Balancing books, and splashing the cash
It’s pretty much as you were in terms of the wider Budget and the Arts sector in particular. There were few surprises in store, although a bit more detail filled in a few gaps in our knowledge (those of you working for any of the larger arts organisations might want to look away now).
As expected, there will be a roughly 12 per cent cut in spending on Arts and Culture. The National Archives is to lose 12 per cent of its funding, with a further 15 per cent cut in monies to match income generated by that organisation. The amount distributed to Imma, the Crawford, the NCH and the Chester Beatty (which are lumped together) is to drop by 8 per cent (I imagine they all get together in an enormous room, the cash is thrown in the air with some fans, and the various directors have to madly stuff what they can grab into their pockets). Cultural Projects (your guess is as good as mine) is to lose 3 per cent and Culture Ireland seems to have got off lightly with a 2 per cent cut in funding.
Cultural Development is losing fully 50 per cent of the funding towards this area. According to the Department the majority of the reduction is a cut in capital funding for infrastructure projects. It says: “Capital funding for arts infrastructure has been consolidated in the Department and all major arts capital projects will be completed as will regional capital projects to which commitments have been made. Projects completed in 2010 include the Model Niland in Sligo, Belltable Arts Centre in Limerick and the Gallery of Photography in Dublin. Projects for completion in 2011 included the Solas Picture House in Galway, the Limerick City Art Gallery and Nenagh Community Arts Centre in Co Tipperary.”
The Arts Council is losing 5 per cent of its funding, which seems manageable. The National Museum of Ireland is lighter by 6 per cent, the National Library will have to contend with a 14 per cent cut in funding, while the Irish Film Board has had a modest (in the circumstances) 4 per cent cut in funding.
What is somewhat maddening is that the figure for Exchequer pensions included in these statistics has risen by 19 per cent on 2010’s figures. Similarly, that huge cut in funding for Cultural Development is a bit scary, although I’m still trying to find out what this accounts for. Together with the change in the artists’ tax exemption, these are tough measures, but very much in line with the burden other sectors are expected to shoulder.
In other news, it seems some patrons are still flush with cash, with the world’s most expensive book selling for £7.3 million. It’s an enormous tome, measuring 90cm by 60cm, called Birds of America, a 19th-century masterpiece by John James Audubon. It contains 435 hand-coloured illustrations and was sold to an anonymous bidder over the phone. Audubon made the thing so big because apparently he wanted to paint life-sized birds. So what’s the better use of money? One book or a small government’s annual budget for one of its cultural institutions?