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“When we look at arts production/consumption/participation from the funding point of view, I think we have to go back to first principles and ask, what are the objectives of support from government or foundations? Why do they do it? And the reasons are usually multiple but do come down to support for making things happen that the market won’t support. That does mean that artistic, cultural, and other non-financial criteria should, in principle, take precedence over purely economic ones. The trend towards boosting the economic contribution of the arts was, as you know, brought on by the arts industry itself during the eighties and nineties, and maybe over the long run it has backfired somewhat in that it has tended to focus the attention of funders rather too much on the monetary. Of course, funders are concerned about the financial sustainability of the organizations they support, but perhaps there’s a case for some recalibration of the funding formulae. On the matter of including cultural value in the funding criteria, I’m all for a broad-ranging concept of value, to include things like contribution to social cohesion and community development, and not just a question of “pure” artistic values. On the assessment of value in this broader sense, one has really two sources (a) the well-informed judgments of arts professionals, and (b) the views of the population at large. Different people will put all the emphasis on one or the other—arts professionals themselves will often argue solely for (a) on the grounds that the public doesn’t know what’s good for them, whilst others claim that (b) is more “democratic.” In my view neither is correct, and a balance of the two should ideally be sought as a guide to decision-making.”

-David Throsby (Interview)


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