Making the case

4 August 2010 | By Cause4 staff

Recent rhetoric from the art world clearly outlines the disappointment felt by organisations facing budgets cut of 25% to 40%. This could mean that funding to 200 out of 880 Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) will be stopped altogether.

Of course there are issues surrounding public funding. The Arts Council’s Chief Executive Alan Davey has said, “Any cut needs to be managed intelligently and in a way that protects achievements of the last 15 years." Similarly, leading figures such as Sir Nicholas Serota have pleaded with the government: ‘Cut us, but don't kill us.’ The prospect of dark and empty theatres, museum closures and a move towards safe sellable art – to the exclusion of risk and experimentation – is massively unwelcome.

Nor is there an easy solution in tapping up private philanthropists. Sir John Ritblat, Anthony D’Offay, Lord Stevenson, Dr Keith Howard and Terry Bramall have all written to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to say that philanthropic giving alone cannot – and should not - be expected to bridge the deficits. Indeed, in light of the deeply personal nature of the relationship between organisation and philanthropist, such an expectation seems extremely naÌøve.

So the ultimate question is where do arts organisations go from here? Of course, they will need to strengthen and diversify their fundraising strategies and be enterprising. In this era of coalition, collaboration is key and funders welcome new ideas for working in partnership. However, the most notable area of need is the ability to ‘make the case’ – are some arts activities more valuable than others? Do we (or the paymasters) believe in art for arts sake?

The cultural sector always seems ill-equipped to make the case. Undoubtedly great art promotes tourism to the tune of billions, as Polly Toynbee wrote in The Guardian last week. But what is the real balance between art as a mean of promoting values and attitudes and its contribution to the bottom line?

This is the challenge to the cultural sector right now – the ability to create a case that the Treasury will have to listen to...

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