Working

The Long Read

Jobs are not big enough for people. It’s not just the assembly line worker whose job is too small for his spirit, you know? A job like mine, if you really put your spirit into it, you would sabotage immediately. You don’t dare. So you absent your spirit from it. My mind has been so divorced from my job, except as a source of income, it’s really absurd.
—Nora Watson, editor

 

I’ve come across Studs Terkel via his good friend Kurt Vonnegut, who quotes him in A Man Without a Country, his memoir-esque final book.

Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do is a collection of over 80 interviews conducted in the 1970s with Americans from all walks of life. Studs Terkel, a broadcaster and oral historian, manages to both create a warm space for an intimate conversation and make himself transparent, and the transcripts read as insightful monologues constantly flowing between the personal and the universal. Working has been turned into a musical and adapted as a comic book by American Splendor’s Harvey Pekar.     

 

This book, being about work, is, by its very nature, about violence – to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all, (or beneath all), about daily humiliations. To survive the day is triumph enough for the walking wounded among the great many of is. (…) It is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying. Perhaps immortality, too, is part of the quest. To be remembered was the wish, spoken and unspoken, of the heroes and heroines of this book.
Introduction

 

Working tells the extraordinary stories of ordinary people, and the everyday grind of those in the limelight – in their own voice. Policeman, bus driver, pharmacist, professional hockey player, farm worker, switchboard operator, airline stewardess, actor, doorman, piano tuner, gas meter reader, private eye, hair stylists… sit for a while with Terkel, in their home, in a tavern, in the boss’s office, and share a moment with him, opening up about their life, their feelings, their dreams. Some have already put a lot of thought into what they’re being asked to talk about, for others it feels like they’re discovering themselves in the conversation, revealing their inner contradictions and sometimes finding resolution. There’s a precious quality of individuality that comes through every single interview, but also a sense of interconnectedness that emerges from the accumulation of stories.

Studs Terkel made a point of scouting for people whose voice is not often heard, those who toil in the dark, are oppressed, marginalised, or trying to escape their golden cage. Class, race and gender loom large in the life choices of Terkel’s interlocutors. Barbara Herrick, a farmer’s daughter and award-winning writer / producer in the male-dominated ad world, is often ignored by clients at meetings – or asked to make them coffee – until she starts one her brilliant presentation. Roberto Acuna, farm worker, born on a cotton sack, picking the fields seven days a week from the age of 8, now organising for the United Farm Workers of America, has one wish:

 

If people could see—in the winter, ice on the fields. We’d be on our knees all day long. We’d build fires and warm up real fast and go back on the ice. We’d be picking watermelons in 105 degrees all day long. When people have melons or cucumber of carrots or lettuce, they don’t know how they got on their table and the consequences to the people who picked it. If I had enough money, I would take busloads of people out to the fields and into the labor camps. Then they’d know how that dine salad got on their table.
—Roberto Acuna, farm worker  

 

Some are fulfilled by their job:  

 

People imagine a waitress couldn’t possibly think of have any kind of aspiration other than to serve food. When somebody says to me, “You’re great, how come you’re just a waitress?” Just a waitress. I’d say, “Why, don’t you think you deserve to be served by me?” It’s implying that he’s not worthy, not that I’m not worthy. I makes me irate. I don’t feel lowly at all. I myself feel sure. I don’t want to change the job. I love it.
Dolores Dante, waitress

 

Others suffer from the daily drag, the erosion of their rights, the contempt from management:

 

All I do now is get up in the morning, go there, and I don’t be thinking about that. Like a machine, that’s about the only way I can feel.
—Will Robinson, bus driver

 

Some lose their illusions:

 

We were caught up in the American Dream. You’ve gotta have a house. You’ve gotta have a country club. You’ve gotta have two cars. Here you are at ten grand and getting nowhere. So I doubled my salary. I also doubled my grief. I now made twenty thousand dollars; had an expense account, a Country Squire—air-conditioned station wagon given by the company—a wonderful boss. We began to accumulate. We got a house in the suburbs and we got a country club membership and we got two cars and we got higher taxes. We got nervous and we started drinking more and smoking more. Finally, one day we sat down. We have everything and we are poor.
Fred Ringley, ex-salesman, farmer

 

And some take action:

 

When I worked as a bartender, I felt like a non-person. I was actually nothing. I was a nobody going nowhere. I was in a state of limbo. I have no hopes, no dreams, no ups, no downs, nothing. Being a policeman gives me the challenge in life I want.
Vincent Maher, policeman

 

Some find meaning in their life, beyond their job, by becoming reluctant leaders:

 

I was one of the organisers here when the union came. I was as anti-union in the beginning as I am union now. Coming from a small farm community in Wisconsin, I didn’t know what a union was all about. I didn’t understand the labor movement at all. In school you’re shown the bad side of it.

