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April 22, 2009

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Nicolette

Thank you, Larry!

Other positions on the subject which people might want to examine include:

Nicolette Bethel on CARIFESTA XI:
http://nicobethel.net/blogworld/2009/04/17/on-culture-carifesta-and-the-bahamian-economy-part-i/

Patrick Rahming on the Bahamian tourism product:
http://www.nassauinstitute.org/articles/article782.php

The Brussels Declaration by artists and cultural professionals and entrepreneurs (a PDF file):
http://www.culture-dev.eu/colloque/Culture-dev.eu-declabxl-en.pdf


larry smith

In this review, Nico, I quote you as saying: "there is nothing - either in law or on the ground - to support, encourage or develop artistic activity" in the Bahamas.

But on reflection there is quite a lot. What about the following?

•the national art gallery
•the national centre for the performing arts
•the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corp (which operates five well-managed public facilities in Nassau - three forts and two museums - and two museums on the out islands).
•the Collins Estate, which the AMMC is redeveloping into a key cultural attraction.
•the straw market, a multi-million-dollar subsidy
•the Arawak Cay fish fry - another public subsidy in terms of free land, maintenance and business promotion

Not to mention our natural heritage sites like national parks and Clifton.

I would agree that there is no overarching legislation or policy that governs all these initiatives, but why should there be?

Erasmus Folly

As always Larry, you choose the right stuff to comment on. The arts in this country are underfunded and unappreciated and it will take some kind of serious initiative to change the mentality of the people and get them to support the 'local'. I sense things are changing for the better, but, as in everything in this country, more is needed sooner than later.

The government could catalyse the arts movement in this country by rezoning a lot of existing spaces, buildings and areas downtown. I have long maintained that the court and parliament buildings need to be converted into a mixed use area of museums, live music, art spaces, historic spaces, shops and cafes. This single action, the conversion of Rawson square from Government centre to cultural centre would catalyse the artistic community. With so many cruise visitors, you create a natural market and critical mass for artistic goods and artistic experiences throughout downtown.

While the NAGB is a great place and I highly applaud their work, its location leaves much to be desired. Up on the hill and around the corner... Nassau just isn't ready for that yet. We need to get Bay Street and Prince George Wharf going and then we can extend development from there. Move the government and courts off of Bay and Shirley Street - create a cultural square. Put Bahamian culture ABOVE the history of Bahamian politics and government. Put our history ABOVE our politics. Put our art ABOVE our politics as well, you will see the change.

As the good book says, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Let us put our 'treasure' right in Rawson Square for the world to see, 4 million tourists visiting a year... how many live bands could play there... nice shaded gazeebo or pavilion with people having a coffee or cold beer, enjoying our tropical weather and about to head off to the museum, maybe buy a print or two... or a cd etc... that is changing hearts and minds. That is sound economics, sound business and sound policy. JUST DO IT!

Nicolette Bethel

Thanks, Larry. You quoted me correctly, and I was wrong; you caught me in a dogmatic frame of mind in our email exchange. There are some things in law and on the ground ostensibly to support artistic activity in The Bahamas.

I disagree with you regarding not needing overarching policy or legislation to govern these things. We are so ignorant as a nation about the value of culture, its potential for economic advancement, and what is required to create a vibrant cultural sector that policy at the very least is critical; none of the leaders I have observed, met, or worked with has much understanding or appreciation for the arts, and so many silly and wasteful decisions are made as the result of pressure being brought to bear on politicians piecemeal. Without a vision, chaos ensues, and absurdities flourish.

Of the agencies and places you mention, NAGB and AMMC are the only truly viable institutions, and are the best things going. They are governed by legislation and they have the ability to raise their own funds. They have some autonomy from the political directorate which is why they are well-managed. But though they have similar concerns, their legislation differs, sometimes crucially, and (once again) there is potential for overlap and/or confusion because of a lack of policy.

Collins Estate comes under AMMC. The Clifton Heritage Authority is a strange animal. It has governing legislation but its authority is limited, and superseded by the AMMC Act, which places the ruins themselves under the auspices of AMMC. This is what a lack of a policy or overarching legislation leads to -- potential for the spoiling of good ideas with confusion and contention.

The straw market is a waste of time and money. It does not support Bahamian craft — in fact it is largely responsible for killing off the industry.

