Tuesday, 11 April 2017 08:11

Double-standard towards the arts

They're ‘bludgers' with their ‘snouts in the trough' who ‘leech' off ratepayers. At least, that's how some people in the community view Creative Bay of Plenty.

When SunLive published an article last month on Creative BOP's newest appointments, some commenters on the site were vocal in their disapproval of the hiring, questioning the organisation's purpose and usefulness.

But commenter ‘surfsup' bucked the trend, asking: “I wonder would there be the same vocal outrage expressed if these were sporting appointments?”

The short answer is: probably not. Indeed, a cursory search of the SunLive archives shows that while stories about Creative BOP inevitably draw negative comments, stories on Sport BOP's initiatives avoid any similar scrutiny.

It seems that, in this city, sport gets a free pass when it comes to funding, while the arts must weather a storm of criticism.

Creative BOP general manager Lena Kovac says it benefits no one to compare spending or budgets between the arts and sport and recreation.

“Just as in life there is room for people to enjoy both, there is room for both in any budget.”

“Creative BOP's role is to be an umbrella support mechanism for local artists, bringing them together, helping them create success and build their audience.”

Tauranga City Council funds both community groups equally, to the tune of $300,000 each per annum, while Western Bay of Plenty District Council allocates roughly $50,000 a year to each group.

“In terms of what return the public is getting for their investment, Creative BOP is currently creating an Arts & Culture Strategy for the two councils, which will provide funders with ways to spend their arts budgets for maximum effect.

“It will help create jobs and opportunities in the sector and more activities and events for locals to attend.”

Tauranga City Mayor Greg Brownless agrees there's a disparity between public attitudes to sport and the arts.

“I think when it comes to public money the arts have always come of second-best, possibly because we have a stronger sporting tradition. Money spent on sport seems to be more sacrosanct.”

He thinks it would be great if all groups, whether sports or arts, took more responsibility for their own funding.

“I'm not a great sportsman, but the theatre groups I've belonged to receive no public assistance whatsoever. But it shows people can get together and attract an audience, and be self-sustaining.

“That's my preference.”

However, he notes that council funding of parks and sports fields benefits everybody, and that sporting and creative programmes are beneficial for reducing social problems.

“I've never seen kids getting into trouble in communities committed to sport and the arts.”

 From: The Weekend Sun, Friday 7 April 2017