Funding the Arts
QRS 20 explored the difficult funding terrain faced by many artists in South Africa. This Roundtable came out of ongoing discussions with the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust and Business and Arts South Africa.
Given the importance of the Arts in uniting, enlightening, and developing a rich and vibrant South African society, the Roundtable discussion explored how funding of the Arts can become more streamlined, co-ordinated and effective in order to enhance the sustainability of the Arts sector.
Panellists addressed a number of issues relating to:
The Arts are a vital means to galvanizing a greater South African identity. The Arts are able to unite, engage, enlighten and disseminate ideas and information, but they can only flourish in a society that is committed to freedom of expression. The Helen Suzman Foundation believes that the plethora of art media that exist in our country can contribute to the emergence of a more open society.
However, certain core issues persist in terms of funding:
The overarching goal of this Roundtable was to shed light on these issues and on any other challenges which currently characterise the Arts sector, thereby giving all stakeholders (including business, government and the arts community at large) an improved perspective on these issues.
Addressing the audience in the Blue Lecture theatre at Rhodes University was a distinguished panel of arts sector stakeholders, namely: Mark Fleishman, associate-professor and head of Drama at UCT and founding-director of the Magnet Theatre. Chats Devroop the Programme Coordinator for Jazz and Popular Music at Tshwane University of Technology; Michelle Constant is the CEO of Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), and Sibusiso Xaba, the Director-General of the Department of Arts and Culture.
The discussion was broad and each of the speakers laid out their concerns over the Arts sector as a whole, and in particular the funding terrain.
The major concerns highlighted were:
The Director-General highlighted a number of challenges the Department faces, one of which was the overwhelming number of funding applications made to it. The Department conceded that it had no process in place to monitor which institution was funding which programmes. This, Mr Xaba argued, was in the process of being rectified. He also highlighted the lack of guidance as a result of the policy vacuum which made effective planning difficult. Mr Xaba thanked all those involved for the opportunity to listen to their concerns and make their inputs, which he said would be addressed through deeper engagement with more of the stakeholders. His hope was to rectify a number of the operational challenges the Department faced and then to promote a discussion around the reworking of the White Paper.