Remarks by Damien Minton at the SAVE TAFE ART
rally held at the Damien Minton Gallery 19 November 2012
To witness a living, breathing 120 year old institution like the Newcastle Art School being kneecapped by the O’Farrell government is a scandal.
This act of school yard bully boy violence is distressing as it has sent the dedicated art teachers, both full time and part time, into trauma as they scramble to salvage a new structure to stay alive in 2013.
The actions of this NSW government to stop funding the visual arts departments within the TAFE system from next year shows how we as a society has slipped back into a new cultural dark age.
As one drives through or visits many regional towns in NSW there are still stately Victorian era buildings with the words ‘School of Arts’ sitting proudly on the façade. They symbolise our 19th century great great grandfathers and mothers developing and maturing an understanding and resolve in placing the visual arts and crafts shoulder to shoulder with their work ethic of employment and business.
At the turn of the 19th into the 20th century there was real pride in using a visual language to inform, define and articulate community and society.
The O’Farrell decision to stop funding the visual arts within TAFE illustrates how far we have regressed from that proud stance.
We are back into the cultural dark ages, the neo age of despots, it is an act of Cromwellian proportions.
Macquarie Street has no understanding or knowledge as to how the visual arts in TAFE is an essential component of an economic eco system that circulates well beyond the art school walls.
The vast majority of artists this art gallery presents teach in the TAFE system, passing on their knowledge and skills for 8 to 10 hours a week. Without it, their art practice becomes vulnerable and precarious.
Also, the first solo exhibitions by emerging artists staged at this gallery have invariably been recent graduates from TAFE.
The eagerness and enthusiasm of the artists’ families and friends is far more meaningful and infectious than the nickels and dimes that flow from the red dots on the white walls.
It gives young artists the confidence and possibility of being productive creative human beings.
The TAFE system provides a ‘hands on’ environment for creative people to be nurtured and encouraged, a ‘pastoral’ care model of teaching.
So to suddenly witness these ‘culture houses’ being destroyed is like watching a You Tube video of an Israeli missile slamming into its target.
The complicity of the TAFE bureaucracy to step aside and point at the soft target is cowardly and deplorable.
The art staff involved in this essential part of the broader visual arts industry now have to gasp for air in order to survive. They are scrambling and stitching together a new fee structure for students in order to survive, all within four months.
You may ask yourself, why?
Cutting the funds of Fine Arts in TAFE compared to the enormity of NSW INC is hardly a cost saving measure.
It is the mosquito, not the elephant, in the room.
These gruesome and lethal cuts stem from the war the apparatchiks within TAFE have staged for decades.
It is a war against creativity, because creativity will never fit neatly into an economic determinist excel spreadsheet. The visual arts is irritating and the word culture immediately makes the eyes roll.
The bureaucracy’s obsession with quantitative data goes right up to the level of the Bacon and Kapoor shows currently on offer this summer.
Money spent in the visual arts can be justified if it fits into an economic strategy.
These people get turned on by balance sheets neatly adding up, they get orgasmic when red ink turns into a surplus.
So they fear creativity, even within themselves. They don’t understand it, they don’t want this irritation.
So get rid of it.
Ironically this becomes the main weapon for artists and arts administrators.
It is something O’Farrell and his dark age Macquarie Street cronies fear the most … the joy and potency of creativity.
Damien Minton Gallery