Minister eyes corporate cash for the arts


FUNDING:COMPANIES WILL have to be more involved in the arts to make up for the absence of Government funding, Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan has said.

Speaking at the Global Irish Economic Forum on Saturday in Dublin Castle, Mr Deenihan indicated that the arts budget was to be cut over the next four years by 15 per cent. He said the funding would have to be made up elsewhere.

Cultural ambassador, actor Gabriel Byrne, has agreed to chair a seminar on business funding for the arts to take place in Ireland.

Mr Deenihan has commissioned a report, chaired by Ulster Bank Ireland’s head of business and commercial banking John McGrane, to look at how business and philanthropy can fund the arts. The bank sponsors the Dublin Theatre Festival.

The Minister said soliciting money from businesses for the arts was a “big ask” but there was a receptive audience out there.

“We’re tied in with the IMF. I have to look at 15 per cent. What areas do I have to penalise? My challenge is to get in that 15 per cent from business,” he added.

Mr Deenihan revealed that he met 20 businesses at a seminar hosted recently by Ernst and Young and had received commitments from four to work with the arts.

Chairwoman of the Arts Council Pat Moylan said its funding had been cut from €83 million to €65 million in recent years. She said the Druid Theatre company in Galway was started with a £1,500 grant from the Arts Council and without proper funding it would not be possible for other such ventures to succeed.

Novelist Colm Tóibín said the Arts Council grant was the “absolute bedrock of everything that is made artistically in this country and if that is left out of the picture we are in real trouble artistically”.

He said the State’s problems were not artistic, but financial. “I could name you 20 companies who have serious financial problems.”

Gabriel Byrne said many people might consider it as “crass” that business should be involved in the arts, but the actor added that the British equivalent of the Arts Council was set up by economist John Maynard Keynes.

Riverdance producer Moya Doherty said she supported the idea of a forum. “There needs to be a better understanding in the business community of what artists do,” she said.

Tóibín recommended that the Imagine Ireland programme, a year of Irish artistic events in America, should be brought to Germany, where there was a perception that the only thing Irish people did in the boom years was party at the expense of the German taxpayer.

Comedian Dara Ó Briain said there was also a need for an Imagine Ireland-type programme in the United Kingdom, because Irish people and the Republic were no longer seen as being significantly different to British people. He said the perception of the Republic and Irish people, post-Troubles, was “up for grabs” in Britain.

Dr Tim O’Connor, recently consul general in New York, said the State was mentioned in three out of five editions of the New York Timeson Sunday and eight from 10 of those references were cultural. He said the arts were “enormously important” for the State’s image and the smartest way to Wall Street was through Broadway.