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.

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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.

artwash big oil

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.

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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

 

Arts Volunteers in Canada: Performing Arts

Spotlight

A 2013 Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA) study showed that “for each paid staff member, there are 17 volunteers giving their time to performing arts presenting organizations”. Whilst ushering is a typical role on performance night, especially in smaller companies, volunteers can also play a strategic role in fundraising and outreach.

I have picked three examples below of major Toronto institutions that have developed long-running relationships with their volunteers and engage them fully in the life of the company.

This is part 2 of a series of 4 posts on arts volunteers in Canada.

National Ballet of Canada

In 1951, a group of Toronto ballet enthusiasts raised funds to bring British-born ballerina Celia Franca to Canada and support the first performance of her newly formed company, the National Ballet. The National Ballet’s Volunteer Committee was formally established in 1972 to continue this fundraising work; it has contributed $6 million to date to create new productions through the Build-A-Ballet™ Fund, started in 1977 with a $150,000 gift for La Fille Mal Gardée.

To feed this fund, the Volunteer Committee operates Paper Things, a stationery and gift store in the fashionable Yorkville area ($2 million contribution since 1963), as well as the Ballet Boutique during National Ballet performances ($600,000 over the past 6 years). In previous years, the Volunteer Committee held an annual Gala event and quarterly art shows.

The National Ballet is “the only Canadian ballet company to present a full range of traditional full-length classics”. It also presents and creates new contemporary ballets, especially by Canadian choreographers. A Virtual Museum retraces the history of the company since 1975.

Video: Extract from Pur ti Miro, the 46th ballet sponsored through the Volunteer Committee’s Build-a-Ballet Fund™.

Canadian Opera Company

The Canadian Opera Company was established in 1950; it pioneered the use of surtitles, provides training to emergent artists and commissions new opera through a Composer-in-Residence programme. About 150 volunteers a year support the COC’s office operations and outreach and education efforts.

Volunteers provide assistance in the office and in the archives, act as Front of House for the Free Concert Series, welcome members at the Friends’ Lounge, operate the Opera Shop, work with the Education Programs team and offer guided tours of the performance venue and of the Opera Centre, including the music library, COC archives, wigs, costume and props departments and rehearsal spaces.

The COC also operates a Volunteer Speakers Bureau, whose members “act as ambassadors for the COC and the art form by writing and giving talks on opera at various public speaking engagements throughout the season”. After School Opera Program volunteers help the Education and Outreach team to “introduc(e) 300 children (a year) ages 7 to 12 to opera as a collective celebration of vocal music, drama and visual arts”. This opportunity is open to people looking for community arts experience and high school students who need to fulfill their community service requirements.

Video: ‘Inside Opera’ – Rehearsal of Hercules directed by Peter Sellars, COC Season 2013/2014

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Started in 1923 and merging fundraising and outreach support, the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee “is an organization committed to the financial support of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and to expanding awareness of its musical and education programs.” Fundraising activities range from a Annual Bridge Fundraiser – a full morning of cards followed by a silent auction and lunch reception – to a Team TSO at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon / Semi-Marathon and a Fine Wine Auction. Over the years, the TSVC has contributed to funding several Chairs (Concertmaster, Principal Flute, Principal Trumpet), bought several Steinways and a harp and commissioned more than 15 compositions. It also supported the TSO’s general operations, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and the TSO’s Education Programmes.

Volunteers also contribute to the orchestra’s youth & education programming: they support financially the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, enrich the experience of teachers and students attending open rehearsals and provide assistance during the Young People’s Concerts, a series of afternoon performances for children aged 5 to 12.

On concert nights, volunteers also help ticket logistics and other event duties to run the TSOundcheck scheme – discounted tickets for under 35.

Video: TSO’s Young People’s Concert – audience reaction 

Arts Volunteers in Canada: Overview

Spotlight

The spirit of volunteering has been a vital part of the social fabric for as long as there has been, well, a social fabric.

That’s the premise behind GetVolunteering.ca, a volunteer matching service that connects people and opportunities in Canada.

Video: Catherine, volunteer with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra for over 40 years.

However, just like the issue of unpaid internships, the relation between volunteer and paid work can be a bit of a grey area: a UK cultural institution was recently branded “unethical” for replacing paid Front of House staff with unpaid volunteers (a recurring issue that TUC and Volunteering England already addressed in 2009 in their Charter for Strengthening Relations Between Paid Staff and Volunteers). The Museum Association’s Cuts Survey 2013 reports this development across the sector as a growing and rather worrying trend, with Mark Taylor, the MA’s director, commenting:

Unpaid work can be exploitative and, even worse, it reduces the diversity of people who can enter the museum workforce: only wealthier young people can afford to work for nothing, especially in expensive cities like London.

In the three years I spent in Canada, I noticed that volunteering in the arts – and in the community at large – was a widespread and often well defined practice. The organisations I worked with fully acknowledged the diversity of volunteers’ motivations and depth of commitment and clearly recognised their rights and responsibilities. In this series of posts about Arts Volunteers in Canada, I am featuring some interesting resources and examples that are not quite addressing the paid/unpaid work polemic, but instead highlighting the positive role of volunteers in successful initiatives and programmes that complement employees’ efforts and further organisational missions.

This is part 1 of a series of 4 posts on arts volunteers in Canada.

Note: just as my previous posts on Funding for the Arts in Canada and Shared Spaces & Cultural Hubs, this is rather Toronto-biased than truly pan-Canadian.

Volunteering in Canada

Volunteering is considered as a civic responsibility in Canada: it’s a way to build skills, strengthen community links and improve well-being.

Volunteering is encouraged at all ages and levels:

National Resources

There are plenty of resources available, for example through Volunteer Canada, the national advocacy organisation for volunteerism and civic participation. They have developed a Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement, conduct research (for example on volunteering & healthy ageing) and influences public policy.

Specifically for the art sector, Hill Strategies regularly publishes a statistical report on volunteers & donors in Canada, summarised elsewhere on this blog.

Other national initiatives of interest include ArtsScene, a “network of leading young business professionals who support the arts through volunteerism and patronage”, and Timeraiser, a silent art auction at which participants bid volunteer hours instead of money.

Arts Volunteers in Toronto

The City of Toronto is managing an extensive volunteer programme, especially for all its city-wide events and festivals (such as Doors Open Toronto and Nuit Blanche). Around 1,500 volunteers are currently registered with the Special Events Office.

Toronto Arts Foundation – the fundraising arm of the Toronto Arts Council – runs the Toronto Arts Volunteer Network. They promote volunteering opportunities in a bi-monthly newsletter and feature a selection of volunteer stories on their website.

In the next 3 posts, I’ve selected examples from a range of large Toronto arts institutions who have developed their own dedicated volunteer scheme, looking first at the performing arts (part 2), then multi-arts venues and festivals (part 3) and finally museums & galleries (part 4).