
We call upon the South Australian government to immediately increase funding to artists and arts organisations, provide additional funds for statutory organisations, and reinstate a strategically focused arts department within government. Unless these issues are addressed urgently, South Australia’s status as a leader in the arts will continue to deteriorate and we will be viewed as the most backward of Australian states, where once we were seen as the most progressive.
Dr Adam Dutkiewicz, Visual art historian and curator
Anna Platten, Visual artist
Anthony Steel, Artistic Director of five Adelaide Festivals
Carolyn Rankin, PSM, former Arts and Cultural Policy and Program Manager, Arts SA
Catherine Speck, FAHA, Emerita Professor, Art History and Curatorship, Adelaide University
Christopher Orchard, Visual artist
Claire Oremland, Musician, arts management/administration
David Malacari, Festival director, writer
David O’Brien, Member, Adelaide Critics Circle
Don Morrison, Musician
Don Rankin, Visual artist
Edwin Relf, Arts manager (44 years)
Erica Green, Director, Samstag Museum of Art
Frank Bauer, Metal designer and jeweller
Dr Georgina Downey, Art historian
Graham Strahle, Writer and critic
Dr Heather Robinson, Writer, producer and company director
Jennifer Mills, Writer
John Neylon, Art historian, writer and critic
Dr Josephine Caust, Arts writer, academic, arts administrator and former actor
Judy Sykes, Marketing and publicity, Adelaide Festival, Womadelaide, Junction Theatre
Julie Blyfield, Visual artist
Kay Lawrence, AM, Emeritus Professor of Art, UniSA, visual artist, writer and teacher
Loene Furler, Visual artist and 2022 JamFactory ICON
Margie Fischer, AM, Performer, theatre-maker, festival director
Margot Osborne, Writer, curator and art historian
Michael Bollen, Publisher, Wakefield Press
Neil Ward, Arts publicist
Nicholas Jose, Writer, Emeritus Professor of English and Creative Writing, Adelaide University
Nigel Levings, Theatre lighting designer (Tony Award winner)
Olga Sankey, Visual artist
Patricia Sumerling, Writer and historian
Paul Greenaway, Director, GAGPROJECTS and Greenaway Art Gallery
Penelope Curtin, Writer, freelance editor and former Literature Policy Manager, ArtsSA
Peter Goldsworthy, Writer
Phil Callaghan, Former arts administrator and dancer
Dr Philip Jones, Curator and writer
Rachel Harris, Graphic designer, publishing
Rainer Jozeps, Former senior arts executive and dancer
Richard Heathcote, Writer, Chair, Copland Foundation, former Director Carrick Hill
Rod Taylor, Visual artist/educator/writer, founder of Adelaide Central School of Art
Robert Martin, Writer
Rose Wight, OAM, Former producer Writers’ Week and Festival of Ideas
Ross Wolfe, Artist and arts writer
Sally Goers Fox, Interdisciplinary artist, Exhibition curator Barossa Regional Gallery
Samela Harris, Journalist, critic, convenor of Women In Media SA
Sandy Naulty, Visual artist, former arts administrator and program manager, ArtsSA
Steve Grieve, LFRAIA Architect
Steven Bowers, Visual artist and former Director of Jam Factory
Tim Lloyd, Journalist and former arts editor of The Advertiser
Tim O’Loughlin, Former CEO Arts SA, former Chair, ASO and State Opera
Wendy Walker, Visual arts writer, critic and editor
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