Arts Front is the brainchild of Norm Horton and Sarah Moynihan with their Queensland based arts company, Feral Arts. It aims to bring the arts sector together and develop a cohesive and effective advocacy force. Part project, part ideology, it is a vehicle for collaboraation and engagement, encouraging artists to stand up and take the lead on national arts policy.
Whilst planning has been underway for a few months, the project kicked off its public engagement in November with the ArtsFront Forum held in Melbourne at Footscray Community Arts Centre. Along with over 200 other artists and arts workers, the Institute’s Maz McGann attended the Forum, keen to see how Arts and Health fits in with ArtsFront’s ambitious idea…..
The ArtsFront Forum was challenging, the fluidity of the timetable, the breadth of the subject matter and sheer sense of urgency that defined so many of the conversations made for a fascinating and exhausting three days. Heading into the Forum, believing that this was a big moment for the arts industry, was equal parts exciting and daunting – this was a moment and it needed all of us to be present to make it work.
The three-day event started with personal introductions by everyone – and I mean everyone. You know when you are in a group of a dozen or so people and you go around the room and say who you are and what you do, well it was like that but with over 200 people, in the room and online. Yes, even the introductions were ambitious!
At first, I felt this was a ridiculous idea – “it’ll take too long and we’ve only got three days”, but in hindsight it was an important and symbolic moment, and for me it demonstrated two very important things, which are critical to the ArtsFront project. Firstly, it didn’t take that long and
ArtsFront is so much more than a three day event, this is just the beginning of the conversation and we have a couple more years to work through some important things – that were never going to be resolved in three days. Secondly, never underestimate the value of an introduction – the very moment when relationships start, the beginning of the conversation between two or more people – it reflects an agreement between people to talk, listen and share – it changes your position from unknown to known. And for ArtsFront it wasn’t just about the people at the front of the room, or on the stage, it was about everyone. We all needed to be present and we all had a part to play.
A big part of the ArtsFront Agenda was the First Peoples discussion about arts and culture in Australia and the essential need for it to reflect the heritage of the people who have lived here for millennia. It was amazing to be in a room with First Peoples from all over Australia, leading conversations and rightly claiming their position in the cultural landscape of the nation.
Like many events of this sort, there were lots of break out groups and themes that saw participants disperse across the venue to deliberate and document ideas for action. I was part of a fantastic advocacy conversation and of course, the enthusiastic dialogue about arts and health was very heartening and demonstrated that it is very much part of the broader arts sector.
I like being part of these big conversations. I feel an overwhelming responsibility to stick my head up above the normal day-to-day happenings of work and life and family and contribute to the greater good. When it is not about me and my work, it’s about all of us and the power we wield together – to what we can to influence, change and create. ArtsFront is a vehicle for all of that and more and I am so very enthused about the “where to next conversation” that will ensue in the coming months. And the actions that follow – where ArtFront transforms into a long term and influential vision for Arts.”