Artists Al­liance faces clo­sure

Weekend Herald - - News - Dionne Chris­tian Photo / Dean Pur­cell

A fund­ing cri­sis looks set to force the clo­sure of New Zealand’s only or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­vid­ing pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment, sup­port and ad­vo­cacy ser­vices to our vis­ual artists.

The board of the non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion Artists Al­liance is rec­om­mend­ing it close be­cause there is no longer enough money to pay for the work it has done for, with and on be­half of vis­ual artists since 1991.

Board mem­ber Caro­line Stone and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Mag­gie Gres­son say the po­ten­tial clo­sure, likely to be at the end of the year, fol­lows sev­eral years of fi­nan­cial strug­gle which in­ten­si­fied when Cre­ative New Zealand stopped its fund­ing in 2013.

Though other fun­ders like Foun­da­tion North and Rata Foun­da­tion have con­tin­ued their sup­port, Stone and Gres­son say the money — around $200,000 a year — isn’t enough to keep pace with de­mand for ser­vices or run ex­ist­ing pro­grammes. Th­ese in­clude:

● A paid, bro­kered in­tern pro­gramme along­side the likes of Auck­land Arts Fes­ti­val, Chartwell Trust, Wal­lace Arts Trust, McCa­hon House Trust, Art News and, in Christchurch, The Physics Room and CoCa.

The Al­liance also has ties to Bos­ton Univer­sity, which has hosted 15 stu­dents as in­terns since 2006.

● A men­tor­ing pro­gramme which, in 13 years, has matched 69 emerg­ing and mid-ca­reer artists with paid men­tors.

● Pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion, ac­cess to free le­gal in­for­ma­tion and other sup­port ser­vices to vis­ual artists as well as pro­vid­ing an ad­vo­cacy ser­vice on their be­half in ar­eas like copy­right, im­age li­cens­ing and re-sale roy­al­ties.

● A vol­un­teer pro­gramme which has sup­ported or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Auck­land Arts Fes­ti­val, Ob­jectspace, ArtWeek Auck­land, Te Toi Uku, Bower­bank Ni­now, Te Tuhi and oth­ers, of­fer­ing in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence to re­cent grad­u­ates and es­tab­lished work­ers alike.

Some vol­un­teers have gone on to paid em­ploy­ment at the or­gan­i­sa­tions for which they vol­un­teered.

Gres­son says the Artists Al­liance also reg­u­larly re­ceives re­quests to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment sup­port to stu­dents at the coun­try’s top art schools, in­clud­ing Elam, White­cliffe and AUT.

“We sin­cerely hope that the art schools can es­tab­lish a means to con­tinue to pro­vide and even de­velop th­ese ser­vices to their stu­dents with­out our sup­port as we be­lieve this ser­vice is essential,” she says.

AUT Vis­ual Arts staff and stu­dents posted a Face­book mes­sage thank­ing Artists Al­liance for its 27 years of work, say­ing “what an in­cred­i­ble friend, re­source and ser­vice to lose!”

“Since 1991, Artists Al­liance has been the go-to place for the need-to­knows for NZ artists and arts-re­lated work­ers. Some of us were there in the be­gin­ning and know what it took then and what it takes now in 2018 to achieve the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s mis­sion to ‘rep­re­sent and ad­vance the pro­fes­sional in­ter­ests of vis­ual artists in Aotearoa New Zealand’. You did a great job, Artists Al­liance!”

You can’t get to fab­u­lous if there’s no ba­sic ser­vices to help peo­ple make a name in the first place. Mag­gie Gres­son

Around 400 artists pay a min­i­mal mem­ber­ship fee — less than $100 each a year — to be­long while art schools and train­ing in­sti­tutes are charged $1500. Stone says they’ve thought about rais­ing mem­ber­ship fees but feel it dis­ad­van­tages artists who aren’t big wage earn­ers to be­gin with.

Gres­son, now the only full­time staff mem­ber, says arts aren’t a “nice to have” but of­fer tan­gi­ble eco­nomic, so­cial and cul­tural ben­e­fits to all of so­ci­ety. She and Stone be­lieve it’s time CNZ, as the coun­try’s arts coun­cil, recog­nise this by es­tab­lish­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tion like Aus­tralia’s Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Vis­ual Arts (Nava).

Started in 1983, Nava re­ceives gov­ern­ment fund­ing and states it is “the peak body pro­tect­ing and pro­mot­ing the Aus­tralian vis­ual arts sec­tor”.

“There seems to be sup­port for the big projects — the Venice Bi­en­nales of the world — but you can’t get to fab­u­lous if there’s no ba­sic ser­vices to help peo­ple make a name in the first place,” says Gres­son.

Their call is sup­ported by Whites­pace gal­lerist Deb­o­rah White, one of the driv­ing forces be­hind Auck­land’s an­nual Artweek.

“I know and ap­pre­ci­ate there is a huge de­mand on the pub­lic purse, but I would like to think there is some sort of ad­vo­cacy group for artists and maybe a Nava model is the way to go. I un­der­stand why the de­ci­sion has had to be made but I think it’s a real shame be­cause it will leave us with no ad­vo­cacy group for vis­ual artists.”

Deb­o­rah Run­dle went through an Artists Al­liance men­tor­ing pro­gramme.

The win­ner of a 2017 Wal­lace Art Award, Run­dle says it was a ma­jor boost to her con­fi­dence and helped show her some of the prac­ti­cal­i­ties in­volved in be­ing a work­ing artist. Now a mem­ber of Pub­lic Share col­lec­tive, she also helps to run Karanga­hape Rd artist-run gallery RM.

“I’ve seen other peo­ple grad­u­ate then strug­gle to find their way after art school and they drop away from their art prac­tice; con­fi­dence di­min­ishes and the sup­port struc­tures that ex­ist can be quite dis­mal. This is a ter­ri­ble thing to happen.”

Mag­gie Gres­son from the Artists Al­liance with her flow chart show­ing all the dif­fer­ent sec­tors of the econ­omy that profit from art.

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