Further notes on new and innovative models for thinking about increasing the sustainability of creative practice (on not neglecting the business)…
(further to an earlier post and in response to the conversations and presentations made at Thinking through the City’s first forum: Incubating Creativity)
One major problem in my mind with the gallery model of engaging with contemporary art, is the convention – appropriate when the main audience for a given show is the group of potential collector/investors, but in-appropriate in the case of much contemporary practice – of supplying free food and drink to all-comers. Openings are fun, and a good chance to catch up with friends, or to network, or to celebrate together the culmination of a lot of thinking, care and physical effort, but often they are packed wall-to-wall and the worse of occasions to get a real feel for the art itself, which may require solitude, or at least some space for a worthwhile engagement. It often strikes me as bizarre that it is taken for granted an artist will put up the time, labour and material cost to make the work, and then in effect, is also expected to pay (to otherwise entertain) their viewers.
This convention is a habit rather than a necessity I am sure, and one that several Artist Run Intitiatives (Feltspace and Format in Adelaide for example) are dispensing with, supplying wine and/or beer at a cost rather than handing it out. No one seems to mind.
There are other models too that combine different notions of sustainability with relaxing over a drink or meal, alongside an art experience:
Crate59 in Cairns supports emerging artists by sub-leasing a portion of the gallery space that fronts their complex of studios to an iconic local business ‘Billy’s Coffee’ (which shifts from its home at Rusty’s Markets weekly on the days the markets are closed). Great coffee and a rich mix of curated and high rotation artist run shows creates a relaxed and inviting way to spread the ‘opening’ out, to sustain and give a platform to a diversity of local artists and to extend the invitation to people that might not venture into a gallery otherwise – as their website says “Art + other = good”!
I’ve been busy, and/or sick since the first forum hosted by Thinking through the City: Incubating Creativity…
but the rich mix of conversation sparked by presentations, continuing over wine and food as the evening progressed: the – often conflicting – ideas, attitudes, desires, and opinions about what conditions ‘creativity’ requires (what it even constitutes – in relation to both ‘art’ and business) and consequently the – again at times conflicting – plans hatched for the ‘incubation of creativity’ within a local matrix, has continued to play on my mind.
Up the top, in terms of my own response, is the absolute provocation I feel reading Gavin Artz’s post following the forum. He titled the post “on being provocative” but went on to suggest his key focal points were not provocative at all, merely common sense… ie: that business and ‘creative practioners’ really want the same thing, and that this same thing amounts to new value in the form of wealth creation. Aaaaaah (my heart sinks a little right here) once again, as seems typical of late (across all sectors and, increasingly – sadly, for me… progressively, in Gavin’s terms – in every little crevice of daily life) the bottom line for success is how much money will be made.
When Teresa Crea invited me to the Thinking Through The City Incubating Creativity Forum for the City of Norwood, Payneham and St. Peters, she suggested that I might like to be a provocateur. I like rocking the boat as much as the next person, but I felt that what the council is trying to achieve didn’t need that much provocation. Entering the ring of creative and digital industries through an engagement with community, business and creative practitioners seems eminently sensible. Of course that is not exactly what Teresa meant, but as it turned out it was not a role that was hugely necessary on the night. The conversations that developed during the forum, while diverse, had strong themes that demonstrated a real readiness to embrace a new way of thinking about how arts and creativity can work with business. This progressive conversation also served to highlight some of the less imaginative ways of thinking that have been plaguing a deeper engagement between creativity, community and business.