YAH 2018 Report

Page 1



YOU ARE HERE CANBERRA HAS SPENT IT’S 8TH YEAR OF OPERATION RE-EVALUATING IT’S OPERATIONAL STRUCTURE IN LIGHT OF IT’S CORE VALUES AND THE NEEDS OF THE CURRENT ARTS ECOLOGY IN CANBERRA. THIS REPORT WILL OUTLINE THE FOLLOWING: • The historical context that has lead to us taking a full development year • Our findings from the development process • Our organisational values and goals • The proposed organisational structure and approach to programming going forward


ORGANISATIONAL HISTORY Establishment - 2011-2013 You Are Here was first commissioned as a 10-day festival in 2011 as part of the cultural activity leading up to the Canberra Centenary. Our original remit was to showcase the showcase the creative talents of individual Canberra artists, The context of the Canberra arts scene in 2011-2013 was one of relatively little festival activity but a plurality of creative communities that were in need of artist development resources and a context with which to connect with artists. The ‘pop-up’ festival model, in which arts events are hosted in moribund or disused spaces in a CBD area, was popular with government arts organisations due to the success of the Renew Newcastle project, and defined the initial shape of the You Are Here Festival.


You Are Here producer in the creation of each festival work, involving face-to-face engagement and regular communication in the months leading up to the festival, became a central feature of the You Are Here model.

The first iteration of You Are Here was curated and run by a festival team made up of local independent arts producers with close ties to and deep subject knowledge a range of creative communities in Canberra. This operational model quickly taught us that the development and fostering of skilled creative producers is as integral to the growth of an arts ecology as the development of artists. It also created a strong overlap between our core audiences and the existing core audiences for Canberra’s disparate creative communities.

The level of funding received by the organisation relative to the size of our artistic program necessitated a DIY sensibility and approach to our productions. You Are Here made a virtue of this limitation by refining an irreverent, playful style of audience engagement, which has been very effective at connecting a broad range of audience with risk-taking, transgressive art.

You Are Here has always been multidisciplinary and has encouraged work that crosses the boundaries between artforms. We have learned from programming experimental and crossdisciplinary work that artist development needs are highly specific to the individual and need to be approached that way. We came to understand that developing artists and artistic communities is as often about presenting challenges and creative restrictions as it is about providing greater resources. The sustained involvement by a

What began as a collective of creative producers responding to a commission from the ACT government became an arts organisation committed to three core values: • Artist development, • Experimentation • Lowering barriers to entry for artists and audiences. The format of a 10-day festival was our mechanism for delivering on these values.


Growth Phase- 2014-2016 These increases in scale, which included several events that were successful in attracting large non-arts audiences to free public spaces, raised the profile of the festival both locally and nationally and cemented us as a fixture of the Canberra arts calendar. However, at the same time our staff resources became increasingly stretched due to an increase in output with no commensurate increase in salary or resources. Despite this we were able to sustain smooth logistical operation due our production staff’s willingness to work many voluntary hours.

You Are Here’s success as an artist development organisation allowed us to secure funding beyond the Canberra Centenary. From 2014 we became a recipient of Arts ACT Program Funding, which still accounts for the majority of our organisational funding. Between 2014 and 2017 we were also the recipient of funding from Events ACT, Canberra CBD Ltd and several private sponsorships from Canberra business and property owners. In an effort to connect with groups within the Canberra arts community beyond our personal expertise we changed the curatorial model for the festival from fully-curated to a public callout for artist submissions. We confirmed that the very existence of an experimental arts festival in Canberra was having a positive effect on Canberran artist’s sense of possibility, evidenced by the fact that we received many more quality applications than we could possibly program. Our desire to provide the maximum amount of opportunities to artists meant that we kept increasing the size and scale of the program year to year despite having an average of one third less funding than we had received in 2013. We were diligent in enforcing an artist fee structure that scaled size of fee to the amount of original work created, but these fees were still a fraction of the standard MEAA rates for the relevant artistic fields.

In an attempt to control this growth phase You Are made the decision to become a 5-day rather than 10-day festival in 2015. This improved logistical delivery and staff morale but the ratio of artists and events to program days remained essentially unchanged. Our unusually slow turnover of key festival staff meant that the creative producers of the 2015-2016 festivals had all been involved in You Are Here since at least 2013 and were supported by a committee entirely comprised of previous You Are Here producers. This retention of staff and therefore organisational knowledge allowed for lessons from every year of the festival to be employed in the improvement of processes such as refining our staffing model and improving our protocols for inclusion and accessibility.


