On the ABC TV Q & A program on June 9, 2014, titled Primates, Populism and Utopia, a video question from an audience member asked the panel of respected elder Australians (across the arts, anthropology, journalism and academia) whether the responsibility of art was to bring people to passionate awareness of reality.
A doyen of the visual art world in Australia, and former National Gallery of Australia director, Betty Churcher responded to the question by noting that the arts (in general) in recent times has certainly brought Australians together.
A study, The Arts in Daily Life: Australian Participation in the Arts, released in late May this year, from the Australia Council supports Churcher’s claim.
Based on national sample of 3,000 people living in Australia conducted in late 2013, the survey covered visual arts and crafts, music, theatre, dance and literature, as well as community and Indigenous arts.
It found that more than 95 per cent of Australians has engaged with the arts in the past 12 months.
Examining consumers as well as creators, the Australia Council reported that over 48 per cent of Australians were creating art in 2013, compared to 41 per cent in 2009.
The study highlighted that one in three Australians are creating visual arts and crafts, which is up to 30 per cent in 2013 from 22 per cent in 2009.
These findings support the American urban studies guru, Richard Florida’s creative class thesis which contends that over one third of today’s workforce consist of the creative types.
In despite his many critics, since 2002 Florida has argued that the creative class is the economic force of the new industries and businesses; and ‘therefore the dominant class in society in terms of influence’ with ‘the power, talent and numbers to reshape the world’.
If Australia is aligned with Florida’s world, then we are also a musical nation where one in five Australians are making music, which is up 20 per cent in 2013 from 15 per cent in 2009.
Literature is also important to us and reading (especially the novel) is still our popular pastime with over 87 per cent of the population reading in 2013, which is slightly up from 84 per cent in 2009.
Ninety-two per cent of Australians also feel that Indigenous arts are an critical part of Australia’s culture, a point which Betty Churcher along with Amatjere Indigenous elder, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, a Aboriginal activist from Alice Springs and former lead actor in Charles and Elsa Chauvels’ seminal 1955 Australian film classic, Jedda, alluded to on the ABC program last night.
Perhaps most importantly, the study found that 66 per cent of Australians think the arts have a big impact on the development of children; and can influences their participation as an adult.
This last point is of particular importance to me, as an Arts and Culture coordinator of a large undergraduatejournalism unit at Monash, which runs in 2nd semester this year.
Since 2010 in this highly popular, third year elective unit over 100 journalism students explore the research and reporting practices associated with contemporary arts and culture.
Reporting Arts and Culture canvasses contemporary issues and case studies across the visual and performing arts, cinema, comedy, music and literary reporting.
It examines the key personalities and institutions in the cultural world and critically considers the professional and social implications and accountabilities of reporting in the fields.
What the students are reporting on in (as noted in the Australian Council study) is the growing demand for cultural related events, where arts journalists (alias critics) have the responsibility of communicating the transformative nature of the arts.
Similar to outcomes from the Australian Council study, I hope that from this tertiary arts educational experience these 18 to 24 year olds emerging cultural critics will develop a stronger ability to think creatively and develop new ideas.
As Sebastian Smee, former art critic with The Australian said: “Inside every critic is a painter, photographer or sculptor fantasising about the opening of their own sell-out show”.
Participating and education in the arts is not an indulgence, it is a necessity. As the Australian Council reflected, it improves our sense of wellbeing, and the ability to deal with stress, anxiety or depression, which is often so prevalent in our busy lives.
More than 85 per cent of Australians surveyed in The Arts in Daily Life: Australian Participation in the Arts study affirmed that the arts have a fundamental place in our culturally diverse lives and offers a richer and more meaningful life.
Cultural activity is part of our soft power diplomacy. It is a way of understanding our national psyche. Investment in all creative fields adds cultural value to society as a whole.
But in the recent Federal budget cuts, our peak cultural organisations such as the Australia Council and Screen Australia stand to lose more than 10 per cent of their annual budgets, which will means few grants to artists and arts organisations.
Despite this, the Abbott government, with Senator George Brandis at the helm as Arts Minister, has sought to reassure the Australian arts community that the Government remains pro-arts, despite slashing millions of dollars from the sector.
In this current post budget climate are these motherhood statements about the arts meaningless?
Alana and Naomi are finalists in the Young Walkleys
Monash University journalism alumnae Alana Mitchelson and Naomi Selvaratnam have been named finalists in the Young Walkley Awards to be held in Sydney on July 29.
Jenan Taylor awarded the Guy Morrison Prize
Monash University’s Jenan Taylor has earned national recognition for her unique pauper story, winning the Guy Morrison … Continue reading Jenan Taylor awarded the Guy Morrison Prize
Students retrace historic footsteps of the Great War
Monash journalism students have produced historically significant work in News Corp publications to mark the centenary … Continue reading Students retrace historic footsteps of the Great War
How Hackett made it back to championship swimming
By Julie Tullberg Grant Hackett’s foundation training for the 1,500m freestyle event, which started more … Continue reading How Hackett made it back to championship swimming
Monash graduates make their mark at News Corp
Monash journalism graduates are scoring key roles and winning awards at News Corp publications, particularly the … Continue reading Monash graduates make their mark at News Corp
Endurance: Australian Stories of Drought
Journalism lecturer Dr Deb Anderson has published a fascinating collection of oral histories in her … Continue reading Endurance: Australian Stories of Drought
Monash Journalism research
Research is a vital part of Monash Journalism. It contributes knowledge to a field and … Continue reading Monash Journalism research
Jenan Taylor wins Student Journalist of the Year
Monash University’s Jenan Taylor has won the Melbourne Press Club’s 2014 Student Journalist of the … Continue reading Jenan Taylor wins Student Journalist of the Year
Jonno’s journey to the TV newsroom
Monash journalism graduate Jonno Nash has made the transition from one of the best print and … Continue reading Jonno’s journey to the TV newsroom
Luke and Uma awarded 2015 CEW Bean Prize
Monash University’s Master of Journalism students Luke Mortimer and Uma Muthia are recipients of the … Continue reading Luke and Uma awarded 2015 CEW Bean Prize
Masters journalism students named as Quill finalists
MONASH University Master of Journalism students, Jenan Taylor and Tiffany Korssen, have been named finalists … Continue reading Masters journalism students named as Quill finalists
Where are the women in radio?
Monash journalism Honours graduate Emma Nobel has produced an intriguing radio documentary, Where are the … Continue reading Where are the women in radio?