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DOCUMENT #1 Cork Practice Circle Planning

June 15-17, 2012


There is perhaps no greater betrayal then to engage in people’s lives on an ad hoc basis and then walk away because that support could not be sustained. Valerie O’Sullivan, Director of Services, Cork City Council.

Large swathes of our society do not engage because they do not believe that they have a right to the State’s resources. (…) yet it is theirs as much as it is mine or the members’. By not creating pathways and by denying entry points, we deny people not only the experience of these programmes, but also the experience of all of the State’s cultural wealth. This double hit is one of the most frustrating elements of my profession. Liz Meaney, Arts Officer, Cork City Council. From Witness Statements to the 2012 Dáil Committee on Arts and Disadvantage.


Headlines Our Government promised Ireland a new way of doing democracy, a new govern-mentality fit for purpose. For over a decade the dominant cultural imagery favoured by the Irish state, cities and counties, namely art and culture as economic driver and tourist development, has tended to discount community arts and other parallel approaches around national identity and community spirit in favour of a more instrumental yet insufficient view of the arts and heritage. The idea we proffer is that the state has a duty to utilise the arts to make poverty impossible in Ireland, where currently child and family deprivation rates are worst in one-parent families as well as those family units with low income, a father out of work, or a mother with no qualifications, a disability or a primary breadwinner aged under 29. The intention of this submission is to assist state agencies to address their obligations and explore possibilities in utilising the arts to combat disadvantage. To achieve this requires a framework to develop a new consensus about the public value of culture which is currently in disarray. Our democracy is dependent on mobilising community art and other approaches to mend the broken circuitry between people and the political process.


Five Recommendations Make cultural exclusion and poverty in Ireland impossible by listening to those who experience it. Blue Drum recommends: 1. Giving the disadvantaged a voice at the decisionmaking table of national cultural institutions, local authority and other state agencies which hold responsibility for the arts and cultural armature. 2. Backing the role of the State to provide common goods and ensure cultural inclusion and anti poverty in all arts and heritage programmes. 3. Establishing a ring-fenced allocation for poorer families in all decision-making structures for arts and culture. 4. Recognising cultural inclusion as a duty and responsibility of the State and realised as a question of entitlement. This could include a commitment to encourage the expression of criticism at State performance and foster investment in change. 5. Establishing of a national, independent voice e.g. An Taisce for the Arts and Heritage, with an oversight role of all publicly funded cultural programmes.


Background and Introduction Last March (2011), a new Government of Ireland was formed that promised a new way of doing democracy. The 31st Dรกil and 29th Irish Government wanted to reset our sovereignty and make govern-mentality fit for purpose. Herein we proffer knowledge and ideas to assist state agencies to address their obligations and explore possibilities for them in utilising the arts to combat disadvantage. Utilising the arts to combat disadvantage is closely linked to cultural inclusion and community art. This is a diverse field in which non-artists collaborate closely with artists and others to be co-producers of collective meaning and local identity. So-called community arts approaches when effective can make an invaluable contribution to a framework for solidarity, equality and human rights in Ireland today. Too little priority is given to generating ideas and practices about how the sovereign right of poorer families and communities can express their own sense of meaning. Unless the arts armature gets deployed to radically address disadvantage public support will remain impotent. Why? Because (i) Poorer people have no voice at the decision -making table of national cultural institutions, local authority and other state agencies with responsibility for the arts armature. (ii) Spending on the arts and disadvantage has no national policy, is ad-hoc and remains uncoordinated at national and local levels.


(iii) No agency takes responsibility for utilising art and culture to make disadvantage, poverty and exclusion impossible. (iv) Data has not been gathered for analysis and a review of progress that could provide criticism and inform the recommendation of changes. The reasons for this situation are complex. For over a decade the dominant cultural imagery favoured by Irish cities and counties, namely, art and culture as a driver of employment, economic and tourist development, has tended to discount community arts and other approaches around national identity and community spirit in favour of a more instrumental yet deeply insufficient view of the arts. Notwithstanding tremendous cutting edge projects and programmes that continue to be developed within and without the existing armature, not least through the courage of specific communities and artists working against the odds of what is validated, popular or profitable, some of these initiatives never appear on the radar of the funded until long after their culturing in communities and many never at all. When it comes to public spending, we have no data to indicate the contribution made by such initiatives towards making exclusion and poverty impossible. From 2008 until now an unprecedented gap has emerged whereby the development of research in the area of the arts and disadvantage is non-existent. While many aspire, no one agency takes the lead responsibility for policy and provision in this arena. Put simply, we have


