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Arts and Culture

Ireland’s Troubled Embrace With the Arts

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Posted on Feb 1, 2014

    The Abbey Theatre in the capital of Dublin is Ireland's national theater. bjaglin (CC BY 2.0)

The infrastructure built to support the arts during the economic boom has been pinched by the subsequent crisis for five long years. Gerry Godley, director of Improvised Music Company, acquaints outsiders with the official stumbling and staggering with a comment in The Irish Times.

Godley writes:

In its infancy, 2014 brings compelling evidence of how deep the rot is. Sadly for the Government, there can be no reset button for a [blunder] on the scale that unfolded in Limerick last month: €6 million is quite a tariff when viewed against the relentless deterioration in funding and influence of pivotal agencies such as the Arts Council and Culture Ireland, the bitter harvest of which we are now beginning to truly reap.

How did this happen? When I first became active in the arts, in the mid 1990s, there was a construction boom of sorts. What we were building was sectoral capacity: limited companies, with strong boards, reporting structures, expertise and people. The armature of a cultural sector built to last, the outcome of a long consultative process, distilled into ambitious policy documents. Not everyone agreed, not all of it got delivered, but all acknowledged that the process that drove it was robust and comprehensive.

Now we are taking that edifice down, one stealthy budget at a time, and arts policy is the love that dare not speak its name. Our sector lacks direction and leadership, flapping in the headwinds of an existential crisis. There is a cognitive dissonance between the cultural pieties and the reality. At every opportunity we proclaim the arts’ potency as an agent of change. We assert the artist’s right to speak truth to power. Our politicians intone the names of the artistic dead and the societal change they forged.

But two years out from a certain commemoration, it’s hard to identify a constituency as politically captured, as timorous, as the funded arts sector, either those supported through the Arts Council or those further up the food chain, such as the national cultural institutions.

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.


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