Director's Update - 15 November 2018

We've been incredibly busy over the past month - having published our 3-year strategy, we are now working on a new communications strategy likely to include a rebrand and relaunch in 2020. We're also working hard on developing new partnerships, collaborations, and projects to address the many pressing issues facing our sector.

Whilst Governmental bandwidth is obviously hogged by Brexit this month, we have seen the publication of a new Civil Society Strategy and developments in the ongoing quagmire of Higher Education debt and fee levels which are likely to have a specific impact on the creative sector.

As a sector, the visual arts have always been committed to European membership, movement, and collaboration, but we now have very little realistic hope of influencing the government's thinking on migration and freedom of movement and are increasingly concerned about the design of replacement funding structures. CVAN is therefore looking at what we need to do to minimise the impact of Brexit (in whatever form) on the sector as well as supporting campaigns such as Free Move Create.


CVAN Consultation: UK visual arts post-Brexit

Brexit is looming and 'no deal' is becoming a very real possibility and the ‘deal’ currently on the table, which may encounter difficulties getting through Parliament, does not offer freedom of movement. We would like to make sure everyone in our sector is up to speed with developments and to gather key insights from our public galleries, visual arts organisations, and artists themselves. We need to formulate a set of realistic policy aims for the visual arts sector to form the basis of CVAN's lobbying activities in the run-up to Brexit as well as the Spending Review likely to follow the outcome of the Brexit process. This will also inform our work to plan for a post-Brexit visual arts sector.

CVAN is commissioning Policy Connect All Party Parliamentary Group for Design (APDIG), who are working on behalf of the visual arts as well as design sectors, to carry out a consultation and formal report to be launched in the Houses of Parliament to begin the process of lobbying for the needs of the visual arts sector. Questions are likely to range from securing adequate funding as pressures on public funding increase, to developing new frameworks for international collaborations, exhibitions and festivals post-Brexit. We'll update progress on this blog as we proceed.

DCMS Select Committee on the social impact of participation in culture and sport

The DCMS Committee heard additional evidence in its inquiry into the social impact of participation in culture and sport with a focus on what impact culture and sport have on determining educational outcomes, social mobility and life chances. The session considered links between arts, sports and educational achievement, the place of arts and sport in the curriculum in schools, funding, and how educational impact is measured.

We'll keep an eye out for publication of the oral evidence which may help our arguments for the value of arts education in schools. It's still possible to email this inquiry with additional evidence and CVAN will liaise with NSEAD to see if there's anything we can add. CVAN attended the November meeting of the All Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft & Design in Education. Please do get in touch with CVAN national if you have useful evidence of the impact of arts education.

Cutting fees for creative higher education may cut courses instead

Followers of the travails of creative higher education may be interested in WonkHE's report on leaks from the Augar Review of post-18 education indicating planned cuts to fee levels for creative (and humanities) courses based on cost of delivery but also graduate salaries. This would be likely to cut the income of small arts institutions by up to 30% whilst turning a small profit for STEM institutions. Arts departments in 'new' (post-1993) universities will be hit even harder. There's some discussion of a state top-up for lost fee income but cynics feel this is unlikely to make up the shortfall and government is actually hoping that it'll be made up somehow through additional fees for EU students. STEM students, on the other hand, will still face escalating fees.

Civil Society Strategy

DCMS has published its Civil Society Strategy: building a future that works for everyone Many may be rolling their eyes at the prospect of a 'son of big society' but this strategy does appear to be offering a model of social investment rather than just hoping we can all add more volunteering and caring responsibilities to 12 hour shifts and zero hours stress. Scooting down to page 60, which talks specifically about social investment and culture, the government restates a commitment to creating a UK Shared Prosperity Fund once we have left the EU European Structural and Investment Funds and to a public consultation to design the new fund in a way which avoids the well-known issues in accessing EU Structural Funds ensuring "that investments are targeted effectively to align with the challenges faced by places across the country".

The Civil Society strategy is in line with the Industrial Strategy and the general current policy drift. It proposes that "successful Local Enterprise Partnerships work closely with universities, business organisations, further education colleges, the social sector, and other key economic and community stakeholders". Some LEPs are already putting together Local Industrial Strategies and it's important for CVAN's regions to engage with this process as early as possible as LEPs in many areas have previously been slow to engage with the cultural sector. Government is also working to clarify the role of the LEPs as these have previous often lacked direction - the Strategy promises to ensure that the LEPs are rather more fit for purpose than of yore.