Before the union came in, all I did was do my eight hours, collect my paycheck, and o home, did my housework, took care of my daughter, and went back to work. I had no outside interests. You just lived to live. Since I became active in the union, I’ve become active in politics, in the community, in legislative problems. I’ve been to Washington on one or two trips. I’ve been to Springfield. That had given me more of an incentive for life.
—Grace Clements, felter in a luggage factory

 

We meet those who have found their calling, like Father Leonard Dubi, son of a steelworker and radical priest, taking on corporations and politicians to fight against pollution, poor planning decisions and corruption.

Others are making both a life and a living:   

 

I knew when I was eight years old that I wasn’t going to amount to anything in the business world. I wanted my life to have something to do with adventure, something unknown, something involved with a free life, something to do with wonder and astonishment. I loved to play—the fact that I could express myself in improvisation, the unplanned.
—Bud Freeman, jazz musician

 

And there are those who are still searching, like Charlie Blossom, upper middle class college dropout, hyperbolic hippy on a brief stint as a copy boy for a Chicago newspaper, who bring sunflower seeds to his co-workers and dreams of murdering his capitalist boss.

For a job that is similar on paper, two workers might have completely different attitudes – because so much of how they feel about it is down to the level of autonomy and responsibility they are offered or have carved for themselves. To quote Norma’s words, they are satisfied when they can put their spirit, whole and sincere, into what they do, when the job is big enough for them to be a full human being. Studs Terkel makes no comment outside his introduction, he passes no judgement on his subjects, but the fact that he features so heavily union members, second-chancers, angry young women and men and people fulfilled by creating value and connections to others and to the world is a strong hint at the kind of society he favours. And when articulating the need for change in his Introduction, he goes on to quote yet another union leader:

 

Perhaps it is time the “work ethics” was redefined and its idea reclaimed from the banal men who invoke it. In a world of cybernetics, of an almost runaway technology, things are increasingly making things. It is for our species, it would seem, to go on to other matters. Human matters. Freud put it one way. Ralph Helstein puts it another. He is president emeritus of the United Packinghouse Workers of America. “Learning is work. Caring for children is work. Community action is work. Once we accept the concept of work as something meaningful—not just as the source of a buck—you don’t have to worry about finding enough jobs. There’s no excuse for mules anymore. Society does not need them. There’s no question about our ability to feed and clothe and house everybody. The problem is going to come in finding enough ways for man to keep occupied, so he’s in touch with reality.”

 

Terkel concludes: “Our imaginations have obviously not yet been challenged”.

 

40 years on, technology has accelerated automation far beyond all expectations, education is still preparing young people for jobs and structures that don’t exist anymore, and chronic mass unemployment and underemployment are robbing many out of the right to make a life, fulfilled and dignified, out of making a living.
We need to challenge our imaginations to try out new ways of learning, of being together, of caring for each other and the world, and of valuing what is being produced within and outside formal contracts of employment. Universal Basic Income, or Citizen’s Income, is making its way into the mainstream, with pilots under way in Finland since January 2017 and starting soon in Ontario. It redefines the meaning of belonging to a community, enabling people to care for each other and removing the stigma of negative ‘benefits’; and it challenges the notion that employment is the source of all value, conflating money, status and identity.

The Jazz Papers

The Long Read

I’ve just started to develop a new project for Jazz North tentatively called northern originals Phase 3, a follow-up to the consultation and pilot project I ran from 2013 to 2015, and right now I’m trawling the Internet archives to unearth policy and research documents about strategic planning and audience development for jazz and contemporary music. As this is something that could be useful to anyone interested in the future of jazz in the UK, I’ve listed what I’ve found so far below in chronological order from older to newer, and will add more as they emerge.

 

Jazz – the Case for a Better Investment

(Jazz Services, 1993)
pdf online

A Policy for the Support of Jazz in England

(Arts Council England, 1996)
pdf online

How to Develop Audiences for Jazz

(Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, 2001)
pdf online
market research and industry conference

Contemporary Music Enthusiasts: How can we persuade people to try something different?

