Ask any creative how many times they’ve been asked to provide something for nothing other than “exposure” or “opportunity”. Doesn’t matter if you’re a performer, a painter or a brewer, this comes up time and time again. Imagine saying to a plumber when you need your toilet fixed – “Do it for free, it’ll be great exposure for you mate”.
An article in Hyperallegic.com last week said that New York City Department of Cultural Affairs has announced the largest-ever NYC budget for culture: a record-breaking $198.4 million. How refreshing, that in these austere times, a city that we aspire to imitate (think our cheeky London, Paris, Newy campaign) initiates such a move. According to NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl: “Investing in culture brings tremendous benefits to our city at all levels, from a vibrant economy, to healthy neighbourhoods, to transformative experiences for individuals.”
Bravo I say. Let’s bring that insight into our own rhetoric.
Forget about money of that magnitude for a minute because that’s unlikely to happen in this neck of the woods. Instead, think about this as a shift in mindset. Investing in culture leads to a vibrant economy, healthy neighbourhoods, transformative experiences for individuals. Isn’t that what every city wants? And let’s take it further…if we don’t value culture in the city, what on earth are we left with?
Yes money is important for cultural activity and so is recognising culture’s intrinsic value. Being prepared to pay for a theatre ticket, an artwork, or a craft beer is important. Does paying to see a Catapult dance show, acquire a Pottery Ali ceramic or sip a Grainfed Sneaky One help our economy, our wellbeing, our individual transformation? Yes.
At the moment I am involved with activating a cultural space in the heart of our great city, the Newcastle Station. A significant historic site that has the potential to be transformed into the community’s playground and cultural centrepiece. It’s been a fascinating journey managing the expectations of stakeholders and punters alike.
There has been the most extraordinary pro-bono support from the likes of engineering, legal, project management and certifying organisations as well as massive investment from a groundswell of generous citizens willing to offer their time, expertise and passion to help get this thing off the ground. But it’s not enough. If Newcastle is serious about having something as unique as this for everyone in its midst it will require a little bit more than sweat equity and loose change.
To date, the only organisation prepared to financially invest in this venture is Hunter Water. Now that’s insightful. Maybe plumbers are prepared to do something just for the exposure after all.