Few will be surprised to see a strong emphasis on new funding models including social impact investment and crowdfunding - local authorities will also be encouraged to use these new financial instruments and Big Society Capital will emphasise collaboration and match for more established funding sources such as philanthropy and Trusts. The Strategy also recognises that places must be "liveable" as well as productive and this is the rationale for the Cultural Development Fund (EoI deadline was 15 August) - however this funding is for place-making collaborations at scale and will do little to support smaller, community-based projects.

Many readers of this blog may be less aware of restrictions previously introduced by this government on policy engagement by publicly funded organisations. The Strategy offers a "commitment to embedding open policy making across departments – giving civil society significant opportunities to achieve policy change – and is currently developing a commitment to this as part of the UK’s next National Action Plan for Open Government". For CVAN, as an advocacy organisation, there is a welcome discussion of how civil society can input across government departments to influence policymaking across the board. There is also a pledge to renew the civil society Compact which has been fraying since 2010.

All in all, it does represent something of an advance on the somewhat hollow 'Big Society' policy of 2010 but it will still call upon the visual arts sector to engage with radical new approaches to funding with little new public investment. New investment is also entirely aligned with productivity in ‘UK plc’ - there seems little scope for actually realising the ‘liveable’ places agenda.

Migration and skills shortages:

Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is consulting on which job titles are hard to fill because the UK lacks appropriately skilled workers. This is a technical consultation aimed at pinning down which skillsets should qualify for streamlined sponsorship to work in the UK and will mainly concern the corporate sector. Relatively few arts organisation are large and well-resourced enough to sponsor employees and CVAN will probably not respond, but we would be very interested to know if the more substantial visual arts organistions in our network are already experiencing specific skills shortages? The inquiry closes on 6 January 2019.

Cultural institutions and the far-right

A recent article in Art World draws attention to a unified Declaration by Germany's cultural institutions launched on 9 Nov. Meanwhile, Brazil's art world reacts to the election of a far-right president whilst American arts organisations took a very active role in campaigning around the USA's recent midterms. We're aware that some regional galleries in the UK have been experiencing unwelcome attention from far-right groups - again, we would be interested to hear about it if this is the case.

UK research post-Brexit

The Government is also calling for evidence into the future of UK research after Brexit as we lose eligibility to participate in Horizon research funding and the Erasmus+ student mobility schemes. Let us know if you have relevant evidence.

Culture Policy Research

Centre for Cultural Value (CVC)

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Paul Hamlyn Foundation (PHF) and Arts Council England (ACE) are jointly funding a call to establish a Centre for Cultural Value (CCV). The CCV will facilitate wider and more effective use of the existing evidence base and advance knowledge about the value of arts and culture in the UK as well as approaches to how this value is captured and shared. Consortia will be submitting bids by 9 November, the award will be announced in February 2019 and the Centre launched in Summer 2019. This will complement the new Policy Evidence Centre hosted by Nesta and is based on a number of research reports into how the value of culture is to be measured.

Challenging a Risk Averse Culture

Rights, Risks and Reputations is a programme of work developed collaboratively with Index on Censorship, What Next? and Cause4. The programme is funded by the Arts Council England, it aims at ensuring arts and cultural organisations and individual practitioners across the country have the tools to handle difficult subjects and sensitive stories to deliver the best work possible. The final two training sessions are 15 Nov in London and 21 Nov in Nottingham - find out more here:


Call: Creative Europe's Cooperation Projects

The 2019 funding call for Creative Europe's Cooperation Projects has been announced with a deadline of 11 December 2018. Creative Europe Desk UK have produced useful guidance in the context of Brexit and you can get additional advice from their team of specialists.

Call: Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Teacher Development Fund

The purpose of the Teacher Development Fund is to support delivery of effective arts-based teaching and learning opportunities in the primary classroom, and to embed learning through the arts in the curriculum. It aims to do this through supporting teachers and school leaders to develop the necessary skills, knowledge, confidence and experience: deadline 5 December.

Bits & Pieces

Art Review publishes its 2018 Power 100

David Zwirner's gallery empire comes in at #1, #metoo is a nice surprise at #3 - with Ai Weiwei artist-activist at #5. See the full list here:

AI has drawn a self-portrait!

Data geeks at IBM Research asked a neural net (artificial intelligence or AI) to draw a picture of itself and fed it thousands of New York Times articles and photos on the subject of AI to 'teach' the neural net about how humans see AI. Here's the result - apparently AI expresses its creativity as a helping hand for humans!