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News October 27, 2015

Q&A: Aus Council CEO Tony Grybowski discusses strategic plan

Former Editor

Last week, Australia Council unveiled its five-year strategic plan and grants program to be put in place next year. While the vision is ambitious – marking the biggest reform to the current arts model in its 40-year history – it looks to simplify the current grants model and redefine the nation’s view on the arts world.

Australia Council for the Arts Chief Executive Officer Tony Grybowski takes TMN through the initial agenda goals including the development of Australia’s international presence, how it will highlight the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and organisations and how the Council plan to leverage funding.

What sparked the need for a five-year Strategic Plan?

Our previous Strategic Plan covered the period 2012-2013. This new five-year plan responds to extensive sector consultation through the Australian Council Review and reflects our remit as set out in the Australia Council Act 2013. The plan was approved by our Board has been endorsed by the Minister for the Arts. We hope this plan inspires others to share our vision and be partners in pursuing it.

How long had it been in the works before yesterday’s announcement?

The Australia Council has been working on its Strategic Plan since the latter part of 2013 and it articulates the Council’s role to champion and invest in the arts over the next five years. It is a five-year plan and this is the start of many announcements on particular project areas in the months and years ahead.

Aside from the new grants program, what’s first on the agenda and which goal does it fall under?

The grants program has undergone the most significant reform in our history. The implementation is our most important priority into 2015. While it is explicitly listed under Goal Two because it supports the creation and presentation of excellent work, it supports the strategies which realise all four goals.

Goal One, Australian arts are without boarders, will increase access to the arts in regional areas, but also enhance opportunities for Australian artists internationally. To meet this goal we will be establishing a world-wide network of arts managers and partners that can be accessed by Australian artists and regularly funded organisations.  Sophie Travers, who managed this year’s IETM conference in Melbourne, has been appointed International Development Manager in Europe and we plan to add further jurisdictions in the future.

A key initiative to meet Goal Three, The arts enrich daily life for all, is the Cultural Places program. The program involves a whole of government approach to improve access to the arts by pinpointing areas for cultural development and participation.  This initiative increases opportunities for artists and local communities to directly participate in the arts and collaborate.

To meet Goal Four, Australians cherish Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts, we will work with organisations to collaborate and program work by Indigenous artists to embed their work across our artistic landscape.  The Significant Works initiative will enable the development of multi-art form works of scale by significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and organisations.  This will create a greater awareness and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture and leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

One of the plan’s goals is to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultures by creating a brokerage service to support certain organisations. What can you tell us about the eligible organisations and the kind of programs that will be funded?

This initiative is being developed and the details will be announced at a later date.  This is a five-year plan and this is the start of many announcements on particular project areas in the months and years ahead.

The Plan mentions a strategy to leverage additional funding, what kind of leverage is the board referring to?

As a champion for the arts we are looking to leverage the investment we make by co-mingling commonwealth support with that of our state, territory and local government partners, and we will increasingly look for opportunities to leverage public funds to attract more private sector support to the arts. We have a number of successful examples of this which include the Venice Biennale, Musée du quai Branly and the Keir Choreographic Award.

What role can artists and arts associations play, specifically, in relation to the Board’s vision for a larger international presence?

One of our key priorities for 2015 will be to develop a new International Development Strategy to maximise our existing work and focus on identified priority areas. This will include our announcement of an international network of arts managers and partners that can be accessed by Australian artists and organisations. We have already established an International Development Manager in Europe and we plan to add further jurisdictions in the future. As the Council is already doing, we will work with artists and arts organisations and other areas of government to identify new international opportunities.

What are some things that need to change in order for the Strategic Plan to be successful?

The main area of change is to our grants model, which reflects the Australia Council Review recommendations and sector feedback. The Review identified that the previous model had served the sector well in the past but that it was time for a more flexible and responsive grants program which responded to changing artistic practice.

Did the board draw inspiration from any other countries?

Through the development process we drew inspiration from a number of our international Arts Council colleagues but our model does not replicate any one particular program. We have developed a unique model which responds to the needs of the Australian arts sector.

What are your views on the Melbourne Music Strategy?

Local governments, along with the federal and state governments, have long been the major funders and supporters of arts and culture in Australia. The Australia Council is pleased Melbourne City Council has recognised music is an important part of the city’s cultural fabric by developing an ambitious music strategy. Similar work is being done by many councils across the country and the Australia Council welcomes initiatives that provide more opportunities to support our local music culture. The Australia Council is proud to support the National Live Music Office, which provides assistance to councils developing similar strategies.

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