(Heather Maitland, Journal of Arts Marketing, 2002)
pdf online

Guide to Getting Bigger Jazz Audiences

(Heather Maitland, Jazz Services / EMJAZZ, 2011?)
pdf online

Rhythm Changes: Historical Overviews of Five Partner Countries

(Bruckner-Haring, C. & Whyton, T. (eds.), Graz, 2013)
pdf online

New Music : New Audiences final evaluation report

(New:Aud European project, 2014)
pdf online

Audience Development: The Road to Success

The Long Read

I was recently invited by Jazz North to talk to the new crop of artists selected for Northern Line – a subsidised touring scheme – about growing their audience through social media. As I’ve also done similar workshops for jazz promoters, I know it’s a great way to join the dots and tackle audience development on all fronts. However, artists and small independent promoters don’t have access to much data – so tools like the Audience Agency’s Audience Spectrum are not very helpful for their needs. For that type of public, I usually explain audience development in terms of distance, with existing audiences as the core circle, and other audience groups to be reached as being gradually further away: the more in common they have with the music, band, venue, club…, the closer they are, and therefore the easier and less costly they are to reach. It’s not a very sophisticated approach, and I felt that it was time to revise it a notch. Luckily, I came across the New York-based Wallace Foundation via a mention on France Musique of their current 6-year $40m investment in audience development, supporting and analysing the activities of 26 performing arts organisations. This funding programme is based on previous initiatives that are well documented on their website, so I started digging into their resources.

 

The Behavioural Model: The New Framework for Building Participation in the Arts

One of their landmark research pieces is the The New Framework for Building Participation in the Arts, commissioned from research agency RAND Corporation (which stands for R&D, not the Fountainhead author) in 2001. Based on 13 site visits and over 100 in depth-interviews with funded institutions, the report proposes a behavioural model to help arts organisations identify the main decision-making factors that lead to participation in the arts.

The model is based on four decision-making stages, each affected by specific sets of factors, that link background factors to attitudes, attitudes to intentions, intentions to actual behaviour, and past behaviour to future behaviour (p. 23):  

  • The Background Stage consists of the individual’s general attitudes toward the arts, a general consideration of whether to consider the arts as a potential leisure activity;
    • Influencing factors: the individual’s background characteristics: socio-demographics, personality traits, prior arts experience, and socio-cultural factors.
  • The Perceptual Stage (stage 1) is the individual’s formation of an inclination toward the arts based on an assessment of the benefits and costs of participation and where to obtain those benefits;
    • Influencing factors: perceptual factors, such as personal beliefs about the benefits and costs of arts participation and perceptions of how reference groups view the arts
  • The Practical Stage (stage 2) is their an evaluation of specific opportunities to participate;
    • Influencing factors: practical factors, such as available information on the arts, the costs involved in participation, and convenience
  • and the Experience Stage (stage 3) is the actual arts participation experience followed by a reassessment of the benefits and costs of the arts and assessment of their inclination to participate.
    • Influencing factors: the individual’s reaction to the actual experience

 

Type of Audience Development Activity

The report starts by defining three broad ways to increase participation in the arts – three types of activities that arts organisations can pursue, each with their own engagement strategy, and each responding to different organisational mission and values.

When setting out to build participation in the arts and develop audiences (both terms are used interchangeably in the report), organisations can either aim to:

  • broaden audiences (increase their size);
  • deepen them (enrich the experience of current participants);
  • diversify them (bring new groups into the fold).

Whilst all three types of direction could in theory be led concurrently, in practice only one or two at a time are likely to be both aligned with the organisation’s mission and achievable within its resources.

Audience Targeting

To build a targeted strategy, the next steps is to gather the right information about audiences, in line with the behavioural model:

  1. Background: Determine the target population’s inclinations toward the arts (eg. distinguishing between participants and non-participants, but also between non-participants who are inclined to participate and those who are not).
  2. Perceptual: Gather information about their motivations (e.g., whether they are looking for entertainment or enrichment, and whether they are more likely to prefer self-focused or social activities).
  3. Practical: Understand specific information about the lifestyles, specific programme interests and leisure activities of potential participants and how these groups stay informed about their leisure activities. This will help to adapt the programming, scheduling, pricing, and marketing efforts to the specific needs of the potential audiences.

The report recommends adopting an integrated approach to create an effective audience development strategy (p. 42):

  • Begin by considering how the organization’s participation-building activities align with its core values and purpose by choosing participation goals that support its purpose.
  • Identify clear target populations and base its tactics on good information about those groups.
  • Understand what internal and external resources can be committed to building participation.
  • Establish a process for feedback and self-evaluation (using both quantitative and qualitative methods).

 

15 Year Later: The Road To Success

Between 2006 and 2012, Wallace funded 54 organizations to develop and test approaches for expanding audiences informed by RAND’s guidance, and commissioned market researcher Bob Harlow to write case study evaluations for 10 of these organisations, presented in The Road to Results: Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences (2014).

