Why axing the Premier’s Literary Awards could be the best thing that ever happened for the Arts

By Ruth Limkin

If I had one dollar for every angst-laden tweet I read by the arts community about Premier’s Literary Awards, I could probably start my own Literary Awards.

I don’t know why the Premier decided not to hold the awards in 2012, and I’m neither defending or rebuking the decision itself. I have, however, grown a little tired of the hyperbole I’ve heard which seems to indicate that this one decision means the end of the arts in Queensland.

I’m a writer, so I have a vested interest in a strong arts community. However, I don’t accept that the only way that can happen is taxpayer money. In fact, I’m not even sure that’s the best way for it to happen, although I’m happy to be corrected if there are compelling arguments otherwise.

Wouldn’t it be far better for artists and writers to be pro-active, to engage the public, to seek private patronage and for the industry itself to provide leadership to those it represents?

Author Matthew Condon, speaking to ABC Radio and reported in Brisbane Times today, said that ‘the awards were not about the prize money but were about supporting writers, fostering careers and culture’.

If we really want to influence culture more broadly, and create a widely loved artistic environment, then it’s quite possible that private patronage of the arts could be a better way to achieve that. After all, if we consider government the saviour of the arts, rather than one supporter, then we’re effectively handing over our power and free agency to political whim. That’s never a healthy situation to find oneself in.

The news that the ‘arts community would rally to fill the void’ and look at creating their own Literary Awards is the best news I have heard all day. If we take responsibility for creating a vibrant arts community, rather than waiting for someone else to do it, then I suspect the arts will have a long and flourishing future.

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ruth@ruthlimkin.com

5 thoughts on “Why axing the Premier’s Literary Awards could be the best thing that ever happened for the Arts

  1. Well said. $240.000 would go along way toward putting another bus into the BCC system, which would give working class people, whose taxes pay for these awards, better infrastructure and service.

    Every so often people take the extras, like tax payer funded Arts Awards, as ‘rights’ and ‘sacred cows.’ That can quickly become Social Elitism, as the vitriolic rants of these people are increasingly appearing to be.

    The Arts are an important part of our culture, but not at the expense of economic rationale.

  2. Here is a great post from a leading Brisbane artist – Tim O’Connor.

    Excerpt: “I believe in the arts, and particularly the arts in Queensland. I’ve devoted my whole life to working in this industry and to growing this industry in this state. I’m more passionate about it than anything else. It’s frustrating when it seems that our government either doesn’t understand the value of the arts, or simply doesn’t have the available funds to support our artistic endeavours as we might like, but we cannot let that stop us from getting on with what we do best – making great art and growing our industry. Over the years, I’ve seen so many incredibly talented friends sit around waiting for months for government arts funding that will never come, essentially putting their fate and the future of their art in the hands of a government who doesn’t understand their need. We have to keep the power and control over our art in our hands. If we hand control of the arts over to the government by waiting for their funding, we leave ourselves open to the sort of thing that has happened this week.”

  3. Thanks for your always fascinating thoughts, Ruth. On the back of this, I would be interested in your insights regarding the Federal Government’s potential move to cut foreign aid. Is that also up to the “affected community” to deal with? Just trying to think more broadly, and potentially heart-hitting, than the arts which we’re privileged to be dealing with as a “First World Problem”.

    1. I think the difference here is the the art community have the capacity to help themselves, or to connect with those who can. The poorest of the poor, on the other hand, do not. While there are lots of different ideas about the best way for foreign aid to be deployed (money in and off itself is no guarantee of successful outcomes), I would hope we would all agree that helping the most vulnerable on the planet is a high priority!

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