not gathered data in a joined-up way to answer three questions:  What has worked in the area of art and disadvantage?  What has failed, as we can learn from such experiences?  How can we be more critical and make improvements? The facts, few that we have, are that access and participation in arts, in culture and in heritage by groups experiencing disadvantage has decreased over the last decade. Why? Because serious errors have been made in the decision making process around the delivery of policy and services in the arts and in culture. These errors remain unacknowledged. We make this assertion knowing that art and artists have a distinct and special place in Irish society, which brings with it responsibilities, and it is proper that the arts, as well as parallel domains like heritage and public service broadcasting, are held to account when they become a net contributor to inequality and exclusion. By way of analogy, there are more stringent checks and balances in place for the use of logos as a result of funding by the Arts Council, RTE (Supporting the Arts), Office of Public Works (Heritage Ireland), Local Authorities, and other National Cultural Institutions than there are for the provision to combat disadvantage, poverty and exclusion.


What Good is Community Art? Blue Drum attended the Rustbelt to Artist Belt Conference in St. Louis in April 2012. During that conference, American cultural theorist, Arlene Goldbard, defined cultural inclusion as a form of communityartist collaboration in order to explore concerns and express identity in ways that build the capacity of local communities and lead to positive social change. During the same conference, an organisation called Americans for the Arts spoke about a project, Animating Democracy, that supported 36 organisations utilising arts and culture to enhance civic dialogue. The Mapping Initiative found that arts-based civic dialogue ―brought forward new voices, empowering disenfranchised groups and providing access to public dialogue and decision-making processes to people who had never before felt a welcoming entry point‖. Our work is focused on the role of community art in family support. In Framework for Family Support (2011), the Family Support Agency highlights the importance of developmental outcomes for vulnerable families. Kieran McKeown argues, ‗What is good for children can also be good for families and parents‘. Family Resource Centres annual input to SPEAK (Strategic Planning and Self-evaluation System) reported (2011) that community arts groups are tactically unsurpassed as ways to engage and work with vulnerable families, especially hard-to-reach ones. The benefit of community art and its duration in time is valuable at many levels and enables the rest of society to hear an otherwise unarticulated voice.


By translating national and international research and practices, Blue Drum created a framework to map out community arts pathways for vulnerable parents. Table 1 PATHWAYS: Community Art and Parent


What is the Impact? We have identified five reasons to recommend the value of community arts in family support. (i) Engaging with forms of creative and local cultural expression is central to encouraging engagement of hard-to-reach groups, developing capacities and skills, facilitating risk-taking among individuals and simply having fun. (ii) Community arts practices impact personally and practically in the following domains:  cultural well-being by activating the right to be co-creators of culture.  health well-being (both physical and mental) by helping people feel better.  active well-being through learning (education/training) and doing (working). Seeds new skills, capacities and co-productions.  personal well-being by being humanly connected to family, friends, neighbours and the local community  social well-being by enhancing inclusion and participation in society (iii) Contributing to social change and the struggle to make poverty impossible and establishing frameworks for equality, solidarity and social justice. (iv) Valuing collectiveness locality, personality, creativity, communality, collegiality and spirituality. (v)

Advocating for systems to take account of the human person, especially for voices neither seen nor heard in our society.


Is it Reasonable for the Public to Value Art to Combat Disadvantage? The Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, famously cautioned never to violate the artist's right to express. But he added (..) we will be permitted to reproach, make requests, appeal and to coax. Even granting that the artist does not owe anybody anything, it is painful to see how (...) an artist can deliver the real world into the hands of self-seeking, insignificant or even insane people. In Ireland, there has been a systems failure to create conversations between arts/culture and other momentums for social and political rights. Now, more than ever, we have to place our efforts in the framework of developing a new consensus about the public value of culture. No artist requires permission to write a poem, but there are obligations never adequately fixed in any manifesto or handbook that are formed at the creative community bench. Since 2008, the management and govern-mentality that has dominated Arts Council thinking has introduced a number of fractures, gaps and shortcomings. Firstly, our system of managing the arts has become congealed, dogmatic and bureaucratic. Secondly, our system of managing the arts has lost the sovereignty of its statutory responsibility because it no longer has the trust of the people. Thirdly, while we face a poverty