Across 10 very different institutions – a young people’s choir, theatre, ballet and opera companies, museums, galleries and art workshop providers – Harlow identified 9 practices that contributed to the success of their participation-building strategy:

  1. Recognizing When Change Is Needed
  2. Identifying the Target Audience that Fits
  3. Determining What Kinds of Barriers Need to Be Removed
  4. Taking Out the Guesswork: Audience Research to Clarify the Approach
  5. Thinking Through the Relationship
  6. Providing Multiple Ways In
  7. Aligning the Organization Around the Strategy
  8. Building in Learning
  9. Preparing for Success

Road-To-Results-Infographic-page-001

 

Each practice is illustrated in detail with examples from the case studies, and further reports into specific points provide even more learning opportunities to understand and adapt these principles – for example, Taking Out the Guesswork: A Guide to Using Research to Build Arts Audiences, published a year later, includes very practical tips on facilitating focus groups, including budget and timeline, guidelines on designing, conducting and analysing surveys and advice on working with market researchers.  

The key factor for success throughout these examples is the desire to learn from audiences and adapt accordingly, which implies a complex change management process that can transform an organisation from within. It doesn’t mean changing the programming offer or artistic vision, on the contrary: as these case studies evidence, the road to success starts by being confident that what you do is valuable and being proud to offer it to your audiences, but humble enough to ask them what they really think. Perceptual and practical barriers can be difficult to see or take seriously for staff who are immersed in the daily life of their organisation, and removing them requires more often than not a new collaborative effort between departments or levels, a change in organisational behaviour, a renewed sense of purpose. Across all 54 organisations that received Wallace’s multi-year funding to test and apply the RAND behavioural participation-building model, and specifically out of the 46 with reliable data, results were “surprisingly positive”:

over three years, the 11 organizations seeking to boost their overall audiences saw median gains of 27 percent. Results for the 35 organizations targeting specific audience segments were even higher—60 percent—though it’s important to note that in some cases organizations were starting from a small base.

 

The following table summarises the achievements of 10 case studies highlighted in Road to Success.

Case Studies Results-page-001

Planning Steps for Participation-Building

Without additional funding or detailed data, what can be taken from these studies to help small organisations and individual artists grow their audience? My next audience development workshop might look a bit more like this:

 

  1. Determine the direction of growth (broaden, deepen and/or diversify). Who do you wish to see at your next gig: more of the same people, the same people more often or completely different people?
  2. Understand the target audience, and specifically their levers of behaviour change: what makes them tick and what puts them off. What would they do more if they could? What are the barriers that hold them back? Observe, listen, analyse, be ready to be challenged and to change your ways.
  3. Start by applying small-step tactics that don’t cause a strain on resources, and monitor results carefully. This is a pilot phase to try new things out, which can include internal collaboration, new partnerships, modifying existing practices or implementing new initiatives. Lack of result doesn’t mean that the whole idea is wrong: it might just need to be presented or executed differently.
  4. Assess the internal changes (resource levels, processes, systems…) required to scale up successful strategies. This is an essential step to be able to deliver in a sustainable manner; this can also be a catalyst for change, as it will require long-term planning and full-organisation thinking.  
  5. Turn your mission and actions towards your audience: they should always be firmly in the picture, not an afterthought or – worse – a nuisance. This is where change can become motivational and lead to a higher level of emotional truth, a renewed sense of purpose, a more challenging – and more rewarding – way of working. 

#artspolicy50: an update on Jennie Lee’s White Paper

The Long Read

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first – and so far only – White Paper for the Arts, written by then-Minister of State for the Arts Jennie Lee. We’re also just 70 days away from the next General Election – time to take a stance on the future of arts funding.

Timely reports, such as the 2015 Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value and GPS Culture’s A New Destination for the Arts – Between a RoCC and a Hard Place are calling for more involvement of local and central governments into rebalancing the cultural and educational provision and for a new ambitious national policy for the arts and culture.

Meanwhile, the BBC and What Next? have just launched a year-long Get Creative campaign to encourage participation in artistic and cultural activities, and the RSA’s Chief Executive Matthew Taylor is proposing a national contract between the Government and the arts & culture sector, which draft version can be consulted here.

Jennie Lee’s White Paper runs as a red thread through all these initiatives, and a few participants from the last Devoted&Disgruntled event took it upon themselves to put the original text into today’s context. Extracts from the 1965 White Paper are in black, and recent relevant quotes in red (full references are available on the 50th Anniversary Response document).

