Since the Arts Council England’s decision to cut Visiting Arts from its portfolio, we have had a very great number of letters of support. In particular, from artists and arts organisations who have told us how much the work we do has benefitted them, their practice and their audiences. It is clear that the role of international artists in articulating the contemporary condition is more important now than ever and the Visiting Arts way of identifying those artists, linking them with UK artists, finding a platform for their work and creating conditions for the public to benefit from their experiences and perspectives is valued, valuable and current.
Visiting Arts has been urged by artists overseas and in the UK to ensure that this work continues and are committed to finding new ways of working and new sources of financing. We have, for some time, been alive to the new conditions we work in – scant resources and increased competition; increasing need and demand; the environmental cost of excessive international travel etc. As a result, we have been piloting new ways of working – through new technologies, through innovative partnerships and through new business models.
This shift in focus began some 18 months ago. Since the new Chair, Robert Palmer took up the post he has urged us to move farther, faster. We are now accelerating that pace. We have created new products that are market led and which we have confidence will attract investment and generate income. For example, we are creating a global information platform for the cultural sector world-wide in partnership with Creative Scotland. We are in discussion with major private sector partners and potential investors who see the value of this and the potential to reach a very wide audience, attract sponsors and advertising and generate income to cross subsidise our work. We have also been approached by a major commercial arts organisation interested in partnering us on an internet–based international arts project that engages local and international artists in examination of their environment and cultural relationships.
In addition, we are:
- Modelling new working relationships with other organisations that reduce our costs and put more of our resources into the “front line” of our work.
- Casting our net wider to attract support from outside of the UK in recognition of our partnerships across the world.
- Creating commercial strands to our work that will enhance our offer and not detract from it. One example is inviting international curators, collectors and promoters to join our producers and curators visits overseas. In addition to bringing in income from overseas, this improves our offer to the UK promoters creating a more diverse group and allowing the opportunity for collaborations to begin at an earlier stage.
The next year is one of transition and we would like to encourage our supporters to join with us and to open up discussions with us about what elements of our work are most important and how we might best work with you. We are keen to talk further with our existing partners and potential partners. Our message is that we are open for business, open to your ideas and open to opening minds through the arts – the core of our work.