June 7, 2009

The demise of the Artists in Schools Programme

Editor    posted 7 Jun 2009, 03:08 PM

[I have been asked to put this discussion (from an Accordnet email group) up on Theatreview as the Performing Arts community is affected. Playwrights and choreographers, for example, have been part of the Artists in School Programme, now axed in the wake of the recent budget. – ED]

….So this groundbreaking project is a casualty of the economic downturn.

In 2008 220 schools and 130 artists applied to be included in the initial Artists in Schools programme. The programme has been an overwhelming success in involving communities and schools in a range of creative projects. It seems a shame that there hasn’t been a creative solution in keeping the programme going.

With minimal funding this programme contributed to the very essence of the front end of the revised curriculum. Perhaps there are other ways similar projects can be supported. The Ministry of Education ending funding for the programme shouldn’t be the death knell of schools and artists developing collaborative projects.

The Artists Alliance has for many years used its expertise and connections to initiate collaborative projects with schools and artists. There are many community based arts workshops often funded by City Councils who have both the expertise and artists who could be persuaded to develop more links with schools. Now that the momentum has been started by the Artists in Schools programme we must keep it going, so perhaps we need to look locally rather than to the Ministry……

Ian Bowell,

Senior Lecturer, Visual Art

School of Educational Policy and Implementation

Victoria University Wellington

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Whilst Ian Bowell is proactive in his alternatives, I would suggest that the arts education community must put real pressure on the Ministry to reverse its decision. We should not just roll over and let the MoE tickle our tummies and then withdraw the Jellimeat. It is time to set our feet in the ground and bark. Refuse to fetch the ball, or go out to the muster.

The Ministry has not funded the Universities with adequate funds to maintain the Arts Advisory Service. Service in the South Island is almost non-existent. The Arts Co-ordinators scheme is now skeletal.

Now the local state school is expected to pay for this sort of Artists in schools programme from its general operating grant or run a cake stall to pay for it. There is also a real possibility that the artists themselves will now be out of work or be driven to subsistence pricing for their expertise.

The Arts should be the nurtured and well-groomed show dog – not the kicked about cur left to scavenge for scraps in the street.

David Chambers

Director of Drama

Christ’s College

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David, and others,

I have been refraining from commenting on this thread of discussion to allow it time to develop, but I think you have made a really important point that needs to be emphasised: The Artists in Schools programme was delivering a raft of successful outcomes for Ministry of Education – improved engagement and achievement of a whole range of students, community involvement, building partnerships between communities and schools, to name a few. From what I understand the Ministry was getting very good results for a minimal investment.

While we are all very aware of the current financial climate, it seems foolish to cut the investment in a project that generates such a good and sustainable return. I am confident that Janet Jennings will have done everything she could to promote the retention of funding for this project, and I wonder whether it might now be appropriate to make contact with the Minister with regard to the resurrection of the Artists in School Project in the near future.

PLEASE NOTE: This is my personal opinion, and does not represent the opinion of Arts Online.

Sam Cunnane

Arts Online Community Facilitator – Visartsnet


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Sam, Ian, David and many others

Thank you for entering and contributing to the “debate”.

IN the 70s and 80s we artists were employed under a scheme called TEP. Nothing until the artists in schools scheme has arisen to replicate this Muldoon inspired artists support. IN Wellington we employed the first 14 artists on TEP at our Artist’s Co-op, this was then taken up by the Wellington City Council under Colin Knox to establish the Arts Centre and its lauded Summer City. Hundreds of extremely well known artists across the arts were employed… the role call and outcomes were huge. (This will make fine history one day)

WCC still has the Arts Centre but it has become a corporatised institution and artists litterally compete for studio space with commercial film companies for studio space. In short artists are always first to revitalise inner cities and such but are the first to be chucked out. We are first to be chucked by the Min of ED – not because we don’t deliver to (more than) expected outcomes, engage NEETs and other students, thread community connections otherwise distanced – its simply because we have no – or little collective voice. This comes with the mantle yet as “communicators” we do have the capacity for singing, dancing, speaking clearly et al!

Luckily you all seem both angry and perplexed – mainly on our behalf – and I personally thank you for this as I am sure many others do. I agree whole heartedly that political action is required and the reaching out to some of our better off and higher profile artists – the Manhires, Weddes, Finns, Majors, time to bring the Big Idea and our own MPs into the fray.

Min of ED should be spoken to very strongly here – we may well be a small number and “only 45 a year” and yes we may be relatively weak but this is no good reason to cast us aside… on what moral ground is that seed planted?

I can also accept there is always more than one way to skin a possum, bake cakes, work under other corporate regimes but this scheme offered a pure and honourable connection between reasonably pure and free art and it makers – service to and for youth and community and that relative freedom is a paramount value, to think, act and be responsible in a democracy. To inspire, create and lead – in our own way with our truths, passions and crafts at a cost of less than the Govern General’s kitchen.

Barry Thomas

Artist /Film maker

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