Arawak Cay Fish Fry – publicly subsidized but extremely poorly regulated, and so a waste of public funds. The best part — the eating establishments — are squatters. The land they occupy is managed by several different agencies, and who manages it depends on the whim of the particular government in power, or even of the particular minister in power. Currently Agriculture manages the performing space — where is the sense in that?

The National Centre for the Performing Arts has no backstage, no lights, no sound, no changing facilities for performers. It is not worthy of the name and is an insult to performers (the performing arts part) and to the Bahamian nation (the national part). It is a good cinema, but has never had the investment to allow it to develop into any kind of functioning centre. It’s an expensive, inadequate auditorium.

It has no independent management. It comes under the so-called Department of Culture (Cultural Affairs Division). It has no budget line item. It has no maintenance line item (though one was requested every year). It has no capital expenditure line item. It has a rental fee, but that does not go to the theatre, it goes to the Consolidated Fund and is not returned. In rentals alone it generates between $30,000 and $60,000 a year in revenue but that money is not reinvested in the space. It is a disgrace.

To say nothing of the National Dance School, which occupies rented premises after having been moved — by the government — from two publicly-owned spaces, and which costs the government $80,000 in rent a year, and the government must pay utilities and maintain the building.

Proposals have been advanced to consolidate the Centre for the Performing Arts and the National Dance School & Company, but nothing has come of them, perhaps because the up-front expenditure for amalgamating the three (the Centre for the Performing Arts would have to be upgraded and renovated at some cost). The price tag was in excess of $10 million, but considering the fact that expenditure would be a true investment that would, with management that is as good as that of the NAGB and the AMMC, pay off in real terms in a few years’ time, while also enhancing our tourist product, creating sustainable jobs, and strengthening Bahamian cultural identity all at once, it seems at least as worth it as, say, deepening the harbour to allow for bigger cruise ships filled with more low-spending tourists -- at a far higher cost.

Rick

I cannot help myself on this one Thanks as usual Larry.
If our cultural product is that good, Bahamian's and tourists alike will seek it out.
If they are not looking for it, then the product has to change to suite the tastes of the market.
Having an already over burdened government do it will only make matters worse as Dr. Bethel has pointed out.
Rick

larry smith

That's not entirely true, Rick. There can be good reasons to incentivise or support nascent businesses (renewable energy comes immediately to mind). In such cases the real costs and obstacles are often unaccounted for.

However, the level and type of support, as well as the activities that are targeted, should be the subject of careful scrutiny.

Rick

Maybe the level and type of support can/should be put on the table so the people that pay the ultimate bill know what the special interest group is seeking?

larry smith

Absolutely. For example, a draft law for a national arts council was produced under the previous government, and a comprehensive cultural policy draft is also gathering dust on government shelves. The leading figures in these initiatives were the late Winston Saunders, Charles Carter and Nico herself. I don't know how much public consultation was involved.

Rick

Of course no public conversation was involved.
As we know, the vast majority of bills are crafted in smoke filled rooms under terms of secrecy.
Yet they want all Bahamians to pay for their special interest.
How do I get in line :0)

Erasmus Folly

@Rick
I would like to point out that the intelligent zoning and management of government properties and government land, which could be done to support the arts, doesn't interfere directly with the market, so much as it moves government out of the way of the market... it would be an effective catalyst.

@All
Why doesn't government hire UBS or Credit Suisse and have them do an overall cost saving, streamlining and rationalization assessment of all the nooks and crannies of government. If not one of the Swiss ones, then perhaps Goldman Sachs or some big analyst laden bank, the ones that do corporate procedures assessment and rationalizations. Let them study, BahamasAir, Water and Sewerage, ZNS, BEC etc etc. A full and comprehensive review. Publish their findings in the newspaper for consultation and get a REAL debate started in this country on what to do with these inflated bureaucracies, then there will be literally TONS of money for all manner of intelligent projects. Property tax rationalization alone, where government gets off highly valued property - so as to collect the tax - and looks for undeveloped property to move existing services too... All of that needs to happen. End free gas and free phones for government workers as well. We are not the USA, we need a budget that is REALISTIC about our market size and the size of our government.

larry smith

I have passed your suggestion on to KPMG for a response, Erasmus.

As to what could or should be done to support cultural development, COB lecturer Ian Strachan suggests a system of non-political grants for writers, painters, dancers, filmmakers, etc.