Mature Phase- 2017 Improvements to our staffing models (including the establishment of a successful volunteer program and growth of our marketing team) contributed to our most successful year in terms of audience engagement, audience experience, accessibility for diverse audiences and artists and training opportunities for junior producers. The art produced, as judged against our own core values, was at the highest level of quality and consistency yet achieved by the festival.

and festival activity that is providing more artists with opportunities for presentation than ever before. As a result of this increased activity we found ourselves frequently approached for consultation and invited to tender for event production roles, which both confirmed our reputation as producers of successful arts events but also indicated a lack of public clarity around our core values and operational focus. Consequently, it became necessary for us to create the time and space to re-evaluate our position and our practical use to the ACT arts landscape. On that basis we approached Arts ACT with the premise of pausing our festival activity in 2018 and running a yearlong program of organisational development in it’s stead. Arts ACT supported this plan and have funded our development year through our existing Program Funding arrangement.

Concurrent to this, our operational model in terms of programming scale, fee structures and production timelines had created a condition of exhaustion in our core festival staff, one that we judged as unsustainable going forward. We also recognised fundamental changes in the Canberra arts landscape, including an increase in venue






• What are the core values of You Are Here?

• Two Creative Producers were employed for a total of three working days a week throughout the year, comprising the You Are Here Development Subcommittee.

• Does You Are Here still have a practical and unique reason to exist in the current ACT arts landscape?

• The Development Subcommittee was fully empowered by the You Are Here board to pursue and reach decisions about the operational model of YAH going forward, and met regularly with the board throughout 2018.

• If so, what is that reason? • How does this reason translate into practical goals? • How do the core values and specific expertise of You Are Here create optimum conditions for these goals to be met? What is You Are Here already a best practice model for in the ACT?

• The Development Subcommittee commissioned five ACT artists to create experimental work designed to investigate the current Canberra arts landscape and the nature and practical uses of You Are Here’s unique artist development model.

• What is the effective organisational model to achieve these goals? • How will this model be organised and funded?

• The Development Subcommittee immersed itself in the Canberra arts scene by attending as many arts events, workshops, consultation sessions and training sessions as possible. • The Development Subcommittee used its findings from this process to reach practical conclusions to all development year questions • A Programming vision and program for 2019 was created by the Development Subcommittee with input from both the YAH board and the commissioned artists. • The findings from the development year process and the 2019 program are presented to Arts ACT.




The majority of activity for the Development Subcommittee in 2018 was in two areasdiscussion/analysis and facilitation/ supervision of the Artist Commissions.

The Development Subcommittee commissioned five ACT artists to create experimental work designed to investigate the current Canberra arts landscape and the nature and practical uses of You Are Here’s unique artist development model.

The Development Subcommittee was comprised of You Are Here co-founder Yolande Norris, who was central to the initial centenary-funded years of the festival, and Nick Delatovic, who was a producer on the festival from 2011 until 2015 and is the current president of the YAH Board. Yolande and Nick’s deep subject knowledge concerning both the festival and Canberran creative communities allowed many ‘known knowns’ to be identified early in the development process. A two-person team has allowed for sleek and effective decision making and an ability to pivot our activities in response to lessons learned in real time. Monthly YAH board meetings meant that all discussions and findings could be interrogated by a group of people with a deep and rich perspective of Canberra arts past and future. All discussions were framed within the rigorous confines of our development year questions.

Each of our commissioned artists had had multiple works produced as part of previous iterations of YAH. We chose midcareer artists with a proven track record of completing high-quality work and connecting it to audiences. We also selected artists who had proven their ability to provide astute and constructive criticisms of the festivals’ operation. Our final criteria was to identify a development need in each artists’ practice, one that YAH could support.

Our 2018 artists were: Emily Stewart (Poet) Alison Plevey (Dancer) Sia Ahmad (Interdisciplinary Artist) Daniel Savage (Visual Artist) Byrd (Installation Artist) We challenged our artists to create work that addressed one of the following two topics: • The nature and reality of needs and costs for artists • The past present and future of cultural spaces in Canberra In producing the commissions we devised a specific intervention into each artists’ practise, based on our assessment of their individual development needs. Each artist was paid a fee of $3000. The average artist fee for previous iterations of You Are Here was $500. The Development Subcommittee were also the Creative Producers for the artist commissions.