of leadership and management of the arts, this is a unique moment to bring forward something radically new for art and culture. This has parallels to the 1877 establishment of our national cultural institutions and the 1952 founding of the arms-length Arts Council. Blue Drum‘s primary context is within family resource and community centres in disadvantaged areas. The estimated income of a household of four on social welfare is currently €80 a week below the poverty line. The radically new idea we proffer is that the state has a duty to find ways to make poverty impossible in Ireland—homelessness, household poverty, unemployment traps, poverty traps and child poverty—because it tears our social cohesion asunder. What families and experiences are we talking about?  Homeless including those living on illegal halting sites.  Poor housing quality including dampness and structural problems.  Mental health and addiction problems.  Unemployment including some for more than two generations.  High levels of debt and indebtedness.  Contact with social, justice and court services.  Asylum seekers and migrant workers. If we really want to utilise the arts to make social exclusion and poverty in Ireland impossible then we have to start listening to the views of poorer people and give those views a place at the decision making table, where resources reside. It may be that the view from the window of a Dáil Committee, the office of a Council Manager, the chair of an Arts Officer or even


the doorway of Blue Drum is very different from a parent in local public authority housing, a halting site or ghost estate! Community arts are not a tool for engaging vulnerable families and parents. They are about much more than that. Article 2(1) of the Cultural Heritage Convention that was adopted on 17 Oct 2003 defines one end of the spectrum of community art as the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural expression and human creativity. Community art operates in this field of intangible cultural heritage and contemporary cultural expressions that are local, indigenous and often not recognised by the State. Article 4 of the Cultural Diversity Convention defines the other end of the spectrum whereby Cultural expression refers to the manifold ways in which the cultures of groups and societies find expression. These expressions are not passed on within and among groups and societies. Cultural expression is made manifest not only through the varied ways in which cultural heritage of humanity is expressed, augmented and transmitted


through the variety of cultural expressions, but also through diverse models of artistic creation, production, dissemination, distribution and enjoyment, whatever the means and technologies used. In local hands and using the tactics and devices of community artists we can make sure that the voices of the voiceless do not disappear. We have a unique armature of funding and infrastructure (people and places) complemented by courageous leadership that can be utilised to combat disadvantage. Table 2 provides an overview of 2011 Estimates for the Arts. Table 2—2011 Estimates Arts Spend RTE Arts Council National Museum National Gallery National Library IMMA Cultural Projects Culture Ireland Culture Ireland National Concert H. Chester Beatty Lib Irish Film Board National Archives Crawford Gallery Cultural Dev. TOTAL

Current €m 100,000.000 64,317.000 12,240.000 7,850.000 7,084.000 5,216.000 4,297.000 3,997.000 3,997.000 2,630.000 2,475.000 2,431.000 1,114.000 1,075.000 0.465 218,723.4650

Capital €m 0.400 0.850 2,000.000 2,000.000 1,000.000 0.104 7,800.000 0.850 0.000 0.275 0.244 16,000.000 0.877 4,297.000 7,800.000 40,900.6000


If public funding for arts and culture carries an obligation to support families and communities in their process of making sense of their lives, then we have a unique armature. The spectrum of funding is wide, and attention is rightly directed at The Arts Council (€65 million in 2011). However, we also must look wider e.g. to RTE (received €100 million in 2011) and the heritage functions of the Office of Public Works. These agencies are significant, especially in relation to supporting Irish identity and the spirit of being Irish. The State has a duty to protect and promote our intangible cultural heritage and expression emerging from the highways and byways even when it remains invisible to public funding. This duty includes various means (practices, artefacts, etc.) and must ensure public access not just as consumers (audiences, ticket buyers, box office receipts) but also as creators, producers, distributors, decision-makers and policy-makers. Part of that duty has to be concerned with changing the perception of official arts by ordinary people. This perception was well illustrated by a senior civil servant to the 2012 Dáil Committee. I hope members will forgive me for observing that in Ireland “the arts” is sometimes used as a pejorative term, as relating to a certain type of sophisticated person. (...) there are people who are almost proud to say they have nothing to do with the arts. (…) For the socially excluded it can be absolutely forbidding. Last year, Niall Crowley addressed a national forum of theatre organisations and recalled a discussion during


