NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Edition 17, 2018 – The future for sustainable art education?

I was recently bailed up by a man working in a state government, bemoaning that Australia’s wealthiest people are not giving enough to the arts. “Why should they?” I asked him.

Offering a tax-exempt twelve-month stipend of US$50,000, international institution fees for an academic year, return airfares, insurances and assurances of exposure and professional connection, a Samstag Scholarship is often labelled a ‘golden passport to success’ in Australian art circles. Undoubtedly, in the 25 years since its inception, 140 Australian visual artists have benefited from this generous philanthropic bequest - many becoming household names.

Every year Australian university art museums (UAMs) are enriched by the generosity of individuals and philanthropic bodies who share a passion for the visual arts. This includes giving in the form of cultural gifts, cash donations, bequests and endowments that are critical to the development of university collections, art museum programs and facilities.

In 2014 Paula Kinnane made an $8 million gift to the University of Queensland. 50% of the donor’s contribution was made to create an endowment for the UQ Art Museum and an equal amount was given to create an endowment for the UQ School of Music. It is estimated that together these two endowments constitute the largest private gift to the arts in the history of Queensland.

There’s a certain irony about teaching philanthropy to future arts and cultural managers at a university because universities are amongst the major competitors of arts organisations for philanthropy managers.

As a nation, we spend five times as much on alcohol as we claim in tax deductible donations each year … It’s worth asking what’s afoot in Australian giving and where arts givers/giving sit within this.

The release of the 2018 report, Tracking changes in corporate sponsorship and donations by the Australian Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG) shows that revenue from sponsorship and donations is up for Australia’s major performing arts companies overall, but that the increase is volatile and uneven across the sector. NiTRO Editor Jenny Wilson highlights the 2018 findings and, in correspondence and conversation with AMPAG Executive Director Bethwyn Serow, explores what this might mean for creatives who study, work and practice in tertiary education.

Although not at the US investment levels, donations and endowments to major arts companies and to tertiary institutions to support their arts endeavours and education increasing in Australia, but as the Australian Major Performing Arts Group reports, such giving is volatile and inconsistent across the sector.