So learn something new every day. I discovered that until recently an arts group did not have to fill out an application to receive funding from the Arts Council of England. Once again, Europe proves their arts policy is superior to that of the U.S.!
I say this having just spent a lot of time filling out applications for funding. In actuality, the old policy was pretty exclusive. According to BBC arts editor Will Gompertz,“If you were in the club, you tended to stay in the club; if you weren’t, there was no obvious way of joining.” Apparently this was the way the Council was set up when it was established during the Second World War. Funding was solely based on the council members’ judgment that an art organization had a reasonable chance of success.
Now the process will be opened up to any who want to apply. Partnerships and collaborations are being encouraged. According to one report by the BBC, “Some successful applicants will also be asked support smaller companies by providing facilities and expertise. ” The Guardian quoted Arts Council executive director Alan Davey, “A few will have a “strategic relationship” with ACE, meaning they will be expected to deliver for the wider good. Davey said: “We might ask them to take responsibility for talent spotting or helping smaller organisations with fundraising expertise or offering back office services.”
I will fully admit these are the type of relationships that should be encouraged in the U.S. I have referenced the duplication of effort I see in many communities. I do want to point out that the United States is a whole lot bigger than England though so this can’t be applied uniformly across the country. While Davey does talk about potential strategic partners as those having valuable skills, he also mentions relationships based on geographic proximity a couple times. If arts funding policy in the US was going to look to leverage strategic hubs, it would have to acknowledge that this is easier to accomplish on the coasts than in other places.
This change in funding policy by the Arts Council of England was precipitated by a deep cut to the Council’s budget. Even though the process is more accessible to a greater number of organizations, it is anticipated that about 100 organizations would lose their funding. In that environment, you would expect that people would want to work to make sure that they weren’t one of those hundred. A different article quotes Alan Davey. “Davey also said that organisations should not be looking to change their remit in order to secure funding, but should build on their existing strengths and character. He said: “‘I would hope that they would see things within the goals that we’ve got that they would be able to latch on to.'”
Shifting priorities or creating programs that don’t quite fit the organization for the purpose of getting funding has long been a problem in the U.S. It is a pity to see the possibility that arts organizations may be driven to that practice in the hopes of competing for support.
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