By Professor Cat Hope
I am always glad to hear a representative from the Australian Academy for the Humanities (AAH) in the media, speaking so articulately for better support of the humanities in higher education and demanding recognition of the humanities as key to a healthy society. AAH undertake considerable and highly valuable policy work that informs various arms of government and related agencies. The sixty-two Academy Fellows listed on the AAH website includes twenty representatives from my discipline, music, almost all musicologists very worthy of recognition. In my career as an artist academic, I have attended and spoken at the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) events and adjudicated their prizes. I have attended CHASS conferences where I was always surprised to be one of very few (sometimes the only) artistic research scholars, given that the performing arts are considered to be part of a comprehensive university in terms of international rankings, so staff in these areas are essential the ongoing success and sustainability of our universities.
These organisations undertake important work, but they are missing voices of practicing creative artists from higher education institutions and arts industry. Similarly, there are peak bodies representing the industry, such as the Australasian Performing Arts Association, as well as the government’s own federal and state arts agencies. Claire Bowditch’s address “Music, Meaning and Money” to the National Press Club in May this year was so impassioned and important, but these industry perspectives don’t have room for what feeds and supports the flourishing of that community: education. The AAH speaks on behalf of creative arts their lobbying, but given the ongoing decimation of meaningful support for creative artists both in the industry and within our tertiary institutions, now seems to be the right to focus in on specific recommendations for this vulnerable and important community. How do we get a voice to government on behalf of the broader creative arts community that incorporates the nexus of industry and education in the creative arts?
The Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) exercise includes important recognition of creative work through the evaluation of non-traditional research. The first full round of ERA data collection occurred in 2010, and was recently reviewed by the Australian Research Council (ARC), with the DDCA and ACUADs presenting a submission. The words ‘art’ or ‘creative arts’ do not even get a mention in the resulting report. Whilst the AAH and members of the GLAM sector were represented on the advisory body and related working groups, artistic researchers were conspicuously absent. Similarly, the ARC‘s Engagement and Impact agenda introduced in 2018 seemed a ray of hope for recognising the impact of research in and through the creative arts, but seems to have unfolded into a contract research scoping project, which when applied to an arts industry on the financial brink, and a university sector where many arts academics are feeling undervalued and under siege, has little to contribute. The possibility of partnerships between universities and arts industry organisations funded at any significant level is currently extremely low. A seemingly impermeable wall has been established between education and the arts in many government agencies. How can creative arts contributions be recognised in the larger research and impact agenda, and enable meaningful contributions to our artistic culture?
One of the best ways to address these issues is for art and education to come together as a singular voice. We would have a stronger position when lobbying for a place at the decision making tables of government and research. This will enable us to make a claim for the importance of the arts at the centre of any and all policy development. This coming together could be an Academy of the Creative Arts, a representative body with the heft to cut through and provide a voice to government on behalf of artists and audiences Australia wide. To start a conversation around what this might look like, I have drafted a proposed mission statement and terms of reference. Staking a claim amongst the other Australian learned academies, the Australian Academy of Creative Arts will bring the experience of practicing creative artists in and out of the higher education sector to bear on Australian culture. Given the consistent acknowledgement of the value of the arts for mental health, economic prosperity, international relevance and the quality of life expected of a wealthy nation, an Academy of the Creative Arts is overdue. The time is now.
AUSTRALIAN ACADEMY OF CREATIVE ARTS
[DRAFT OCT 21]
The Academy of Creative Arts sits alongside other learned Australian academies to champion and celebrate diverse artistic practices that build Australian culture. It serves as a voice to government regarding artistic contributions to knowledge and Australian cultural life more broadly.
The Academy of Creative Arts champions the arts by celebrating and supporting a broad range of artistic practice in industry and higher education settings. It promotes sustained international artistic engagement and cooperative thinking. It aims to build public awareness and understanding of the role of creative arts in Australian life.
In turbulent and complex times, the arts provide us with ways to understand ourselves and our place in the world. The Academy of Creative Arts is an independent representative for the arts industry and education.
Terms of Reference
Represent artists, arts organisations, arts educators and audiences in discussions pertaining to the future of the creative arts in Australia
Advise Government on strategies to support the creative arts in Australia
Support collaboration, interdisciplinarity and cooperation
Establish priorities, capabilities and resources for the creative arts in Australia
Promote links between higher education and industry in the creative arts
Promote Australia’s artistic capability with both Australian and international stakeholders.
Membership of the Academy is open to artists, art organisations, education institutions, associations and peak bodies.
Feedback can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org