Can less really be more?

Culture First Director and Chair of AD:UK, Jane Wilson has written a feature in Arts Professional stating that a voice within the local authority, able to talk from a position of knowledge about the role of arts and culture, is crucial.
As more and more local authorities reduce funding and staffing for the arts, how can we ensure they have the capacity to fulfil their cultural responsibilities? Local authorities have changed and are still changing, and as part of that change we have seen a significant reduction in the numbers of specialist arts staff. Some authorities still employ arts officers but many have no arts or cultural specialists at all. Figures from last year’s Arts Development UK survey of local authorities in England & Wales showed that 37% had no dedicated arts officer or directly delivered arts service. In parallel with staffing levels, discretionary budgets are also reducing and local authority grant funding for the arts has declined considerably. This needs to be placed within the wider context for local authorities, which has seen a similar impact on a whole range of services. In other words, it’s not personal.
Transformation is top of the agenda for local authorities, and arts officers need to demonstrate how their work can support and even lead transformational change. We already have some of the skills and knowledge to do this, and although not always obvious from the outside, arts officers have become adept at making operational connections, picking up opportunities for the arts to deliver on wider priorities and building the partnerships to deliver that. This flexible, responsive and sometimes opportunistic way of working is very effective and, where arts officers continue to operate, it is helping to build and sustain the role of the arts in local authority work, even when more traditional (and arguably more paternalistic) funding relationships are tailing off.

Read the full article here @ArtsProfessional

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