We Are Family, a showcase event of Family Centres in Limerick and Clare. He recalled Arts and culture were seen as „high-falutin‟. The term was rejected as excluding and as having little to offer the realities faced by most participants. In one telling exchange the RTE arts programme „The View‟ was criticised as highbrow and out of touch with ordinary people, whereas RTE‟s Nationwide was celebrated as being the best arts programme. We know from research that poorer families and communities place low value on ‗official‘ culture, and don‘t access it. This reflects the larger problem of a broken circuitry between individual citizens and the political process. Community arts in the context of family support needs to be reset in terms of new forms of solidarity. A new deal for disadvantaged families is required, which acknowledges ‗up front‘ some of the features of the work where ‗value for money‘ can sit within a wider ecology of ‗public value‘. In this regard, we caution against the rhetoric of research that signifies disadvantaged families and communities as damaged and deficient. It is inherently limiting because it implies that the system only needs to be tweaked. The horizon in which artists and arts organisations embedded in community activity resides far beyond the horizon of damage limitation. Damage cannot be the only way or best way that we talk about ourselves. Europe needs a new soul and a framework that accounts for and forwards our sovereignty is vital. We can practice our sovereignty within a framework of imagination. Arts and culture is about the rights of


ordinary families to express their own way of making sense of living in Ireland today. New visioning will resist a taboo-centred strategy in favour of the resilience of arts and cultural practice that resuscitates family and community sovereignty in Ireland today in ways that address our indissoluble problems:  What is a good society?  What is the public value of culture?  How can poor families benefit?

What is the role of the State through the Arts Council and Local Authorities? We contest the fitness of our cultural systems for action in the arena of utilising arts to combat disadvantage. Poor families are significantly harder to engage and more likely to be passed over when it comes to arts and culture. There are real systemic problems with the way arts funding is delivered at Arts Council and local authority levels via the Arts Act, Per Cent for Art, etc. It will not be fixed by giving the state more say in how state funding is spent. The problem is complicated by the fact that our public service broadcaster, which already receives the Arts Council‘s El Dorado of €100 million takes no responsibility in the arena of combating disadvantage. Nor is cultural inclusion embedded formally nor informally in the heritage work of the


Office of Public Works, its associated agencies, nor national cultural institutions. In 2003, a TASC study about participation in the arts, commissioned by the Civil Arts Inquiry, identified:  A growing gulf between policy thinking and state action and the absence of a uniform and critical debate about the State‘s responsibilities.  A compelling need to advance a role for arts and culture in examining low levels of participation in the functioning of the state process.  An urgent need for greater access and accountability to address culture as a right for which the State can be held accountable. Much of the evidence given to date to the 2012 Dáil Committee articulates a concern with remit, power and authority. Thus, it makes little sense to advocate for ‗a status switch from arts officers to arts manager designation‘ or ‗more power in relation to public art funding at a departmental level‘ and ‗nomination to the Arts Council‘. None of these concerns will make one iota of difference for poorer families and communities. Let‘s look at what we know: People with lower educational attainment, social class and income are many times less likely to attend a range of arts events. And if you are over 45 you are much more likely to attend no arts events. [References: ESRI, 2008, pp. 8, 13, 58n.]


At a local level, the awareness of local authority arts officers and local arts centres is heavily skewed towards the more advantaged groups. The NESF report noted comments from some arts officers that they were not adequately qualified nor experienced to provide good community arts work, to work with people excluded from the arts nor to conduct appropriate analysis of participation rates and outcomes. [References: ESRI, 2008, p. 58 // NESF, 2007, p. 108] Arts officers subsidise the endeavours enjoyed by the better off. Part of the aim of arts officers‘ posts is to reach out to less well-off communities. Yet, evidence suggests this has not been achieved.  Only 20% of people are aware of local arts officers. Those with degrees have nearly twice the odds of being aware, relative to a person with second-level qualifications, and more than four times the odds relative to those with none.  Men with lower educational attainment are particularly unlikely to be aware. [References: ESRI ‗08 p.58 f22 NESF, 2007 5:49] There is a lack of centrally held data. This means that up-to-date information on who needs to be targeted to take part in the arts does not exist and policies cannot, therefore, be properly evaluated for their effectiveness. In effect, at the decision making-table for public funding of the arts, there is no evidence that representation by existing Arts Council members or officers of local authorities effects greater utilisation of the arts for disadvantaged groups.


