The State of Arts Funding Public Discussion

Arterial Network and Business and Arts South Africa hosted a public panel discussion at the Goethe Institut, Johannesburg, on Monday 22 April 2013. This was the second in a series focusing on the current review of the White Paper.

The occasion challenged artists to take an interest in the current review of the arts and culture policy landscape as a whole. The arts funding landscape has changed dramatically since the dawn of the White Paper. Joseph Gaylard, a member of ANSA’s Steering Committee and VANSA Director, noted that while the National Arts Council is modeled on UK and European arts councils, it has a small fraction of the resources that these agencies have at their disposal (the Arts Council of England, for example distributes more than 170 times the amount of funding that the National Arts Council does). Monica Newton, CEO of the NAC, presented a vivid infographic that demonstrated that funds requested from the NAC are massively in excess of available funds. Having distributed 570 grants and approximately R66 million in the recent funding cycle,, she explained that applicants to the NAC collectively requested ‘billions of Rands’ in funding on an annual basis.

An astonishing fact is that the various DAC statutory agencies responsible for funding arts, culture and heritage (principally the NAC, NFVF and NHC) account collectively for a tiny proportion of the grant funds available to the arts sector. In 2011, for example these three agencies accounted for 6% of arts funding, while the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, a body whose mandate does not derive from the White Paper as such, distributed 87% of available funds to the sector.

While South Africa does not have an economy that can support EU levels of arts funding, there is substantial of money out there – particularly through the National Lottery. Newton estimated that R1, 9 billion was distributed collectively by all agencies to the sector in 2011/12. It was important that expertise and institutional memory in the sector was brought to bear on the current capacity to distribute public revenues in the creative sector. Gaylard also showed that between the NAC, NFVF, National Heritage Council and the operational Provincial Arts Councils, approximately 100 expert panelists are responsible for the adjudication of 13% of available grants to the arts and culture sector. Contrast this with the Lottery where the Arts, Culture and Heritage Distributing agency had eight independent experts adjudicating the other 87% of available grant funding in 2011. This situation, in his view, does not bode well for the informed and responsible allocation of funding to the sector.

Gaylard suggested that while there was much to agree with in the proposals that the Department of Trade and Industry is taking to Parliament, there was reason for caution at the level of detail. For example, the proposals regarding the streamlining of operations, and the relaxation of technical requirements were to be commended, in his view. However, the bigger issues related to the duplication of mandate and the kinds of structural problem outlined above. The current governance arrangements for arts funding meant that considerable public resources were being duplicated and the bulk of arts money was distributed with a disproportionately limited body of expertise. A key proposal from Arterial Network SA is that the majority of lottery monies available for arts, culture and heritage should be delegated to the appropriately mandated and equipped funding agencies such as the NAC, National Heritage Council, NFVF and related bodies at Provincial level. This would massively enhance the relevance and impact of these agencies, which currently operate at economies of scale that render them unable to fulfill their mandates properly. A related point was that the White Paper review needed to take on board the importance of both articulation between and sharpening of the mandates for the different funding agencies. At the moment, agencies jump from high-level policy goals to implementation with the result that impacts are limited. There was, as he put it a ‘missing middle.’ A more programmatic approach to funding was needed so that implementation capacity and funding goals were more clearly matched. Newton underlined this need for better articulation – for example a large proportion of applications to the NAC were simply duplicated for other agencies.

A key point was that while there were challenges with the current policy landscape, there was also excessive reliance on public funding from within the sector, and often a sense of entitlement on the part of recipients of funding. Artists and creatives needed to generate more options for themselves through collaboration one the one hand and less negative competitive behavior on the other. The arts community needed to create new revenue streams. Circumstances in the funding landscape are getting worse not better and this was felt to be a wake up call to the sector.

Both Michelle Constant, CEO of BASA and Gabrielle Ritchie of Inyathelo emphasised the need for creativity and affirmed that civil society was awash with creative ideas and people who could help turn things around in the sector. A higher degree of, and indeed a better culture of, cooperation seemed to be the missing ingredient. Constant suggested that the level of adversarial behavior among role players in the sector and the accompanying mistrust was high and impacting negatively on the sector’s ability to build solutions collaboratively. For Constant, then, the key issue was to think less about cash (important though that is) and more about community and collaboration when talking about arts funding. She urged artists to analyse the economic climate where there is a low gold price. Business are stockpiling for a more agreeable climate.

Both Constant and Ritchie emphasised the importance of building the sectoral case for the arts in society. "Why are the arts important to us as a society?", she asked, indicating that BASA has over a decade facilitated business giving to the arts. "Ten years ago it was exciting that the trend was towards investing from marketing budgets. However, in the current economic climate where the first cutbacks are often in marketing budgets this places the arts in a difficult position" said Constant.

The sector needed to raise the debate about transformation and sustainability through believing in our own, and developing leadership, governance and succession planning, argued Constant and Ritchie. It needed to build its case through the manner of doing business as much as through its ‘content’. Hence, Constant argued for better monitoring and evaluation and communication of its successes in stories and case studies. Ritchie, who works with building fundraising capacity, observed that not many arts organisations made use of their services at Inyathelo. For example, the Philanthropy Awards had made only one award to an arts organisation since its inception. She urged the sector to build a culture of philanthropy rather than focus on isolated acts of philanthropy.

The 100 strong audience was vibrant in its engagement with the topic. Some remarked on the futility of ‘throwing money’ into a system that cannot replicate itself, based as it was on a ‘Western European style arts council.’

There was also ample evidence that a dynamic young generation of arts practitioners were taking up the cudgels. One person spoke about having raised R50, 000 off small donations to publish a book and created a thriving business as a result.
There were some strong views from the audience about the benefits of the large publicly funded cultural institutions such as museums and theatre. There seemed to be a perception that these more often than not placed a drain on the system rather than acting as engines for creativity.

For example, cultural institutions received 65% of the DAC’s allocations to arts and culture, amounting to approximately R1,2 billion in the 2012 financial year, compared with the 10% which funding agencies such as the NAC, NFVF, BASA receive from the Department. A further 25% of this national finance (more then double the amount allocated to it’s statutory funding bodies) was distributed to organisations through programmes of the DAC, without any clarity as to the strategic intent and criteria informing these allocations.
At the end, Andre le Roux, ANSA Chairperson induced the audience to get involved and noted that we all have a responsibility as civil society to ‘build a better arts community together.’

The ANSA and NAC presentations can be downloaded at:

To download the Arterial Network South Africa submission to the Department of Trade and Industry go here.

For more information contact:
Lonwabo Mavuso (for BASA) 011 4472295
Valmont Layne (for ANSA) 083 687 1954

About Business and Arts South Africa NPC:
Business and Arts South Africa NPC is an internationally recognised South African development agency which incorporates the arts into, and contributes to, corporates' commercial success. With a suite of integrated programmes, Business and Arts South Africa NPC encourages mutually beneficial partnerships between business and the arts. Business and Arts South Africa NPC was founded in 1997 as a joint initiative of government and the business sector, to secure the future development of the arts industry in South Africa, through increased corporate sector involvement. Established as a Non Profit Company, Business and Arts South Africa NPC is accountable to both government and its business members.

About ANSA

Arterial Network South Africa (ANSA) is the South African chapter of the Arterial Network, a continental network of arts practitioners, researchers, policymakers, organisations and businesses. ANSA’s membership is comprised of both individual artists, researchers, policymakers, arts managers as well as organisations, associations, networks and membership-based organisations that represent the interests of a substantial membership.


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