Advocacy and the Visual Arts

WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH, The Daily Mirror 16th Feb 1976)After a Wednesday of observing life in the world of business I made a flippant comment on twitter about the difference in culture between public and private sectors: I said something along the lines of "it's quicker and easier to get things done over there".

After a Thursday afternoon observing discussions at a meeting of Visual Arts London (a recently formed group that connects London to the Turning Point Network, and vice versa) I was, however, reminded that the grass can not only be just as green over here, but the relative scale of possibility can be far greater. I was exposed to the reality of an assumption that underpins Turning Point Network's existence: by coming together, and sharing knowledge and resources we can achieve significant change that will help strengthen the visual arts. Not only that, we can make things happen much, much faster than many might suspect.

The meeting began with members of the group (listed below), who have agreed to focus on advocacy, education and resource sharing, reviewing a range of key messages about why the contemporary visual arts matter. Following a short discussion which reviewed a number of options for refining and disseminating those messages the group agreed on the bones of an advocacy campaign plan. Government ministers, Treasury officials, Industry leaders, and partners from the press and media were among the audiences for the campaign as well as being potential ambassadors for the visual arts, along with artists and cultural leaders.

A range of options were tabled for how the campaign might be framed and taken forwards, and these are being reviewed by the group:

Ralph Rugoff, Director, Hayward Gallery (Chair)

Alessio Antoniolli, Director, Gasworks

Brett Rogers, Director, The Photographers' Gallery

Chris Wainwright, Dean of School of Art, Central Saint Martins

Cressida, Hubbard, Administrative Director, Artangel

David Buckland, Director, Cape Farewell

Iwona Blazwick, Director, Whitechapel Gallery

Eddie Berg, Director, British Film Institute

Ekow Eshun, Artistic Director, ICA

Emma Kay, Cubitt

Jane Sillis, Director, Engage

Jenni Lomax, Director, Camden Arts Centre

James Lingwood, Director, Artangel

Jonathan Harvey, Director, ACME Studios

Judith Nesbitt, Chief Curator, Tate

Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, Serpentine Gallery

Justine Simons, Cultural Strategy Officer, Mayor's Office - Culture

Kathleen Soriano, Director of Exhibitions, Royal Academy

Kate Bush, Head of Art Galleries, Barbican

Margot Heller, Director, South London Gallery

Matthew Slotover, Frieze

Polly Staple, Director, Chisenhale Gallery

Roger Malbert, Senior Curator of National Touring, Hayward Gallery

Sarah Tinsley, Head of Exhibitions, National Portrait Gallery

Sarah O'reilly, General Manager, Hayward Gallery

Sheena Wagstaff, Chief Curator, Tate Modern

Tessa Jackson, Chief Executive, INIVA

The goup's coordinator is Katrina Schwarz, based at Hayward Gallery.

The campaign would be UK wide and Vivienne Bennett, Director Visual Arts Strategy, Arts Council England will be working with Chairs from across the network to ensure regional groups are informing and informed by the plan as is develops.

As my colleague Andrew Brown, Senior Officer Visual Arts Strategy, Arts Council England highlighted at the meeting, we have come along way in the last 30 years. It's certainly hard to imagine the national press running a front page headline like that of 16th February 1976. We should be confident about telling the story in an effort to sure up support for the sector in the long term.

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