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art community


Should Council Lead The Art Policy?

If I wasn't so p***ed off about it, I would be laughing.  

The group of us Councillors have been called many things and I'm sure artsy and creative are not included.  Yet at Wednesday's meeting in the Art Gallery, the art community wanted the Council to take the lead with the public art policy. Since when has any group been happy with the policies set by Council? 

Terry Molloy, possibly the greatest supporter of art among the Elected Members was shot down when he said it should be a bottom up approach. The good lady who did that said the Council has no direction, is not interested nor are we enthusiastic about art. Yet the same lady insisted that we, the Council should lead the policy. Why would you want a group of people who you accuse of having no direction, not interested nor enthusiastic about art, lead the policy about art? Or do you believe we are experts in art who are just not enthusiastic about it? 

What completely amazed me was how many of the 120 people in the room supported her proposal!  

Of course we could do it. And I can so see the same group's response. Restricting, uncreative, boring, unenthusiastic and thoughtless are words that come to mind for the moment. Might as well not have done it. 

Please stop being lazy and wake up. In what fantasy world are you living in expecting the people who approve your submissions and funding to do your work for you? 

In 2010, the Council resolved that a Public Art Policy was not warranted. If you asked us again today, we will probably tell you that it is still not warranted. It is your job to convince us that it is! You are the ones who are passionate about art so go develop your version of the art policy and present it to us for evaluation and work towards a new resolution. 

The other groups work hard to get us to do the same. Why should the art community be any different?  

The Council heard submissions for the Annual Plan all day on the 6th and 7th May. They were long days and I never got home till past 7pm on both days.  There were many groups and individuals who took the time to present themselves to Council to do their verbal submissions. I recall a submission about the art policy but nobody bothered to speak to us on either of those days. Even the Friends Of Baycourt took the time to do so. So I could only conclude that the art policy wasn't that important to the art community after all. 

Look at the Disability Strategy Group. They have been working on a Disability Strategy for Tauranga. I am interested, enthusiastic and involved in this for obvious reasons but also because they made an initiative to get me involved. They presented their proposed strategy to Council this week and took me and 8 other Elected Members around the city in wheelchairs to demonstrate the challenges a specified group of people face. It made a statement to the other Councillors, opened their eyes and they hopefully realised that a disability policy was necessary. Do you really think the other Elected Members would otherwise take the lead in developing a Disability Strategy or even have any direction as abled-bodied people who have little idea what it's like to be in a wheelchair?  

The Pilot Bay boardwalk is another example. As much as I was disappointed and offended with her statements against a select group in our community, I must applaud a stay-at-home grandmother for being passionate enough about the issue to speak to us in Council chambers about her submission. I would have expected no less from the art community. 

The city of Tauranga has many issues to address. For example, over the past weeks, rain has resulted in a lot of flooding and damage to properties. I personally deem those matters of far higher priority than the art policy. It does not mean our doors are closed to you as alleged. You just haven't bothered to come knocking and criticising the Council in an open forum is not the way to do it. 

I am disappointed that Wednesday's meeting turned out to be a Council bashing session than anything really productive for the art policy. I left the meeting as soon as it was over, feeling alienated and duly insulted. At least 2 other Councillors in attendance felt the same.

Ironically, today I received an email inviting us to be more involved in local arts and citing disappointment at how few Councillors attended Wednesday's meeting.  

Thank you Simone, for giving me the inspiration to write this article today. I was at the meeting on Wednesday and it had certainly made me less enthusiastic about art. So in future meetings, you might unfortunately see one less Councillor in attendance. Going forward, I shall address such issues in Council chambers should any member of the art community decide to step-up and come in to speak to us.