 

Jennie Lee’s White Paper
A Policy for the Arts
First Steps
a 50th Anniversary Response
to be widely shared on 25th February 2015

 

Only yesterday it was the fight for a free health service. The day before it was the struggle to win education for all … In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as something remote from everyday life.

In the zero-sum economy of austerity Britain, the arts are increasingly required to couch their case in terms appropriate to those basic services – social care, education, policing – with which they’re in competition for dwindling public funds. (David Edgar, 2012)

It has been an incredible life-changing opportunity for the town/community. We loved being able to give opportunities to young people. We also discovered so many local charities and companies that we can give a boost to. (Luton Fun Palace, 2014)

But if a high level of artistic achievement is to be sustained and the best in the arts made more widely available, more generous and discriminating help is urgently needed, locally, regionally, and nationally.

Arts Council England has revealed plans for implementing the 29.6% cut to its budget announced as part of the Government’s Spending Review. (The Entertainment and Media Group News, October 2010)

 Too many working people have been conditioned by their education and environment to consider the best in the arts outside their reach.

The lack of opportunity is not simply limiting the people coming in, it’s restricting what’s being written. Working-class kids aren’t represented. Working-class life is not referred to. It’s really sad. (Julie Walters, 2014)

If a sane balance of population between north and south, east and west, is to be achieved, this kind of development is just as essential as any movement of industry or provision of public utility service. If the eager and gifted, to whom we must look for leadership in every field, are to feel as much at home in the north and west as in and near London, each region will require high points of artistic excellence.

2012/13 found that Londoners benefited from £69 a year spending per head, compared with just £4.50 in the rest of England. Overall, a balance in London’s favour of 4.1:1. (Rebalancing our Cultural Capital; David Powell, Christopher Gordon, Peter Stark, 2014)

The concept of the arts centre is most valuable since such a centre can be of almost any size and cover any range of activities. A single hall can provide a place where local people can meet, perform an amateur play, hold an exhibition of their own or of professional work, put on a film show, lecture or recital and generally act as focal point for cultural activities and amenities.

We felt it was really important to hand over the venue to the local community; local individuals and organisations were invited to take part. This ensured a wholly accessible approach, with new audiences in a family friendly setting. (ARC Stockton Fun Palace)

 Certain sections of the press, by constantly sniping at cultural expenditure, made philistinism appear patriotic.

The wicked Tories will be blamed for ‘vandalising’ the arts, just you see. Yet how bad are the arts cuts? Or is much of this merely special pleading by an over-indulged quango? (Quentin Letts, Daily Mail, 2011)

If children at an early age become accustomed to the idea of the arts as a part of everyday life, they are more likely in maturity first to accept and then to demand them.

I am prepared to fight to give children independence and autonomy, and the psychological space to respond in the way they want – and that sometimes means the right to respond and process privately and without adults around or the need for any measurable outcomes. (Purni Morrell 2014, Artistic Director, Unicorn Theatre)

But too often, as boys and girls grow up, the impetus seems to weaken, so that as adults we are more vulnerable than we should be to criticisms of our inadequate uses of literacy, of our failure to appreciate poetry, of our limited tastes in music and drama, of our ignorance of the visual arts and of our blindness to good design.

What is clear now is that young people, especially those in the less affluent regions, are not getting any opportunities at all, because arts … access for young people has been swept away. And I think it will only get worse. Paul Collard, Chief Executive at CCE (Creative Culture and Education)

Nor can we ignore the growing revolt, especially among the young.

I don’t doubt that many of the rioters out last week have no father at home. Perhaps they come from one of the neighbourhoods where it’s standard for children to have a mum and not a dad… Many people have long thought that the answer to these questions of social behaviour is to bring back national service. In many ways I agree. David Cameron, 2011

The crafts also have an important contribution to make in the field of education and leisure pursuits as well as in their influence on good design.

Where else could a knitting fan, a bread-maker, a psychologist, a toy shop owner, a jewellery maker, a storyteller, a poetry fan, a book group, a drama teacher, a scientist, a museum, a library, a fish and chip shop, and a bored marketing manager be involved in creating a day of free entertainment for our town? (Whitstable Fun Palace)

Nor must Government support be given only to established institutions. New ideas, new values, the involvement of large sections of the community hitherto given little or no opportunity to appreciate the arts, all have their place.

We’ve come a long way since Jennie Lee and yet… there is still a significant engagement gap, with education and affluence the major factors influencing likelihood and levels of engagement. (Deborah Bull, Young People and The Arts: Lessons from 50 years of Arts Policy, 2015)

At present, the artist, having finished their schooling, has still to gain experience and has difficulty in obtaining employment. Many turn aside to other types of employment because the life of the artist is too precarious.