What happens to existing money? The view about how successfully that armature delivers for those from disadvantaged backgrounds is splintered. From the State perspective, the Department of the Environment estimated that €53 million goes towards its arts programme. In addition, local authorities receive €3.5 million from the Arts Council, €7.2 million from their own resources and transfers of €1 million, giving a total income of approximately €11.5 million. Local authorities have their own income from commercial rates and other sources and discretion, within those broad sums of money, to decide how best to spend this money. 2006 was a year the Arts Council received exactly what it sought from government. No evidence exists that this high tide in funding saw any special decisionmaking in favour of cultural inclusion. When the beginnings of a three-year cycle of reductions began in 2009, there is no evidence that cultural inclusion was a factor in making cuts. Cultural inclusion is neither a requirement nor is it measured in any documentation about the arts spending of local authorities, national cultural institutions and the Arts Council. It doesn‘t seem to matter that arts funding and support takes no account of cultural inclusion, even though report after report highlighted




huge deficiencies in nurturing culture in a holistic way and of the considerable gaps that exist in cultural development in Ireland and the capacity for cultural development or a cultural rights framework to foster many positive outcomes: selfexpression, self-esteem, creativity, empathy, civic participation and whole raft of other vital and necessary human responses that lead to real citizenship, participation and change in a society.

In 2010, the Arts Council received â‚Ź68 million, of which just over â‚Ź65 million came from the National Lottery. The Lotto revenue is gathered disproportionately from lower socio-economic groups. From the available data it is almost certain that the substantial public money spent on the arts is regressive, meaning it is a transfer of resources from the less well off to the better well off. A more holistic and long-term approach to developing society through the mobilising of community arts approaches could mend our broken circuitry between people and the political process and re-vision Irelands‘ sovereignty and soul of Ireland and Europe.


Select Bibliography A. Goldbard (2006) The Art of Cultural Development, New Village Press: Oakland CA. B. Naius (2009) Art for Change – Teaching outside the Frame. New Village Press. Oakland CA. D. McGonagle. Passive to Active Citizenship – A role for the Arts. Paper to the Higher Education Authority (IE), Bologna in Context Conference, 2010. G.H. Kester (2011) The One and the Many. Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context. Duke University Press. G.H. Kester (2004) Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art. University of California Press. J.B. Graves (2004) Cultural Democracy: The Arts, Community, and the Public Purpose. Univ.of Illinois Press. J. Holden. (2010) Culture and Class, UK: Counterpoint. K. Knight, M. Schwarzman et al (2006) Beginner's Guide to Community-Based Arts (Paperback) Oakland, CA. NESF (2006) The Arts, Cultural Inclusion and Social Cohesion. NESF: Dublin. P. Lunn and E.Kelly (2008) In the Frame or Out of the Picture? Joint NESF/ESRI Publication, Dublin: 2008. T. Borrup (2006) Creative Community Builder‘s Handbook. New Village Press, Oakland. W. Cleveland (2009) Art and Upheaval: Artists on the World's Frontier. New Village Press. Oakland CA.


About Blue Drum For over a decade Blue Drum ( has worked from within the community development and family support spheres and responded to the growing use of community arts in these domains. It was established through the Combat Poverty Agency in 2001 in response to a growing need for creative approaches to engagement, empowerment, education, progression and integration of vulnerable families and communities. Blue Drum provides direct supports and developmental initiatives, e.g. project development advice, knowledge and information exchanges, and training. The intention is to support and insert the creativity of community arts in family support and the anti-poverty work. In practice, this enables children and parents in the most disadvantaged areas to become co-creators of their community identity and spirit. In 2012, funding came from the Family Support Agency of â‚Ź72,000 to deliver an agreed programme of work and supports to 107 Family Resource Centres in urban and rural communities. Blue Drum was also successful as an cultural policy analysis organisation, having been selected to undertake research under the EU Culture Programme in June 2012.


Significant groups of people remain excluded from artistic and cultural life. This issue can only be effectively addressed as part of a coherent, integrated, crossdepartmental approach to policy (…) with each sector bringing its own specialist and specific expertise, priorities and financial support to the table. (…) Our first recommendation is that social inclusion should form an integrated part of local authority arts plans. Orlaith McBride, Director, The Arts Council. One of its (Arts Council) recommendations is for greater social inclusion, which would encompass the arts. Is that really its position? Is it really something it should be doing? Should it actually be considering social inclusion as a value-added outcome? Senator Fiach Mac Conghail, The National Theatre. From Witness Statements to the 2012 Dáil Committee on


Image: E. Phillips // Text: Ed Carroll (2012) Creative Commons License City (Re)Searches is supported by the Family Support Agency, the EU Culture Programme and Give EUR Hope.

(IM)Potence: What has the State done for Cultural Inclusion and has it Worked?  

Make cultural exclusion and poverty in Ireland impossible by listening to those who experience it.

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