Conference "Public Assets: small-scale arts organisations and the production of value"

Conference "Public Assets: small-scale arts organisations and the production of value"

Common Practice

Design: Sara De Bondt.

January 21, 2015

Public Assets: small-scale arts organisations and the production of value
6 February 2015, 10–17:30h, registration 9:30

Platform Theatre
Central Saint Martins 
University of the Arts London
Handyside Street
King’s Cross
London N1C 4AA

Building on previous work on value and sustainability in the UK’s small scale arts sector, Common Practice presents a one-day conference to discuss the ways in which small-scale arts organisations produce artistic value beyond measurability and quantification, provide spaces for public experience extra to the market, and in so doing contribute importantly to cultural wealth. In this way, small-scale arts organisations provide ample evidence of the necessity to build rather than diminish state funding for the arts as a core public asset.
Speakers: Jesús Carrillo, Kodwo Eshun, Charlotte Higgins, Maria Lind, Andrea Phillips and Lise Soskolne

The event has been organised in collaboration with Andrea Phillips. Common Practice, London is an advocacy group working for the recognition and fostering of the small-scale contemporary visual arts sector in London. The group’s founding members are Afterall, Chisenhale Gallery, Electra, Gasworks, LUX, Matt’s Gallery, Mute Publishing, The Showroom and Studio Voltaire.

Book here.

“Cultural wealth” is a complex term. It is used by governments and cultural industries to describe the economic and ameliorative benefits of the arts but has a longer history in which wealth is understood not as a financial term but rather as one that names what is produced communally as a shared public asset. Changes in public arts funding leave small-scale arts organisations with the task of negotiating and consolidating these two meanings.

Over the past two decades public funding for the arts in the UK has become dominated by cultural entrepreneurial initiatives and schemes designed to ensure that arts organisations develop profitable relations with private funders and foundations. Like their larger cousins, small and medium-scale arts institutions in the UK are increasingly under pressure to develop private income streams in order to survive; without the development budgets and administrative infrastructures through which larger arts organisations negotiate the shifting financial landscape, small-scale institutions find this extremely difficult and time-consuming, even where there is a willingness on the part of staff and director to engage with the necessities of entrepreneurialism. Such a situation is made more complex by the competition that emerges between arts institutions, as each chases the same sponsors and patrons.

As Common Practice has already proved in its report Size Matters, it is also made more complex by the lack of financial recognition of the deferred value produced by small-scale institutions, as they support artists and curators at the beginning of their careers. The naturalisation of this process has become endemic within the arts at all scales in the UK as elsewhere, but it is within the small-scale arts sector that the values of supporting experimental and often non-commodifiable artistic practice is developed, promoted and sustained by curators and administrators. These values are difficult to maintain at the same time as holding on to the diminishing amount of funding available within the culture of financialisation. 

It is not just the lack of administrative time that is at stake as small-scale arts institutions shift their practices within this financial ecology, it is also the ethos of production and distribution. What gets made public in these institutions is also affected by what can be funded—and what gets funded is shaped by the same feedback loop. 

This conference will address the ways in which it is possible to assert a non-financialised ethos within the current funding landscape of the arts, and will seek to develop a vocabulary separate to the one of instrumentalisation with which to argue for this ethos. It will examine national and international practices that are successfully working within the new funding conditions and delivering exhibitions and events that exemplify the arts institution as an essential public asset.

To read speakers’ biographies, click here.

“Public Assets” is funded by the Arts Council England.


Common Practice presents conference "Public Assets: small-scale arts organisations and the production of value"
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Common Practice
January 21, 2015

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