CEO Tony Grybowski opens the 2014 Marketing Summit

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Speeches and Opinions
Jul 03, 2014
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Good morning everyone.  On behalf of the Australia Council a very warm welcome to this year’s Marketing Summit.

Thank you Nathan and Skye Maynard for giving us such a beautiful Welcome to Country.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we meet on, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

It may be cold outside, but I suspect a lot of warmth and excitement will be generated by the conversations set to take place over the next two days.

This year is a milestone – our tenth annual Marketing Summit.

We have a very special program for you over the next few days, taking place in two wonderful venues; here in the beautiful Baha’i Centre of Learning and tomorrow at the Museum of Old and New Art.

In fact, there’s a feast of art for you to enjoy, including the Art for the Summit exhibition here at the Baha’i Centre, thanks to the Colville Gallery and its artists.

For those of you who have attended before, you will notice that the focus and format of the Summit has evolved.

We have moved away from an emphasis on a particular art form or part of the sector.  Instead we are focusing on our shared challenges and opportunities – exploring the ways we connect, or want to connect, with new and existing audiences and embracing new ways of thinking about how we do it meaningfully, and with impact.

That is why the next two days are all about The Art of Connectivity.   It is about connecting with our unique Tasmanian setting, discussing new ideas, exploring great case studies, and having a dialogue with experts who we hope will inspire and inform you.

Most of all it is about connecting with your peers around this room.  Can I suggest that this is no time to be shy? Or perhaps that is a redundant thing to say to a room full of marketers and communicators!  I hope each one of you shares your ideas and achievements with your colleagues, and are perhaps brave enough to share what hasn’t worked – as you may be surprised by what you learn.

While the Summit celebrates its first decade, the Australia Council has just celebrated four of them. It’s a big year for us as many of you know, with a significant evolution in our vision for the arts in Australia and the rollout of reforms which have strategic and very practical positive impact on the different ways we support and partner with artists and arts organisations.
We will be launching our new strategy and announcing our new grants model soon and I wanted to share a little of them with you.

But first, as you head into these two days, let me say a few words to set the scene.

The first thing I’d like to stress is this: what you do – what all of us in the arts world do – matters.

At the Australia Council we truly believe that artists are the heroes.  We also know that all heroes need a fantastic support team.  Your passion, commitment, talent and hard work are all essential to a flourishing cultural life in Australia.

And you might be surprised to learn just how deeply Australians value your contribution.  Last month we released the next iteration of our arts participation survey The Arts in Daily Life: Australian Participation in the Arts which provides a wealth of intelligence about where we are now and where we’ve come from, in comparison to the previous survey known as More than bums on seats’. Understanding attitudes and behaviours is not just interesting it’s at the heart of understanding your audiences, informing your work, and influencing our national conversations about arts and culture.

I know you are hearing about The Arts in Daily Life in more detail from Rachel Smithies from our Research team later today, but I want to draw on a few key themes that really set the scene for our thinking at the Summit.

The survey shows that the arts are now all but universal in Australians’ lives, of course with very varied levels of participation.  Fifteen years ago, three times more Australians thought that the arts were ‘not really for people like me’ than think so today.

For more Australians than ever before, the arts have an intrinsic value an acknowledgement that they make for a richer and more meaningful life. They’re also seen as important in self-expression, for thinking and working creatively, dealing with stress, and community identity.

Significantly, more Australians are acknowledging that the arts have a big impact on the development of our nation’s children – an important message to those of you working in community engagement and education programs.  Creativity starts with childhood curiosity, and the arts have a profound role to play in igniting that spark.
One wonderful fact is that people who were regularly taken by their parents to arts or cultural events are almost twice as likely to make art in later life.

This gels with my own experience, and no doubt yours as well.

I vividly recall my own early encounters with the arts.  As a kid, seeing the water wall at the National Gallery of Victoria.  The huge, peaceful exhibition halls and wonderful paintings.

Or my first experience of the theatre – seeing Jesus Christ Superstar.  All the excitement and power of those voices – not to mention that hair and sweat!

And like many of you, school was very important to me as a space to foster that interest and enjoyment, through music and art classes and having fun in school plays and musicals.

For the vast majority of Australians, there is recognition of the immense value of the arts and creativity to our world.

And that means valuing the marketers and communicators who connect that talent and creativity to individuals and communities.

At the Council we are proud to be promoting this national love affair with the arts.  They are inherently valuable, enriching life in a myriad of ways.

The second point I want to stress is that we have a flourishing arts culture in this country.

Today, if you include reading, 19 out of every 20 Australians participate in the arts.

And while the arts should never be purely – or even largely – valued predominantly as an economic input, according to research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, around a billion dollars is generated each year just through tickets sale to live performance and arts events.  And every international visitor undertakes at least one cultural activity when they come to our shores.

So that’s very good news.

But we are gathered here for this Summit because no one should underestimate the enormous challenges faced by you and your organisations as you strive to maintain existing audiences, build new ones and cut through the noise of a crowded and media saturated marketplace.

