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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 24, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

    How will the arts react to the four-year plan?

    Laurence Mackin

    Arts organisations must be trembling at the thoughts of what’s in store in the Doomsday budget, coming to an apocalypse near you on December 7th. At the same time, we should probably be seeing plenty of excellent work, with ideas fuelled (if not funded) by the times in which we are living.

    The boom years may have given us plenty of arts centres around the country (many of which are proving to be white elephants) but they certainly didn’t inspire a whole lot of interesting theatre, books or film around the phenomenon. That’s not to say there weren’t good books or theatre produced in the past decade or so, but there are few that took the Celtic bull by the horns.

    Now we live in, ahem, interesting times, so in the near future it will be interesting to see what role artists play. The public anger at what this country is experiencing is fertile ground for the writers and artists among us; there are stories to be told whose resonance could well last as long as our IMF repayments.

    The audience’s appetite also seems to be as healthy as ever, regardless of belt tightening. Both the Dublin Fringe and Theatre Festivals had very healthy years at the box office, with a few records being set in the case of the Fringe. The Abbey’s biggest headache of late seemed to be finding enough seats for people to see John Gabriel Borkman and the Plough and the Stars; and the Gate had a terrific run with Death of a Salesman.

    So what happens next? Hopefully, the organisations that are punching above their weight will continue to do so, and produce shows and work of the calibre of recent years. Even if budgets get cut, ideas will still foment. Here’s hoping that a lack of funding doesn’t stop these ideas getting the space and the audience they deserve.

    The Arts Council has already published its plans for the next three years (which you can read here) although this plan was released at the end of October so all bets could be off after the main Budget. The Government has now published its four-year plan (which you can read here)  in which it says; “The Tourism, Culture and Sport area will contribute savings of €76 million by 2014” with a reduced  allocation to cultural institutions and cultural projects expected to bring in €5 million in 2011. The Government also expects to save a further €50 million from 2011 to 2014 from Tourism, Culture and Sport, through (among other cuts) a “reduction in allocation to the Arts Council and other Cultural activities”. It seems that the majority of these savings will be made in the sports and tourism sectors.  We will put up more details as we get them, and check The Irish Times website here for updates.

    • Hi Laurence, Arts funding cuts are nothing new to us in America because whenever there are cuts to be made the Arts is always the first thing hit. In our case this is usually a political decision, Republicans (Conservatives) usually view art (especially if it involves any kind of nudity or flag desicration) as being decadent (forgive my spellling please) and there is never ending controversy over the artistic on this side of the pond.

      Personally, I hope the arts will not be hit too hard but you Irish on Austerity measures now so Arts centers need to brace themselves for a bumpy ride. I do agree with you though, I think this may make the atmosphere more creative. You will probably see a lot sculptures made from unusal materials, for example. I liked the monoply houses and hotels floating down the liffy, to represent the building boom, very clever and more than a little amusing.

    • Eddie collins says:

      The Abbey’s budget should be cut back. At present their staff levels are 3 times what they were 10 years ago under Patrick Mason with the result that Peacock is more often closed than open. Too much Arts Council monies are going to “suits” in the Abbey, with the Artist way down the pecking order. This is most unfair and needs be addressed.

    • robespierre says:

      The ones that can wash their face will do well, the ones that can’t will close if they can’t make the subsidy stretch. As to exemption – it is debatable in a republic whether artists should be put on a pedastal to the extent we put them on. I would prefer some kind of a tax capped coupon rather than tax exemption up to 40k.

    • Ted says:

      There’s to be a 24% cut over four years in the Department’s current spending, spread across the three areas of responsibility. The cuts in years 2-4 of the ‘plan’ are a scheduled to be a little deeper than those being introduced next year.

    • Ted says:

      ps, you could put up a matching picture of John Hurt in The Field.

    • Paddy O'Kane says:

      In most countries I’ve traveled in, the arts are a political force. In Ireland, the bulk of the high earner artists are like lap dogs, especially the literary high priests. Why didn’t they speak up when the train was going out of kilter? We believe that artists have an antenna which allows them to see life from alternative views. The High Priests failed us like the politicians and bankers. The small fry artists who work hard and earn little could do with Aosdana help, but it’s all fat cats who’re invited to the club. I don’t care that the exemption is capped at 40K. Make them pay and let them subsidise the up and coming artists. Quid pro quo.

    • Laurence Mackin says:

      Eddie – I would be reluctant to get into specific criticisms before the Budget, but I do hope some of the smaller organisations are spared the rod. Many of the larger theatre, for example, seem to have had a good year on ticket sales so they have bigger shoulders to carry the burden.

      Robespierre, Ted – The artists’ exemption is starting to look like somethign from another age. I love the idea of it, but I do feel that in this day and age it is becoming indefensible. I’m surprised it survived at all.

    • A recent survey by the Artist Association of Ireland revealed that the majority of Irish artists made very little income during the boom years from sales of work, (as little as €5, 000 – €15,000 per annum in most cases)
      Art galleries and agents took up to 50% of all sales. Many Artists led marginal existences in part-time employment. Artists are now liable to the income levy, VAT and PRSI on any income, so the accusation that artists dont pay any tax is untrue. Many are employed in alternate PAYE jobs to survive and pay the bills.
      The survey also highlighted the insecurities of the creative life, no pension plans, inability to access over draft facilities, inability to apply for social welfare (due to being registered as self-employed), inability to gain loans due to unreliable income. So, while the exemption was introduced to help Artists survive, it is now so diluted as to be irrelevant, especially as the art market continues to collapse.
      Ireland is world famous for the wealth of its culture, it projects a positive view internationally. There are spin-offs in tourism and other related industries. Irish culture has survived centuries of poverty and strife, to flourish against the odds. Cuts to health, education and all our basic needs for a decent society are disasterous, cuts to the arts also diminish our lives, to loose the arts would be a disaster, to loose our culture would be a national tragedy.

    • Robespierre says:

      Mr O’Leary, part of the problem is artists willful insistence on an eremetical, athetic approach towards mammon. If you have one brain and pair of balls between you you’d organise yourselves like they did in Hollywood to form a United Artists association and cut out the auction houses. Run your own auctions on your own terms on your own timelines. Now I have just doubled all your incomes. Will you pay tax now or is that the idea of being commercial offends the creative spirit?

      Break the system and you ‘ll improve your conditions.

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