(Originally published Jan ’12 http://disabilityarts.creativecase.org.uk)
How funding bodies such as ACE and arts institutions can diversify the arts landscape.
The Creative Case aims to re-position diversity so that it’s integral to the artistic practice and outlook of arts institutions. To facilitate this change, the Arts Council will also experience a shift as they take on a more “collaborative” approach. Now seems the most appropriate time to reflect on the role that arts institutions and funding bodies like ACE play in the quest for an arts landscape that is diverse in both name and nature.
Simply put, as long as arts institutions receive public funding there will always be a case for them creating an arts landscape which is as diverse as possible. Aside from the fact that diversity feeds creativity, public funding should be spent in a manner which benefits, and is mindful of society at large. But with financial solvency sitting high on the agenda (more so after drastic cuts), and the discourse surrounding diversity predominantly lingering on the sidelines, it hasn’t had the attention required to make a real impact. The Creative Case is certainly a step in the right direction but how exactly can arts institutions create the most diverse arts landscape?
Diversity is a concept which should be tackled from three angles by all arts institutions: core vision, content and people. The reach of arts institutions should extend beyond immediate commercial gain and diversity should be placed within their core. Shifting it to the heart should allow for it to ripple out into all aspects of the institution. Content should be accessible (and appear so), whilst being reflective of our ever-changing society. Most importantly, we need to see more diversity within the demographic of decision-makers and creatives. Increasing diversity at this higher level will allow for new perspectives and voices to influence the decisions that matter. Emphasis should therefore be placed on employment and training to really allow diversity to filter through.
Whilst arts institutions are tasked with increasing diversity, what role does the Arts Council play? Well, as distributors of funding, they need to provide a framework for institutions, oversee its implementation. Regulating how the allocated funding is spent is also crucial. A collaborative approach will certainly allow diversity to seem like a less imposed, and more fundamental concept, but it shouldn’t lessen the Arts Council’s influence. It’s imperative that strings remain firmly attached to funding.
The Arts Council need to monitor the steps that publicly funded arts institutions take towards creating a more diverse arts landscape, without exception.