The so-called golden age of arts funding has given way to debilitating austerity, particularly for artists who find themselves at the end of a long food chain, divorced from arts funding and policy decision making. (Susan Jones, 2013)

Many well qualified, talented and passionate young people lack the resources to pay their own way through an unpaid internship. (Institute for Public Policy Research, 2010)

In order to bring the arts within reach of a wider public, greater use might be made of the subsidised travel for special occasions which the Arts Council already operate and the practice of giving specially reduced theatre prices to students and to special groups should be more widely adopted.

It’s great to have a £10 a ticket system, but if all the £10 tickets are being sold to people who were buying them for £50 the week before, then that’s no great gain. (Chris Bryant MP)

Between February 2009 and March 2011, A Night Less Ordinary gave 393,657 free theatre tickets to people under 26. (Arts Council England)

The exclusion of so many for so long from… our cultural heritage can become as damaging to the privileged minority as to the under-privileged majority.

This is something worth fighting for. It’s not just about showbusiness – everywhere you go people are discriminated against. And if by having an organised voice against inequality and a lack of diversity we might be able to push that down – how brilliant would it be?” (Lenny Henry, Actor, Writer, Comedian, TV Presenter)

Some local authorities will need a good deal of persuading before they are convinced that the money it is in their power to spend on arts and amenities is money well spent and deserving a much higher priority than hitherto.

For every £1 spent by local authorities in England, less than half a penny is spent on culture. The average net spend by local authorities is only 16p per person per week. (National Campaign For The Arts)

If one side of life is highly mechanised, another side must provide for diversity, adventure, opportunities both to appreciate and to participate in a wide range of individual pursuits. An enlightened government has a duty to respond to these needs.

A new social as well as artistic climate is essential.

Take the Money and Run?

The Long Read

I discovered Platform’s work a few months ago at an early morning What Next? meeting, where Jane Trowell came to talk about the ethical fundraising policies they develop with arts organisations. So when I found out about the day-long event they were organising with Artsadmin – in partnership with Live Arts Development Agency and Home Live Arts, as part of a joint Catalyst project (Arts Council England’s programme for increasing fundraising capacity) I signed up straight away.

The room was packed with artists, arts professionals and activists eager to find answers to pressing questions: if we take ‘dirty’ money, stained with environmental or human rights abuse, are we complicit? Can you – should you – bite the hand that feeds you? Do you best change a system you disagree with from within, or by refusing to participate and using boycott tactics? What can be done, collectively, to secure the future of the arts?

By a nice stroke of calendar luck, the event was taking place only a few days after the long-awaited announcement of BP’s actual amount of cash sponsorship to the Tate – somewhere between £150,000 and £330,000 a year, which represents 0.5 to 1% of the gallery group’s total operating budget, and makes the heavy-handed use of BP’s logo and naming rights (“BP Walk Through British Art”…) seem grossly disproportionate. The revelation is timely, as BP’s current multi-year commitment to four large institutions (Tate, National Gallery, Royal Opera House and British Museum) is coming to an end in 2016, when it will be reconsidered. Without the facts, these institutions’ stakeholders – audience members, artists, staff, suppliers… – can’t weigh in to influence the negotiations. With these figures in hand, it becomes possible to have a debate about notions of public good, artistic integrity and corporate image.

Tate-BP-sponsorship-comparison

BP’s sponsorship in comparison to Tate’s other sources of revenue (source: Platform)

Platform and other activist groups such as “creative disobedience network” Liberate Tate have been campaigning for the past 3 years for this disclosure: a protracted process of filing Freedom of Information requests and battling on legal ground.

As a result, the Tate was forced to un-redact the minutes of its Ethic Committee that they had up to then chosen to black out. These show that the Committee expressed doubt regarding the balance between the money received and the potential damage to the Tate’s image, as well as its social and environmental responsibility as a public institution – and even if their final ‘executive’ decision was that this reputational risk was not yet outweighing the economic benefit, the doubt is still there.

300x362xtate-ethics-committee-excerpts.jpg.pagespeed.ic.ZtdNIAo0XH

Extract from minutes of Tate’s Ethics Committee which scrutinised BP’s sponsorship in 2010 (source: Platform)

It’s thus with a positive spirit of achievement through collective action that the conference opened. Hosted in Toynbee Studios’ Art Deco theatre, it was a long but well structured series of short presentations by artists, producers, activists and academics, followed by panel discussions that cleverly included the audience as valued commenters themselves instead of requiring them to ask questions to the ‘experts’ on stage. The event was filmed, so I won’t attempt to give a linear narrative of the proceedings, but rather share a few of the great resources and ideas that I gained from that day.