It’s not easy to promote the arts when all budgets, including marketing, are tightening, arts journalism is shrinking in most areas, and when, with so many channels and technologies available, it is still sometimes hard to know which options will achieve the most effective results.  And it means for all of us that we have to ensure the investments we do make, really count.

Thankfully we also know that arts organisations in Australia have a great capacity for innovation and renewal, and many are adapting to this new era with flair and courage, and without compromising – even while raising – their artistic standards.

Now let me turn to the Australia Council to give you an update on how we fit into this picture of Australian artistic ambition, energy and adaptation.

We are in the process of our own transformation in fact, it’s no exaggeration to say we are undergoing the biggest transformation in our history.

Soon we will be releasing our new five-year strategic plan, the outcome of hard work and deep reflection on behalf of many people.  At its heart will be our vision for a culturally ambitious Australia.

When we embarked on some serious new thinking about the future of the arts our starting point is that we have a unique culture in our country, shaped by tens of thousands of years of continuous Indigenous storytelling, embedded in the deep and rich cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoplesand reflecting two centuries of settlement from around the world, which has added even more diversity to our cultural fabric.

With that in mind I’m sure you would agree that we are, and certainly should be, a culturally ambitious nation.  With this next chapter in our history the Council is re-defining its role as champion and advocate for the arts in this country, and as a key investor in artistic excellence.

Our work will respond to the fact that we believe that the arts should transcend borders of all kinds, that they should be part of daily life for Australians no matter where they live, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture is to be cherished, and that Australia should be known for its great artists.

This means we will be engaging in and encouraging more dialogue, collaboration and exchange with international partners.  We will be supporting arts organisations to invest in initiatives that drive community relevance, as well as innovation and artistic vibrancy.  We will partner with the different tiers of government on targeted arts development in metro and regional areas. And we will be looking for initiatives which give more Australians the chance to engage meaningfully with Indigenous arts and culture.

Now passion, aspiration and vision are wonderful things, but not if they don’t translate to action.

While there is a lot to come in the years ahead, in this year alone there are three specific and particularly significant areas of work which I want to share briefly with you. They impact directly on how we invest in the making and presenting of great work, how we ensure that the voice of artists are heard, and how we are strengthening the evidence base for our national arts narrative.

Firstly – a key aspect of our transformation is a redesign of our grants model.  The new model will be announced in about two months and open in January 2015. It is structured to support a more diverse range of artists, artistic practice, organisations and arts activity, while making it easier to navigate the practical process of applying for grants.  It means that instead of artists and organisations having to squeeze their vision into a narrowly defined category, they can pitch the projects they want to do.

We have also spent a lot of time exploring how best to support small to medium arts organisations, which I know many of you come from, and we will continue to collaborate with you on finding options which promote sustainability in the arts ecology.

To support these new models we have called on the expertise of you and your colleagues as artists and arts professionals, not only to keep peer assessment central to what we do, but to strengthen it. Rotating membership on assessment panels and a much larger and more diverse pool of peer assessors from across the country ensures that we mirror the diversity of the sector, and respond more flexibly to evolving arts practice and the needs of each round.

We will of course continue to deliver a range of new and existing market and audience development initiatives in Australia and overseas. We are committed to fostering new collaborations and partnerships as well as engaging in a range of other strategic activities, some you are familiar with as well as exciting new ones.

An important area where the Australia Council is strengthening its capacity is research.  There are a lot of unfortunate myths out there about the role of the arts in Australian life including lingering negative perceptions that the arts don’t matter to most Australian or questions about the need for public investment.

Our Arts in Daily Life survey emphatically dispels some of those myths, but we need to do more to explain and demonstrate the powerful and beneficial role of the arts in Australia, and better understand the health and evolving shape of our sector.

So in a significant new initiative the Australia Council will report annually on the state of the arts to provide a snapshot of sector growth and sustainability. The first State of the Arts Report will be launched in November of this year and we look forward to your feedback as we continue to enrich and refine it each year.

This work should, we believe, provide a valuable resource for everyone in the arts community.  Indeed, our enhanced research program more broadly will contribute significantly to the evidence base which informs arts policy development, supports marketing and development, and creates a more informed public dialogue about the arts.

This is just a snapshot of our plans, and the Council is excited about the direction we are heading and the opportunities to partner with you in realising these aspirations.  With these and other initiatives the Australia Council will be looking to support the work of arts organisations as you reach out and connect with audiences, partners, funders and the broader community.

Let me conclude.

More Australians than ever before know that the arts make a profound difference to the well-being of individuals and communities.

All of you contribute to that critical link between artists and audiences, and to increasing the access that Australians from all backgrounds and locations have to the arts.

Recent years have seen striking examples of success in forging these connections.  And with your hard work audiences are responding enthusiastically, with benefits across our community and our economy as well.

But the future will no doubt continue to be challenging.

I hope this Summit is a great chance to refresh your thinking by being away from the office and in an environment which challenges you to consider new ideas, approaches and build your networks.

I also hope you take advantage of this wonderful city, and the two wonderful venues in which we are hosting this Summit.

I want to extend a personal thank you to all the speakers for sharing their wisdom and experience.
And I wish you all a wonderful, productive and inspirational two days.