Saturday 10 December 2016

Arts Council must look beyond crowd-pleasers

In times of financial crisis, it may be that only good art should be supported.

Emer O'Kelly

Published 13/04/2014 | 02:30

Fiach Mac Conghail, director of the Abbey Theatre
Fiach Mac Conghail, director of the Abbey Theatre

THE Arts Council is about to undertake a consultation process which will be carried out by a 12-member expert group independently chaired by Terence O'Rourke, the chair of Enterprise Ireland. The group's remit will be to report on a way forward for both the council and the arts themselves in the "current financial climate". That climate has provided a total of €57m for all of the arts nationwide this year. Rehab's funding was almost twice that.

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"Breadth and balance" has been a self-declared strategy of the way the council spends taxpayers' money. It may be interpreted either as the more populist forms and institutions deserving the larger slice of the cake; others may think the lion's share would be better spent on programmes, institutions and people of recognised artistic achievement and reputation.

Inevitably, the issue of accountability must also arise. A balance must be struck: the council has a right to demand, and should demand, on behalf of the taxpayer a copy of full audited annual accounts; without them, there is a case for all funding to be withdrawn. Equally, freedom of artistic choice should not involve the council being "prescriptive" in anything other than actual standard of work.

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