He also suggests giving more resources to the Broadcasting Corporation. Currently, the government subsidizes ZNS (which is more than bankrupt) to the tune of $8-10 million a year over the revenue it earns from advertising. And that still does not cover its obligations and liabilities.

Clearly, these suggestions are a recipe for another massive gravy train.

Rick

Thanks Erasmus Folly:
Regretfully the intelligent zoning does not exist. It might be a good idea as long as the special interests do not go back for anything else.
As we know, that does not happen.
Once a government programme starts I can't recall an instance locally, or any where else where they've stopped it.

drew Roberts

One thought I have about government funding of art is that any art that results and warrants a copyright should have to be put under a perpetual (duration of the copyright) Free and Copyleft license and the government should take a temporary copyright assignment to list for X years or Y times the amount the government invested in that piece of art.

Where X is something like 2 to 3 and Y is something like 2 to 10. Whichever comes later.

The art that the government pays to produce should be a public good.

This requirement would have many implications as to what art the government could fund but would at least get the public something for their spend.

So, either a new artist that has not made a name for themselves gets funded at the beginning and during that time creates works that the public can enjoy and build upon and reuse and then later, after they have made a name, they can make it without government funding and they can now do as they wish with the copyrights on their new works.

Or an artist is in a field that will never allow them to self fund and so the public will always have rights to all of that artists work due to the public having always to support that artist.

Of course, if any artist can get a better deal from private funding sources, they would be free to forgo the government support and make use of the private support instead.

To see what a Free and Copyleft license looks like see:

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

Many artist around the world are already using Free licenses of their own accord, some copyleft and some not.

Here are a few links to some Free licensed songs as an example:

http://www.jamendo.com/en/playlist/99982
http://www.kompoz.com/compose-collaborate/viewer.playlist?playlistId=1184&memberId=6509

all the best,

drew

Nicolette

Rick, I have to answer your comment about "no public consultation" regarding the Arts Council Bill and the National Cultural Policy. As I was involved in both, I can speak first-hand about the level of public consultation.

Both were done under the auspices of or in conjunction with the National Commission on Cultural Devleopment, which had a body of over 60 members of the wider cultural community and which met on a weekly basis for 4 years.

The Arts Council Bill was circulated fairly widely around the artistic community and was reviewed again and again. It also took into consideration recommendations sent to the Commission by Cultural Commissioners in every Family Island, town meetings throughout the Bahamas were held on a monthly basis for two years, and elements of the Bill were discusssed and debated on talk shows during 2002-2004. After the Bill was presented to the Cabinet in 2004, however, nothing more was heard about it.

The fact that it was a revision of a Bill that was produced as a result of the 1992-3 Senate Commission on Culture, headed by then Independent Senator Fred Mitchell, meant that it had been created after widespread public consultation during the 1990s. Since 2004, the Bill has existed in digital form and has been circulated among members of the cultural community, and may have informed the contents of the current Entertainment and Culture Encouragement Bill, which is being fought for by lobbyists such as Fred Munnings.

As for the Draft National Cultural Policy, that was presented to the Bahamian community at a National Cultural Conclave in February 2006, which was opened by the then Prime Minister and which was aired on national and Cable television. It was carried live by Immediate Response. It was presented specifically for input at that time, and was posted on the internet, where it remained for two years without a single response from any member of the public. It is no longer officially available online, though it still exists in digital form, in my possession.

At the time, the level of public consultation was so high that we were afraid that public fatigue would set in. However, given the tendency in the country to ignore general policy initiatives on the basis of partisan lines, I am not surprised that there were people who were not aware that any public consultation was going on -- or who were dismissing such consultation as political propaganda of one sort or another. But you cannot say that public consultation did not take place; it most certainly did.

My private report on the conclave may be found here.

http://nicobethel.net/ringplay/2006/02/26/report-on-national-cultural-conclave/

Some of the press coverage may be found here.

http://nicobethel.net/ringplay/2006/02/26/press-coverage-of-national-cultural-conclave/

Amy core

The Atlantis resorts may provide employment to hundreds of Bahamians but they are worlds away from providing a Bahamian experience.
How many tourists hear about the national treasure THE RETREAT and make a visit there.
Couldn't a number of the local churches organize on a rotating basis an evening of gospel music that they could share with others.
Once upon a time there was Eloise at the Emerald Beach...where is her successor now?
Amy Core,Zelienople, PA, USA

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