OTHER ACTIVITY We also consulted with the following arts organisations and subject matter experts

The Development Subcommittee wrote a series of articles across 2018, that were shared to our online audiences and garnered a high amount of audience engagement. These articles fleshed out various issues of discussion within the organisation, all concerning the nature of arts production. We designed these articles to be unguarded and honest about the challenges and difficulties that an arts organisation such as You Are Here faces, a deliberate move to promote higher levels of discourse around the value of art and how it is made.

• Canberra Museum and Gallery • Robyn Archer (Former Creative Producer of the Canberra Centenary) • Creative Partnerships Australia • Mulgara (ACT DIY music promoters) • Cathy Hope of the Play Activation Network • Anna Trundle of Dionysis Productions/ ANU pop-up

The Development Subcommittee attended the following training and consultation events:

• ACT Arts Minister Gordon Ramsey

• REBUS theatre’s ‘Open Doors, Open Minds’ sessions • The NAVA Future/Forward conference • The Arts ACT consultation session on arts venues • A panel on Art and Gentrification as part of Ainslie and Gorman’s Autum Revel event.


DEVELOPMENT YEAR EXPERIENCES INITIAL FRAMING The subject knowledge of the Development Subcommittee allowed us to begin the process with the following assertions:

• There is a lack of high-level public discourse concerning the value of art and how it is made. You Are Here is in a uniquely advantaged position to further this discourse as part of our core activity.

• You Are Here’s model of high-engagement creative producing is unique not only within the Canberra arts ecology but among arts organisations in Australia.

• Changes to how our budgets are structured will result in significantly less programming across a calendar year, but a significantly higher level of producer engagement and artist development.

• This unique model has potential to be further refined, and a refined version of this model will be of objective worth to Canberra artists going forward.

• Improvements in You Are Here’s organisational policies regarding Accessibility and Inclusion have made us a relative best practice model in the ACT, and we are resolved to create further improvements in this area.

• You Are Here has to change it’s budget and fee structure to better reflect the accurate cost of arts activity. This is critical not just for better facilitation of artists and producers, but also in positioning You Are Are as an advocate for the value of artists and creative producers.


ARTIST COMMISSION RESULTS The artists’ commissions were developed and delivered through the creation of an individual timeline for each artist. Each timeline included regular creative meetings with the You Are Here Creative Producers, process meetings in which progress and needs were assessed, and final delivery to audiences.

Our artists communicated that interacting with their fellow artists and seeing themselves framed as part of a creative community and program exponentially improved their experience as a You Are Here artist. Working with only five artists across a calendar year allowed for deep sustained engagement between each artist and the Creative Producers. The clearer we identified the specific aspect of an artist’s practice that required challenge or disruption, the easier it was to set terms and standards of success for each artist.

Working with artists outside of a festival context revealed inherent challenges. The artists’ sense of what was required of them was relatively amorphous without the conventional shape of an arts ‘program’. This lack of clarity led to difficulty enforcing timelines.

We also judged that bespoke creation timelines for each artist, despite being a holdover from our previous festival model, is not a practical strategy for dealing with larger programs of artists in the future.

In response to this we adjusted our delivery model, syncing the delivery of all five commissions into the same two-week window and presenting them to audiences as a suite of related works. This adjustment was successful in bringing creative and logistical focus to each work, and was all that was required to bring production timelines back under control. It also created an accessible, comprehensible way for our audience to engage with our 2018 activity.


