Dr Justin O’Connor is a professor in the ARC Centre for Creativity and Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology. In January, the Australia Council released his report entitled Arts and Creative Industries, which outlined the development of the creative industries in Australia and discussed the role of economics in arts and cultural policy debate.
The report is divided in two parts, commencing with An Australian conversation, interviewed 18 leading practitioners across the creative industries. They have been asked about their perceptions of the similarities, differences and connections between the arts and creative industries.
The second part, A historical Overview highlights the importance of art has in developing our comprehension of the modern world. It also examines the enthusiasm for the creative industries over the last 15 years or so and its impact on creative policy-making.
An Australian Conversation
This report began in June 2009 with a series of interviews with artists and intermediaries from across the practice and policy worlds. They have been asked what they thought about the similarities, differences and connections between the arts and creative industries.
The initial responses were couched in terms of ‘the arts’ understood as those publicly funded activities and institutions with which we are all familiar – galleries and concert halls, symphonies and literature.
Very quickly this dissolved into more pointed issues: first what is art and then why it had to be more than just ‘the arts’. Popular culture, creative industries – these were also about art, about culture. The report traces some of the transformations surrounding this idea and the debates to which these gave rise. The focus is on issues of culture and economy, but these cannot be isolated from the wider state and society.
Arts and creative industries
In the ten years since the creative industries initiative was launched in Britain in 1998, the relationships between the arts and the newly defined creative industries have been subject of much debate. The initial definition of the creative industries deliberately included the traditional arts with the ‘classical’ cultural industries (broadcasting, film, publishing etc.), design-led industries (architecture, craft, design, advertising, fashion) and so-called new media (software, computer games and electronic publishing). Out of many questions two issues in particular stood out.
First, did this sector hang together as a sector?
Second, what was the value of these sectors for policy-makers?
There were four problems with separating arts and creative industries :
– Arts as inputs into creative industries
– Creative industries and common culture
– Creative workers
– The arts are ‘big business’
All of these issues present challenges to contemporary policy makers. On the one hand, should the arts be approached purely in terms of state subsidy; are there not other policy approaches more attuned to the commercial practices of the creative industries that could be beneficially applied to the arts? On the other hand, should the creative industries be approached in purely economic terms; if they are central to contemporary culture how should they be supported in ways that enhance this cultural contribution?
A Historial Overview
Chapter 1 outlines the general scope of the issues.
Chapter 2 discusses the emergence of art as a distinct area of life and the relation of this to wider transformations associated with capitalism and modernity.
Chapter 3 explores the ‘art worlds’ of the 19th century city. It outlines the separation between ‘art’ and ‘entertainment’ and the role of the market within this, but stresses that art too was organised around particular markets and economic contexts.
Chapter 4 looks at the emergence of cultural policy and the role of arts within this. It suggests that art played a pre-eminent, though not exclusive, role within this new cultural policy, associated with the nation building project of the modern state. The chapter also discusses the emergence of public subsidy for the arts and the ways in which this tended to fix ‘the arts’ within fairly conservative administrative boundaries which, in many ways, are still with us.
Chapter 5 looks at popular culture in the 1960s and 1970s. It outlines the many challenges popular culture presented to a unitary national cultural policy and to certain elitist tendencies in the arts. At the same time, this popular culture could also be seen as an extension of many of the aspirations associated with art to wider sections of society. Cultural industries, popular culture and art began to intermingle in complex ways.
Chapter 6 directly addresses the emergence of ‘creativity’ and the creative industries in the 1990s. It suggests that the creative industries combined arguments coming from the ‘information society’,
Schumpeterian entrepreneurialism and innovation theory with the increased economic importance of sectors involved in the production of cultural goods. The chapter considers some of the conflicts between creative industries theory and traditional notions of art and cultural policy, and between creative industries and earlier approaches to the cultural industries. It concludes by assessing the policy landscape within which these debates have been engaged and the challenges for a new forward looking policy.
Chapter 7 considers how the arts and creative industries have been defined by academics, consultants and policy makers. It argues that creativity is not an adequate way of identifying this particular sector and suggests that many
of these definitional models reproduce unhelpful distinctions between art and commerce, art and ‘entertainment’, art and functionality.
ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI)
Australia Council for the Arts