Thursday, July 31, 2008
Creativity, the Arts and The Future of Penang
A discussion document for a Policy for the Arts Industry in
We, the Penang Arts Alliance, acknowledge the need to create a Policy for Creativity and the Arts in
The vision is based on equity, social inclusion and sustainability and addresses the collective artistic needs and aspirations of the people of
This belief has to be embedded in policies and programmes that are generated by the government elected by the people of
By envisioning a central role for the Arts within the wider context of local economic development, the creative potential of present and future generations will be realised on a continuing basis. With freedom of expression through education, the artistic platform will naturally be widened and critical ideas and creations generated by the Arts will bring an edge of innovation and dynamism to
The artistic and heritage values which underscore the originality, the history and the continuity of our Arts must always be protected, especially in the face of undue foreign influences in open media and homogenisation. The values that reside in our physical and material legacies, our artefacts and artistic creations, our living expressions and our diverse traditions are our roots which are the foundations for growth and integrity of idea.
The Arts Industry: integral to
1. Developing a policy for the Arts in
2. The United Nations estimates that creative industries account for 7% of global GDP, and is growing at 10% per annum. In the
3. As well as contributing to the economic growth of
4. Supporting the Arts will also contribute significantly to
The Principles of a Policy for the Arts Industry
1 A policy for
2 In formulating the mechanisms and structures by which an Arts Policy is to be devised and implemented, it should be borne in mind that the optimum outcome is that the Arts industry should be strongly rooted in our diverse and rich local experience, locally controlled and locally driven.
3 In paying heed to the principles of sustainability, a policy for Penang’s Art industry will avoid large expenditure on imported events, but rather will choose to build on the assets already owned by the
4 Such an approach will reflect the inspiration of the UN’s 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, which sets out the importance of the preservation and "promotion of the fruitful diversity of cultures". This Declaration has been taken forward through a variety of further resolutions and initiatives, such as the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and the adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Such international agreements set out a platform that links together the issues of cultural diversity, peace and development, and the role of the state in fostering pluralism. These agreements also highlight the need for policy makers to take these issues into consideration at both national and international level, and emphasise the need for promotion of intercultural dialogue.
5 It would also reflect the inspiration and principles of UN’s Local Agenda 21, to which
1. Traditional arts of the different communities.
2. Tradition of street culture. Penang has also been enlivened over the centuries by ‘arts in the street’: celebrations, festivals, theatre, street markets, traders and hawkers all utilise
3. Fathers of modern South-east Asian Art.
Building on the heritage and assets of Penang’s arts scene, there are a host of opportunities and benefits to be gained from devising and implementing a vibrant Arts industry policy for
1. New ideas for a vibrant future. Properly supported, the arts can foster spaces for the development of cutting edge ideas, innovative forms of expression, and demanding teamwork. All of these are exactly the sort of attributes demanded by participants in the global economy. Supporting the Arts industry will develop creativity and make a major contribution to Penang’s demand for a creative workforce capable of driving
2. Protecting cultural traditions and promoting social harmony. An Arts industry policy will not just help protect the many highly valuable cultural traditions to be found within
3. Providing entertainment for increasing leisure. With increasing affluence comes increasing expenditure on leisure activities. A vibrant local Arts scene can capture the economic opportunities this provides, as well as play a crucial role in stimulating intellectual thought, social connections and life enrichment.
Opportunities for the State Government
There are many opportunities available to the State government in helping develop a vibrant and flourishing Arts industry in
Leading the way to ensure that arts policy is integrated into the various discussions and initiatives relating to these other sectors is a major open opportunity for the Penang state government. This will involve some medium-term and longer-term strategising.
There are other, more specific areas related to the Arts which provide particular positive and more immediate opportunities to the state government.
1. Developing a coherent and transparent structure and funding policy.
In formulating any system or policies to structure the Arts in
We would argue therefore that our decision-making structures and our funding processes need to be more transparent. This would include a search to make the process of decision-making more inclusive, by widening membership of key decision-making bodies to allow members of the public and arts professionals to play an enhanced role. We can start with those bodies dealing directly with the Arts, but would also make the point that this should extend to bodies dealing with the concerns such as tourism, industrial development and education as well.
Further, we would argue that it is crucial to provide support and opportunity to as wide a range of arts activities as possible in
While maximising the possibilities of existing public funding, we need to be aware of the limitations the state government faces in providing adequate funding to the arts industry in
Here the leadership of the state government is crucial. Defining the objectives, potential events and avenues for such funding will need to be done in consultation with the various stakeholders. Establishing an annual Penang Arts Festival, with a clear Penang identity and building on
1 revisit the Majlis Kebudayaan Negeri (MKN) to widen its membership and define more clearly its objectives
2 make MKN meetings open and its discussions posted in the public domain
3 institutionalise the building of partnerships between the state government, the MKN and arts organisations, the voluntary sector, the private sector and other funders and stakeholders, through regular scheduling of dialogue sessions
4 base funding policy on the principles of transparency and inclusiveness, with a key objective to support a wide range of local, sustainable arts activities
5 develop strong leadership with regard to arts sponsorship, with the links to the private sector particularly important.
