I have been off radar for a while due to a complete lack of time after taking up a new job. Anyway, I thought I would dip my toe back into the blogging waters with a general reflection on what it happening in the art world and general Irish sphere at the moment. Yesterday, Adrian Duncan for the Someblindalleys blog wrote a review of Circa’s new black-and-white, money-saving format, and also yesterday Circa posted a request on Facebook for readers to sign a form to help reaffirm its importance in the Irish art world. I am presuming that this is a pre-emptive and preparatory attempt to salvage its small funding allocation (Circa receives a relatively tiny sum from the Arts Council anyway) and gather concrete ‘proof’ of its worth. Budget day is today, so by the time this is posted we will all have a clearer idea of what is to become of Arts Council funding. I don’t think I’m letting any cats out of the bag by saying that all Arts Council funded organisations have been told that they will be getting a 33% reduction in funding for the first four months of 2010, with funding after that uncertain. This is public knowledge, and if it isn’t, it should be.
Rumours and gossip abound regarding several of the country’s most well known institutions and how they are faring financially. Amalgamations have been mooted, not just for three of our national museums (IMMA, the Crawford Art Gallery and the National Gallery), but also for our art-educational institutions.
A few weeks ago, an email came arrived in my inbox through Pallas Contemporary Projects, from the artist Garrett Phelan, which encouraged people working in the visual arts to make their presence felt by signing up to the National Campaign for the Arts. Another petition to try to prove the worth of the arts in seemingly the only way that politicians can understand – through sheer volume of names. It has now been presented to the minister with the 10,000-name target met.
One of the points that Garrett made in that email was that “valuable new young bright organisations may well be not with us next year." The past month has already seen the demise of two of Dublin’s most refreshing and challenging artist-run spaces, Four and Thisisnotashop. I don’t wish to be needlessly negative, but 2010 could bring not just the demise of similar ‘young bright’ organisations, but also the stalwarts that we all take for granted will be around for ever. I guess I just feel the need to highlight this possibility, for fear that perhaps we are shutting our eyes and blocking our ears to the signs that are all around us. These various institutions, big and small, shape our practices and any shift in the ecology will affect most people either as observers or as producers. Today’s budget will doubtlessly be harsh, and it’s with bated breath that I’m waiting to find out just how much of a hit the arts will take. While we ride out this storm, it’s important that visual-art institutions make the most of collaboration, sharing resources, smart networking, building relationships and exploring new ideas, because things are going to be very different on the other side of this and those who opt in to work together will inevitably be better prepared for the new, post-crisis landscape.