That Friday feeling: new jobs & and other announcements

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UCD has just announced its 2017-18 Artists in Residence: this programme has gone from strength to strength, and we are delighted to be welcoming these folks to campus soon!

Jobs have just been updated with a new crop of listings; I’d also like to highlight the following opportunities:

  • The Arts Council is sponsoring a Jerome Hynes Fellowship for 2017/18, as part of the Clore Leadership Programme. This is a prestigious opportunity to access leadership training in the UK; deadline is 13 Februrary
  • The Irish Museums Association Board of Directors is recruiting! We have 3 board positions open: this is a hard-working and energetic voluntary board that represents the interests of museums, north and south. Deadline for expressions of interest is 24 February!
  • The Thomas Dammann Junior Memorial Trust awards are open for applications until 10 March; grants up to 5k are offered for projects and research related to the visual arts in Ireland.
  • The Centre for Creative Practices in Dublin (set up by one of our past MA grads Monika Sapielak) has recently launched a new resource, Artconnected, that lists call-outs for creative talent, venues, arts professionals, service & equipment providers — well worth bookmarking & signing up to their newsletter for notifications.

Milestone for Irish museums: Irish Museums Survey 2016 launched

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Launch of the Irish Museums Survey 2016 / LAMN 1916 Exhibition. From left: Liam Bradley (Curator, Monaghan County Museum); John Rattigan (Chair, Local Authority Museum Network); Minister Heather Humphreys; Brian Crowley (Chair, Irish Museums Association); Dr Sandra Collins (Director, National Library of Ireland); Dr Emily Mark-FitzGerald (UCD School of Art History & Cultural Policy). Photo by Gary O’Neill.

It’s out! Yesterday more than 100 museum professionals gathered at an event in the National Library of Ireland for the launch of the Irish Museums Survey 2016 by Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

This survey is indeed a milestone: it’s the first comprehensive study of the Irish museum sector in a decade. Funded by the Irish Research Council’s ‘Engaging Civic Society’ scheme, it’s the product of a collaboration between the Irish Museums Association and UCD School of Art History and Cultural Policy.

I was the Principal Investigator and author of the report (along with the research team Gina O’Kelly, Dr Colleen Thomas, and Fernando Sanchez), and I’m delighted it’s now available as an online publication.

The results are alternately fascinating, encouraging, and worrying. Here are a few highlights:

  • There are approximately 230 museums in Ireland (north and south); 118 participated in the survey (ranging from independent/community museums to national cultural institutions)
  • 6.1 million visitors were welcomed by Irish museums in 2014: on average museums reported 35% international and 61% domestic visitors.
  • The positive effects of the Museum Standards Programme of Ireland (run by the Heritage Council) over the past decade in enhancing museum practice nationwide were widely observed
  • Provision of educational services has increased from 31% in 2005 to 60% of museums in 2016
  • Digital engagement has risen sharply: museums reported growing levels of collection digitisation, and high levels of engagement on the web and on social media: 98% of museums have a website; 78% are on Facebook; and 40% are on Twitter

… however …

  • 46% of museums have experienced budget decline from 2005-15; this contrasts sharply with 2005 data (when only 7.4% reported a decrease).
  • Museums have experienced drastic reductions to the labour force and increasing reliance on volunteers, interns and community employment schemes: 41% indicated they are ‘very dependent’ on voluntary/unpaid labour, and 17% of museums have no paid employees at all. The majority of museums (77%) are staffed by fewer than 10 paid employees.
  • Comments from participants extensively detailed problems with infrastructure and basic facilities, affecting museums across the country. Cutbacks on every aspect of museum provision (education, programming, conservation, security, etc.) indicate the broad and deep impact of budget reductions and hiring freezes.

The report is chock-full of information and analysis, covering all aspects of museum activity. We hope this report will help inform future programming and planning for museums at national and regional levels. This is especially critical for institutions (large and small) which reported serious problems with infrastructure and facilities in a severe state of disrepair.

Our primary recommendations? In a nutshell:

  1. Establish a research unit to enhance quality and regularity of data collection, based at the Irish Museums Association, the Heritage Council, or the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
  2. Improve museums’ data collection practices by developing training opportunities for Irish museums, to better support advocacy efforts.
  3. Prioritise, in future policies and programmes, the primary resource needs as identified by museums: (1) capacity (staff, volunteers, time); (2) funding and fundraising support; (3) buildings and storage.
  4. Enhance support of community and independent museums, including a review of supports and the development of a national strategy concerning the needs of small museums.
  5. Offer additional training and resourcing in the areas of digitisation and the development of digital and online strategies.
  6. More detailed research is needed on museum outreach and education, to be further correlated with policy developments such as the Arts in Education Charter.
  7. Low rates of improvement in disabled access since 2005 should be addressed by museums as a priority.

