We could cower in difficult circumstances but we won’t. Instead we feel that even in difficult times we need to recognise the value of arts and our artists to us as a people and a country. On 12 September the Arts Council announced it had awarded €3.3m in bursaries over the past three years. This public money was invested in 375 Irish artists to enable them to develop their full potential and create great work.
Those artists and their work are worth celebrating. We did just that at a special outdoor concert in Merrion Square Park where An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, delivered a keynote address which celebrated Irish artistic talent, creativity and potential.
Throughout the day, there were performances from internationally renowned Irish artists including Julie Feeney and Anne Enright as well as performances in theatre, traditional music and jazz, many of these artists received Arts Council bursaries or other help at the beginning of their careers. There was also a special tribute to the late Seamus Heaney who was himself an Arts Council award recipient.
The Arts Council bursaries, are up to a maximum of €15,000 per annum and help artists who have no other income to alleviate the financial pressure of pursing their talents.
In An Taoiseach’s words, “These bursaries give you not alone the chance to work in your chosen discipline” they say that “what you do matters to our idea of who we are…. It is important to the artistic life of our nation…..our people.”
So from funding invested in nurturing individual artists, the Arts Council is again preparing for a new funding year for its main grant programmes. The next deadline for our main funding programmes (RFO, APG, AF) is on October 10. After that an internal process will commence once we are informed of our funding allocation in Budget 2014.
At the same time five medium-sized arts organisations have been selected for phase two of the Arts Council’s fundraising capacity building initiative, RAISE, The Business of Arts Fundraising. These five join seven larger arts organisations that were selected for the fundraising capacity building pilot. These organisations have completed the development of their fundraising strategies and most are in the process of hiring or have hired senior fundraisers who will implement these strategies over the coming months.
Like every state organisation we await the government’s budgetary decisions and continue to represent and advocate on behalf of the sector. Our Minister Jimmy Deenihan for his part is working hard with his colleagues to craft the best outcome amidst what are obviously considerable and conflicting pressures. All applications will be assessed over the coming months and decisions will be communicated to organisations in the early New Year.