Take the Money and Run: the Study Guide

As mentioned in a previous postTake the Money and Run? is a study guide based on 9 key texts that aims at providing readers with a set of critical tools, case studies and references to help arts organisations and artists take an informed position on their financial model. Texts include (hyperlinks are to publisher’s website or to PDF/online version whenever available):

1. Art for All: Their Policies and Our Culture (eds Mary Warnock and Marck Wallinger, 2000)
2. The Arm’s Length Principle and the Arts: An International Perspective – Past, Present and Future (Harry Hillman-Chartrand and Claire McCaughey, 1989) (online)
3. Using Art to Render Authenticity in Business (an Arts & Business publication, 2009) (pdf)
4. Free Exchange (Hans Haacke and Pierre Bourdieu, 1995) (pdf)
5. Privatisating Culture: Corporate Art Intervention since the 1990s (Chin-Tao Wu, 2003)
6. Changing the Performance: A Companion Guide to Arts, Business and Civic Engagement (Julia Rowntree, 2006)
7. Not If But When: Culture Beyond Oil (Platform, Liberate Tate and Art Not Oil, 2011) (online / pdf)
8. When Attitudes Become Form, Philipp Morris Becomes Sponsor: Arts Sponsorship in Europe against the background of development in America (Hubertus Butin, 2000) (online article)
9. Culture Incorporated: Museums, Artists and Corporate Sponsorships (Mark Rectanus, 2002)

 

Further Reading

Here are a few links to some of the books, reports and articles that got mentioned throughout the day to dig deeper into the thorny issue of art & money.

 

Picture This – A Portrait of 25 years of BP sponsorship (Platform, June 2014)

A report by Platform outlining 25 of BP’s “major environmental catastrophes, human rights violations, and backroom deals” – one for every year of the BP-National Portrait Gallery sponsorship deal – and featuring “an analysis on the role of art in society in relation to ethics and sponsorship.”

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Who funds the arts and why we should care (Rachel Spence, September 2014)

Rachel Spence – the Financial Times’ art critic – argued in a recent article that the lack of transparency in funding sources for large museums and biennials compromises the curatorial integrity and the credibility of public institutions. This article inspired an upcoming debate (closed to the public) organised by the Biennial Foundation – the worldwide network of art biennials – exploring “what effects financial resources have on supposedly independent curatorial and artistic narratives of major cultural events”.

A protest over Sydney Biennale’s sponsorship by Transfield, which runs immigration detention camps - (c) Amy Scaife/Van Thanh Rudd

A protest over Sydney Biennale’s sponsorship by Transfield, which runs immigration detention camps – (c) Amy Scaife/Van Thanh Rudd

Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts (Mel Evans, available April 2015)

Here’s a cheery introduction to Artwash by Mel Evans herself:

And the blurb from the publisher’s website:

As major oil companies face continual public backlash, many have found it helpful to engage in “art washing”—donating large sums to cultural institutions to shore up their good name. But what effect does this influx of oil money have on these institutions? Artwash explores the relationship between funding and the production of the arts, with particular focus on the role of big oil companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell.

Reflecting on the role and function of art galleries, Artwash considers how the association with oil money might impede these institutions in their cultural endeavors. Outside the gallery space, Mel Evans examines how corporate sponsorship of the arts can obscure the strategies of corporate executives to maintain brand identity and promote their public image through cultural philanthropy. Ultimately, Evans sounds a note of hope, presenting ways artists themselves have challenged the ethics of contemporary art galleries and examining how cultural institutions might change.

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Changing the Performance: A Companion Guide to Arts, Business and Civic Engagement (Julia Rowntree, 2006)

Julia Rowntree, former Development Director at LIFT, retraces20-odd years of action-research into the relationship between art, industry and society based on her fundraising experience at LIFT.

From the introduction:

“… the arts fundraising process is not just about raising money but also plays a vital role in social adaptation and resilience. This is because it can open up channels of communication, human connection, reflection and critique across conventional boundaries of power, expertise, culture and generation… The aim is to deepen self-understanding in the world of the arts as well as in comerce and communities. It seeks a three-way flow of inspiration, learning and public collaboration.”

changing the performance

Fair Play – Art, Performance and Neoliberalism (Jen Harvie, 2013)

A book by Jen Harvie (professor at Queen Mary University of London) exploring the “quality of participation in contemporary art and performance”.