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(version for web viewing)

(version for printing)

Get in formation: Irish arts & heritage rising

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… and I don’t mean this formation.


Media & Public Response Round-up: (last updated 23/5/16)

Blogsphere:

On radio:

In the press:

On Twitter:

  • Follow #ArtsDeptNow for ongoing responses and a rolling list of those who’ve signed the petition
  • Minister Humphreys also had a short reply (11/5/16)

National Campaign for the Arts:

Party statements:

Elsewhere:

 


What a difference a week (or so) makes: the announcement on Friday 6 May of the re-shuffled and re-christened Department of Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht has prompted an incredible public response (especially across social media using the hashtag #artsdeptnow) decrying the continued failure of government to adequately recognise and fund Irish arts and heritage.

The petition started by John O’Brien to reinstate a dedicated Minister for the Arts and raise the level of arts & heritage funding closer to the 0.6% EU average is at nearly 10,000 signatures (go SIGN IT now if you haven’t already!) At the bottom of this post I’ve included a round-up of some of the media and other responses over the past week (please respond in the comments if I’ve missed anything, and I will add to the list).

So the big question is: what now?

The petition’s a great start: it is a very visible and tangible demonstration of support for a dedicated arts ministry, that’s extending beyond the arts community itself to the wider public (whose support we really need!)

Other suggestions voiced across social and other media have included an organised national day of direct action; a national symposium/event highlighting the public value of the arts and heritage; and a coordinated event to present the petition to government once it hits the 10k mark.

From my perspective, it’s key to acknowledge the groundwork laid by the National Campaign for the Arts over the past years (and its achievements), and to reactivate that campaign. Most essentially: as Loughlin Deegan notes, the NCFA is made up of individuals willing to give time, attention, and also money to support its efforts – and we need more of all of that! It’s entirely run on the energy and activism of volunteers, and I’d love to see this recent outpouring of reactions to the demotion of the arts (yet again!) coalesce in a re-organisation and re-invigoration of our NCFA.

This isn’t just lip service: here’s what I’m personally willing to do:

  • run another fundraiser for the NCFA (our last pub quiz in 2013 raised over €3,000! Time for a rematch??)
  • work with the Irish Museums Association to widely disseminate the results of our Irish Museums Survey (which I’m writing up at the minute!) Knowledge is power: this is going to give us important information about the state of play in the museum and heritage sector that will help inform policy and further action in support of Irish museums.
  • assist in organising and/or publicising any follow-on campaign event

Beyond signing the petition: what can or will you do to keep up the momentum? Time to get in formation, folks.

 

A New Irish Ministry for the Arts (Or, Through a Hedge, Backwards)

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upon hearing the cabinet reshuffle news

(*update 11/5/16: thanks to RTE Arena for having me on air yesterday to speak about this: piece begins at 4:00. Please consider signing the petition to reconfigure a new arts ministry started by John O’Brien)

Like many in this country, I’ve been patiently waiting for our warring political factions to hammer out some kind of resolution to the election impasse. Listening to the radio, getting my young kids ready for school in the morning rush, stopping for the occasional eyeroll as the merits of this-or-that coalition is debated… waiting.

Finally on Friday, the new Cabinet was announced. Some familiar faces, a few surprises, and then the biggest shock of all: the newly configured Department of Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht. Cue my disbelief.

In what other European country would such a combination be acceptable, or even logical? Have the arts (and heritage, which seems to have fallen off a cliff) really fallen so low in government estimation?

Call me an optimist: in the triumph of hope over experience, I’ve perpetually believed that as the economy improved, our government might turn again to nurturing the cultural life that has actually sustained us during these last few, depressing years of recession. That it might recognise how, in spite of resources slashed and professional expertise often discredited, folks working in our cultural sector have continued doing what they love and believe in, often at great personal expense (both in terms of morale, and financially). Playwrights and novelists haven’t stopped writing; actors and musicians have persisted in performing; artists continue to create work that makes us think and challenges us to look at the world anew. Museum workers, even in their dwindling numbers, welcome school groups across the country; volunteers keep heritage sites open and welcome visitors with a cup of tea; our national collections and archives continue to paste over the cracks, and keep institutions functioning in the face of disappearing funding, threats to their independence and the hiring moratorium.

