Wherever you find a particularly tight scrum of administrators and bureaucrats you can bet your bottom-dollar that, instead of a ball in the middle, there’s serious money.
When I first got wind of Arts Voice Christchurch (hereafter referred to as AVC) and thereafter identified the players who comprised the scrum of (essentially self-selected) folks, making up its First Seven-style committee, I couldn’t for the life of me twig why those exceedingly familiar (and busy) names would be interested in serving as ‘social workers’. That is, cultural clerks doling out small dollops of public dosh to garden city arts groups. Funds derived from what (I then-thought) would be a relatively small pool of money, provided by Creative New Zealand, to keep post-quake arts on life-support in Canterbury.
By now we know that Creative New Zealand facilitated the first (official) meeting of AVC – and thereafter promptly disassociated itself (at least claiming to distance itself in emails to me) from the organization.
After some conversation with an unnamed party close to AVC, it became immediately apparent to me that CNZ money is the least of it. Consider the vast charitable sums pouring into the country of NZ and town of CCH (for example the 10s upon 10s of millions held by the Prime Minister’s Fund & CCH Mayor’s Fund) amassed from international and national donors - in response to the Canterbury Earthquake disaster. Consider that there has already (well, at least reportedly) been ongoing conversations, between AVC and the treasury-keepers of such funds, with AVC being touted as a major (or sole) adjudicator of who does and does not get cultural funding from these fat new sources.
Dialogue between the AVC and the City Council (at least according to reports I’ve heard) is already tossing around ideas of a newly configured arts precinct, with altogether new arts entities, and new homes for old arts entities in (or built upon) council owned real estate. There’s already talk about channeling ‘transitional’ funds (monies I’ve spoken to in the previous paragraph) through AVC to ‘deserving’ organizations. Will there be any self-interest (enlightened or otherwise) attached to AVC apportioned funds? Do members of AVC have pre-existing relationships with arts organizations and will those organizations get a place at the front of the soup line?
Consider also the vast powers vested in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, who, in consultation with the City Council, may, by fiat- seize, re-designate, redesign, and redevelop land and built real-estate in the inner city – in the (putative) interest of short and long term post-quake civic life. Again, reports have it that there is conversation about just those sorts of ‘cultural-utopia’ scenarios.
Put into play all that ready (new) money. Add to that, Christchurch City Council property + land & built real estate…and add to that the fact that CERA/CCC now has the power to (hypothetically) repurpose private property. And VOILA you’ve got the ‘serious money’ I alluded to in the first paragraph of this speculative essay.
No wonder we see the usual suspects tightly scrummed up….. around, something.
That some AVC committee-members-in-waiting were canny enough (somebody’s been reading Machiavelli’s The Prince?) to invite CNZ big wigs to fly down and provide government agency blessing and imprimatur (and dubious credibility via a hastily organized and sparsely attended ‘election’) is a testament to someone's intelligence, political nimbleness and velocity toward the money-trough.
The preposterous idea, as advertised (through an incidental back-pages column in The Press) that the Christchurch Arts Community elected the AVC committee members can be readily given the lie by a reliable eyewitness report of only two artists in attendance at the meeting – the meeting where the so-called election took place. Two artists total at the AVC “election”. Lol, for crying out loud.
The rich cultural fiefdoms, groaning treasuries, and unassailable power-bases waiting to be carved out by (and possibly for) AVC committee members is, by Canterbury standards, breathtaking. And disaster capitalism at its finest.
Since no link to the Arts Voice CCH website seems to be working (at least at the mo') I've listed the AVC committe members and their contact details below in case your interested in 'talking' to them.
There's a meeting tonight- Thursday 26 May- at The Chateau....maybe that's why the AVC website went dead. A whole lot of major CCH artworld folk I've talked to had/have never heard of AVC until I brought it to their attention. I finds that fact, in and of itself, an interesting phenom.
HERE'S A CUT-AND-PASTE from the AVC WEBPAGE
"At a meeting facilitated by Creative New Zealand on Wednesday 27th April a 7 member committee was elected by attendees to represent the arts community of Christchurch. Your elected representatives on Arts Voice Christchurch are:"
Deborah McCormick, Director, Art & Industry Biennial Trust & SCAPE Christchurch Biennials (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Steph Walker, General Manager, Christchurch Arts Festival (email@example.com)
Dr. George Parker, member of Free Theatre Christchurch and manager of Te Puna Toi Performance Research Project (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Philip Aldridge, Chief Executive, The Court Theatre (email@example.com)
James Caygill, CEO, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and Southern Opera (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dr. Jane Gregg, Dean of Creative Industries, CPIT (Jane.Gregg@cpit.ac.nz)
Sean Whitaker, General Manager, Christchurch School of Music (email@example.com)