CASE STUDY- ALISON PLEVEY Alison Plevey was one of our five commissioned artists, and works throughout the year as a dancer and producer of dance-based artwork. The conditions of her industry require her to work on many individual projects throughout the year, with project timelines often overlapping. As a producer as well as an artist she spends much of her working life competing administrative tasks, securing funding and leading teams of creatives. Alison is well-regarded in the ACT arts community for her skill set and professionalism, and she is committed to pursuing the further development of her practice despite the constant demands on her time and attention. We judged that the most useful intervention we could make into her practice would be to allow her an art-making experience free of the markers of artistic professionalism that, despite their intrinsic value, can prevent artists from engaging in sustained selfreflection. Alison created a one-week residency for herself and a group of dancers and musicians in the Canberra CBD. Her goal was to explore the nature of the space as a public commons and interrogate how it was experienced and used. The You Are Here Creative Producers challenged her to enter the week with less thorough logistical planning than her professional practice usually demands. Alison was asked to utilise the residency as an opportunity to re-examine her motivations and modes of creation from first principles, and to set goals for the artwork that were not focused around the traditional notion of audience engagement. Alison incorporated these challenges with an eager and trusting attitude, and reported her personal results in highly positive terms: “So rare it is for time and support to dig under the surface of how and why we are making, rather than making in context of a paying audience or working to a concise concept and outcome. To do this, to allow liberty or abandon from these constraints, uncover its challenges, and bring it back in, together understanding why we might place certain limitations on things, is process.�- Alison Plevey, 2018 You Are Here artist.




Having two core staff members employed throughout the year resulted in a higher level of sustained creative and logistical focus from staff than our previous model of employing a larger team for a discrete festival period. It has also resulted in a stronger sense of organisational continuity moving into 2019.

You Are Here is an independent arts organisation supporting artists and creative communities in the ACT to create experimental art and experiences. Our core values are:

Our publication of online articles stimulated considerable critical feedback from our online audiences. The most constant recurring feedback was that You Are Here has provided arts experiences that are unique from any other offered in the ACT, and valuable in their commitment to experimentation and inclusion. Additionally, many artists communicated to us that the existence and model of You Are Here led them to devise artworks that they otherwise would not have.

• Lowering barriers of entry for artists and audiences

• Artist development • Experimentation

Our core organisational responsibilities are: • Providing quantifiable development opportunities for Canberra artists via strategic interventions into their arts practice • Working to the highest standards of inclusion and accessibility when selecting our artists • Creating a community of arts experimentation in the ACT

As we took part in assessing success models for arts activity in Canberra, we saw a recurring pattern- adding resources and context to emerging creative communities led to the production of high quality art with strong audience engagement. This has educated us as to the importance of fostering creative communities as the basis of cultural activity.

• Creating a presentation context that allows You Are Here artists to create work and connect with audiences effectively • Elevating the public discourse around the value and costs of arts activity • Maintaining budgeting and fee structures that promote the true costs and value of arts activity • Reporting our activities and decisionmaking processes to audience and stakeholders in a transparent and proactive way The form of our future programs and activities must reflect these values and responsibilities.


PROPOSED 2019 PROGRAM AND ORGANISATIONAL MODEL In 2019 we will retain the organisational model of 2 year-round core staff members supported, who are supported by the You Are Here Board. These two core staff members will be experienced creative producers with a proven record of producing arts events across a wide range of artforms. Nick Delatovic has been confirmed to continue as one of these core staff members.

Arts ACT Program Funding will account for the following budget items:

The core staff will curate a public callout for artists and creative producers to participate in the 2019 You Are Here Artist Development Program. We will choose 15 artists and/or creative producers to participate, selecting them for both their potential to receive a tangible artist development opportunity from the process and our own commitment to including participants from under-represented and marginalised communities.

We have secured $25000 in additional funding from the Sidney Myer Fpundation, and will be seeking additional funding from sources such as the City Renewal Authority, Events ACT and private sector sponsorship, for the following budget items:

• Core staffing costs • All cost relating to the delivery of the 2019 Artist Development Program (see 2019 Program Budget) These budget items will henceforth be known as our Core Activities.

• The 2019 You Are Festival including all staffing and production costs. • Any other public event activity undertaken by You Are Here in 2019.

These artists will commit to fortnightly sessions which will include all participating artists and producers, for the period of March to September 2019. These sessions will consist of development activity with a secondary goal of producing work for the 2019 You Are Here Festival, a three-day festival that will take place in October 2019. An additional festival staff will be hired to deliver this festival, and the works presented in this festival will reflect the rigorous, high-quality nature of You Are Here’s development process.

Findings from the first iteration of this new programming model will be presented to Arts ACT at the end of the 2019. These findings will work toward the further refinement of our processes in 2020 and beyond. The support of Arts ACT has allowed us to create an ambitious strategic plan and we anticipate this partnership to continue to improve conditions for arts practice in the ACT.