What about the near-incessant stream of 1916 centenary events? Who do the government think have been producing the talks, performances, exhibitions, public events that have attracted thousands over the past few months, with many more in planning? I’m of the personal view that the commemorations have been incredibly rich, dramatically expanding public narratives that were previously frozen by polarised political ideologies. We can be proud of our centenary year to date – but this is because of the creatives (artists, archivists, academics, etc) and the willing public who have made it so.

I’m flabbergasted, frankly. Some will say the cabinet reshuffle doesn’t matter: power has, and always will, essentially rest with the senior civil servants who actually run the Department of Arts & Whatever Else You’re Having. But I happen to think it does matter. Do we live in a society that believes in the integrity and value of our cultural life? Why haven’t we been given a government department and minister that signal a central (not peripheral) willingness to cultivate and protect our much-lauded reputation as a small, global, cultural powerhouse? All too often it feels that Ireland’s cultural richness has not emerged because of government support: it’s happened in spite of it.

What does this active disregard feel like on the ground? Let’s just look at one slice of this – Irish museums –as I happen to be finishing writing up the results of the Irish Museums Survey (to be published in the next month). Funded by the Irish Research Council and undertaken by the Irish Museums Association and UCD, it’s the first time in a decade any statistics have been collected on the museum sector (these aren’t officially collected, by the way). The more sophisticated analysis will come later, but here are just a few insights into what eight years of budget cuts have achieved (some from the survey, and others from my own experience):

  • In 2015, 300,000 visited the Natural History Museum of Ireland (ah, the Dead Zoo! Beloved of generations everywhere, and annually in the top ten most visited free attractions in Ireland). It had no dedicated education staff, and only 2 curators (one of whom is the Director).
  • 40% of the budget of the National Museum of Ireland system has been slashed since 2008. Let that figure sink in.
  • Thousands of tickets have already been pre-booked for the (free) exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci drawings at the National Gallery of Ireland, which opened 5 days ago. Yet a large proportion of the gallery has been closed since 2011: despite government declarations it would reopen in 2015, and then 2016, it’s now slated for spring 2017 (maybe?) Apart from the loss of public access to national collections, this also means we’ve had a talented museum director (as we are lucky to have in Sean Rainbird) compelled to manage a mostly-closed museum.
  • As part of the Museum Survey we asked 100+ museums across the country (small and large; urban and rural) what impact budget changes have made over the past five years. Here is just a small sample of the responses (more to come!):
    • Our heating was removed
    • Reception staff annual leave has to be covered by curatorial staff
    • A reduction in staff numbers from 28 to 5
    • Difficulty in paying electricity and public liability
    • A 70% drop in our programming budget
    • Unable to repair damaged roof and flood damage

Such accounts could be multiplied many times over, if extended to the visual, performing, and literary arts. And yet – on 28 March at the conclusion of RTE’s acclaimed broadcast Centenary, President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the centrality of Irish culture as inspiring the new State:

From that foundation, that cultural and literary awakening, Irish artists known and appreciated throughout the world have emerged, and continue to emerge. Tonight we celebrate not only our rich cultural heritage, but also its contemporary expression, our new imaginings, and the many creative ways in which we are telling our stories. For ours is a story still in the making.

This year, as we celebrate this important centenary and reflect on what we have achieved, we are committing ourselves to continuing the journey of imagination, committing ourselves to sustain the artistic work that will form the next chapter of our story.

A month later, and we’ve been presented with the new Department of RDRAAG to carry this ‘national story’ forward. Perhaps no acronym has ever been more fitting.

 

Just published: Vol. 3 of Irish Journal of Arts Management & Cultural Policy

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I’m delighted to announce we’ve just published the latest volume of the Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy. It’s a special issue featuring the edited proceedings of the 2014 summer conference on ‘Mapping an Altered Landscape: Cultural Policy and Management in Ireland‘. Guest edited by Dr Niamh NicGhabhann from University of Limerick, it features contributions from a range of speakers on the day, who offer candid and contemporary views of the cultural sector and public finance, the role of local authorities, policy, the working lives of artists, and a range of other topics. The journal also features introductory essays by Niamh and conference organisers Pat Cooke and Kerry McCall, as well as a postscript by former Minister for Education Ruari Quinn.

You can download the entire issue here, or visit the www.culturalpolicy.ie to download individual contributions by:

  • Gerry Godley (Principal & Managing Director, Leeds College of Music)
  • Clare Duignan (Independent Director & Business Advisor)
  • Peter Hynes (Chief Executive, Mayo County Council)
  • Alan Counihan (Artist)
  • Mary Carty (Entrepreneur, Arts Consultant, Author)
  • Conor Newman (Chair, Heritage Council)
  • Ruari Quinn (Minister for Education and Skills, 2011-14)