From the publisher’s website:

What is the quality of participation in contemporary art and performance? Is it damaged by cultural policies introduced since the 1997 election of New Labour – and especially since the 2008 recession – which have ‘entrepreneurialized’ artists, cut arts funding and cultivated corporate philanthropy and the ‘creative industries’? Might it contribute to urban gentrification, particularly in London? Has its democratic potential been at all fortified by artists’ innovations in crowdfunding, pop-ups, networking, installation art and immersive theatre; their engagements with ideas of home and folk culture; and their practices of labour and craftsmanship? How can it enhance understanding of relationships between the individual and the group? How can it improve social welfare and nurture social life?

fair play

The First White Paper for Culture (1965)

The very first White Paper for Culture, written by then-Minister of State for the Arts Jennie Lee, was published half a century ago this year. There seems to be no online version of this document, so I’ve copied extracts featured in Art for All? Their Policy and our Culture (a collection of over 60 texts and artworks ranging from political, philosophical and analytical texts, fiction, verse and images, edited by Mark Wallinger & Mary Warnock, featured on the Take the Money and Run? reading list).

Unsurprisingly but rather depressingly, all the issues we discuss today – State censorship, geographical balance of funding, arts education and democratisation of access, artists’ fair remuneration… – were already identified 50 years ago.

  • §1 The relationship between artist and State in a modern democratic community is not easily defined. No-one would wish State patronage to dictate taste or in any way restrict the liberty of even the most unorthodox and experimental of artists.
  • §2 But if a high level of artistic achievement is to be sustained and the best in the arts made more widely available, more generous and discriminating help is urgently needed, locally, regionally and nationally.
  • §10 If a sane balance of population between north and south, east and west, is to be achieved, this kind of development (regional and local facilities) is just as essential as any movement of industry or provision of public utility service. If the eager and gifted, to whom we must look for leadership in every field, are to feel as much at home in the north and west as in and near London, each region will require high points of artistic excellence.
  • §13 The financial difficulties that so many of today’s artists have to contend with must also be realistically examined.
  • §14 In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as something remote from everyday life. The promotion and appreciation of high standards in architecture, in industrial design, in town planning and the preservation of the beauty of the countryside, are all part of it. Beginning in the schools, and reaching out into every corner of the nation’s life, in city and village, at home, at work, at play, there is an immense amount that could be done to improve the quality of contemporary life.
  • §15 There is no short-term solution for what by its very nature is a long-term problem. This is a field in which, even in the most favourable circumstances, it will never be possible to do as much as we want to do as quickly as we want to do it. But that is no excuse for not doing as much as we can and more than has hitherto been attempted.

 

Participants

Here are a few links to and videos from some of Take the Money and Run? participants.

Liberate Tate

A collective dedicated to taking creative disobedience against Tate until it drops its oil company funding, founded during a Tate workshop in January 2010 on art and activism where Tate curators preventively tried to censor the workshop participants from making interventions against Tate sponsors.

Reclaim Shakespeare Company

Like Liberate Tate, a member of the Art not Oil coalition, formed in response to BP’s sponsorship of the World Shakespeare Festival and the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Reclaim Shakespeare Company  – also known as BP or Not BP? – are staging guerilla intervention on BP-sponsored stages in Stratford-upon-Avon, the West End, and at the British Museum to turn oil sponsorship into a hot topic within the theatre world.

General Ethical Resources

Corporate Watch

A workers’ coop “investigat(ing) the social and environmental impacts of corporations and corporate power”. Corporate Watch provides profiles of large companies and sectors, publishes research on ethics and business and produces reports and investigations available online.

whats-wrong-with-supermarkets-frontpage

Ethical Consumer

“The hub of the ethical consumer movement” for the past 20 years, with a mission to “make global business more sustainable through consumer pressure”. Alongside the monthly print magazine, a online guide of 20,000 products powered by a sophisticated search engine assigning priorities based on 5 main criteria (below) that can be further broken down into sub-categories to draw the line even more precisely according to one’s principles (thus highlighting the difficulty of making a choice between all these principles):

  •  Animals
    • Animal Testing
    • Factory Farming
    • Animal Rights & Cruelty
  • Environment
    • Environmental Reporting
    • Nuclear Power
    • Climate Change
    • Pollution & Toxics
    • Habitats & Resources
  • People
    • Human Rights
    • Workers’ Rights
    • Supply Chain Management
    • Irresponsible Marketing
    • Arms & Military Supply
  •  Politics
    • Anti-Social Finance
    • Boycott Calls
    • Genetic Engineering
    • Political Activity
  • Sustainability
    • Company Ethos
    • Product Sustainability (organic, fairtrade, energy efficient, vegan & vegetarian products)

Ethical Consumer ratecard