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.