arts-policy-axing-a-challenge-they-sayAmong the South Gippsland artists who are concerned about the shire’s attitude to the arts are Kerry Spokes and Dennis Leversha at an art exhibition launch in Fish Creek last Sunday. m893314

THE South Gippsland arts community is disappointed with the recent axing of the South Gippsland Shire Council’s Arts Policy but they are choosing to see it as a possible beginning rather than an end.
And shire mayor, Cr Jim Fawcett, says council is receptive to the idea of developing a new policy.
“The arts policy was set aside at the last council meeting, not as a reflection of any changed attitude to the arts but because we haven’t done a lot with it since the arts officer position was discontinued back in 2003,” Cr Fawcett said.
“The only thing we really had left was the $1000 acquisition prize.”
Cr Fawcett said the decision to drop the $1000 prize from the budget wasn’t purely about the money but also about the effort by shire staff that went into administering it, which he said was disproportionate to the benefit.
“Council can still respond to arts funding requests, either directly or through its grants program, and we have such a diverse and vibrant arts scene including the visual arts, our excellent local theatre groups and all the rest; a lot of people are involved, we appreciate that.”
A spokesperson for the visual arts community, Kerry Spokes of Fish Creek said local artists were disappointed that the shire cut the acquisition prize and set aside the policy without first consulting local artists.
“What happened when the shire had all that cost cutting some years ago, the arts officer left and the only thing that remained was the arts policy with no one to implement it,” Ms Spokes said.
“They haven’t used it, nor have they employed anyone to develop a new policy.
“We would also be interested in knowing what the shire intends to do with the body of work the shire has collected over the years, These works are owned by the people, not by the shire, and should be looked after and displayed.”
Ms Spokes said she had heard that the works were going to be stored and displayed at Coal Creek but no more than that.
“A representative group of artists would like to get together with those councillors who weren’t willing to have the policy removed and write a new one.
“We’re taking a positive rather than negative approach that something good might come out of something that could have been handled better.
“The shire is also developing a cultural tourism policy but we don’t believe they can have a cultural tourism policy unless they have an arts policy as well to support it.
“The arts should go hand-in-hand with a development of cultural tourism.”
Ms Spokes said that the arts community already contributed a great deal to the economy and the cultural life of South Gippsland and this needed to be acknowledged and encouraged.
“Once we have a policy, it needs to be implemented to get the best results.
“Of course we have the dream of one day seeing a regional gallery but there are many other objectives that could be included in an arts policy.”
Ms Spokes said several artists, including Colin Suggett, had already put up their hands to work with the shire and they plan to pursue their goal in the weeks ahead.