6 commit to an annual Penang Arts Festival (see below)
2. Support for performances
Cultural infrastructure is essential for the growth of the arts. In 2008, the number of dedicated performance halls in
There are a number of problems facing local groups in utilising these venues, however. They include the high cost of rental, last minute cancellations of bookings for state functions and over-use of the halls, and difficulties with regard to the applying for and obtaining taxes and permits.
In particular, the newly renovated Town Hall which has an excellent medium-sized performance hall has been inaccessible to NGOs because of its high rental rates and the conditions imposed.
Further, amateur groups also have major difficulty with regard to rehearsal spaces, which are lacking in
Groups also face problems with regard to permits and regulations, as well as tax. At the moment, in order to be able to put up a public performance with ticketing in
Make access to venues easier by
1 Lowering and standardising the rental rates of performance and rehearsal spaces in state-owned buildings for amateur arts groups. These include Dewan Sri Pinang, P. Ramlee Auditorium, Auditorium A Komtar and the Town Hall.
2 Making accessible all public spaces such as youth centres (eg. Pusat Belia Pulau Pinang, Lebuh Acheh) to all arts groups.
3 Creating a One-Stop Centre for the obtaining of all permits (see below).
4 Abolishing the Entertainment Tax for ticketed performances.
We have pointed out the various and huge benefits of a vibrant and creative arts industry in
However, there is a lot of work to be done in
Empowering people in relation to the arts – whether as performers, sponsors, or audience – is a major opportunity for the state government. There used to be an Arts and Culture Information counter service at the Dewan Sri Pinang, which also ran a website with information about arts and cultural events in
Further, the creation of a cultural hub, defining a geographical area as having a particular role in celebrating and informing people (including tourists) about
1 performance venues, rehearsal spaces, galleries, museums, an arts library, cafes, restaurants, and bookstore in one space (Dewan Sri Pinang and the Town Hall at the moment has considerable empty spaces and rooms which could be converted to smaller theatres, black boxes or rehearsal spaces. Outdoor and community performances can be held at the field.
2 a pool of arts professionals, including lighting and sound technicians, together with high-standard venue facilities, including excellent lighting and sound systems, good acoustics, and raked seating;
3 a One-Stop-Centre for the application of licenses, booking of venues, administration of performance and rehearsal spaces, security and maintenance.
4 an Arts and Culture Information Counter Service, providing up-to-date information on the range of arts activities throughout Penang, producing and distributing an arts calendar, selling tickets for events and running a dedicated website celebrating and promoting
In addition, different types of Penang arts membership can be created (eg. endowments - state and private, corporate partners, corporate sponsors, ordinary members) and season tickets sold as part of developing a
In creating awareness, recognising and encouraging the role of a supportive media is crucial. The press and other media do not just play important roles in advertising and informing audiences of performances and cultural events. Providing write-ups of the many arts activities and groups in Penang will begin to develop appreciation among the
In this regard, it is important that official recognition be given to practitioners of performing and visual arts and crafts and to provide the means for them to work in their chosen cultural environment so that heritage is sustained. The Penang Heritage Trust and HSBC Bank have initiated the Living Heritage Treasures of Penang Awards which have been given to 8 traditional artists in recognition of their contributions to the intangible cultural heritage of
1 establish an Arts and Culture Information centre
2 establish a dedicated
3 put together and coordinate a calendar of events of programmes held in the state
4 establish a one-stop centre to attend to all necessary permits, licenses, and booking of venues, and other related administration
5 establish a cultural hub, as outlined above
6 explore various ways of attracting membership and support for the
7 for proactive media interest and state government spokespersons to be active in promoting arts activities and possibilities to the media
8 for the state government to actively support, promote and disseminate existing schemes such as the Living Heritage Treasures of Penang Awards.
4. Providing a focus:
A properly planned annual Arts Festival can play the role of encouraging, extending, and inspiring the local arts sector, as well as providing a ready-made avenue for the attraction of private sponsorship. Of course it can also hugely enhance the name of
Further, arts festivals which include diverse multi-cultural groups (local and foreign, mainstream and experimental) encourage the sort of cultural interchange and cross fertilisation which builds the vibrancy and innovation crucial to the sustainability of our local arts and culture scene. At the same time, an arts festival creates the possibilities of attracting new and cross-over sponsors and audiences, making a wider range of arts available to a wider range of people. This will contribute to broader outcomes for communities and society as a whole.
It is suggested that, in committing to this, the state government base it on traditional arts (Penang Traditional Arts Festival), to celebrate the literary and visual arts and crafts of
puppet theatre (shadow and three dimensional); gong instruments (gamelan, piphat, kulintang etc); drums and percussion ensembles; orchestras (Chinese, Indian, Malay, western); pantun and poetic forms; textiles; visual arts; masks (topeng); traditional medicine; crafts; lion and dragon dances; opera (bangsawan, chinese opera, zarzuela, ludruk etc); and various ethnic musics from around the world (local and pop idiom).
In committing to it, the
In supporting the Arts Festival, with private sponsorship a crucial funding element, the state government would not be deserting other arts activities or other on-going
5. Enhancing and strengthening existing festivals and events
There a range of festivals and regular projects that are already in existence in
6. Promoting cultural exchange, learning and research
The state government should look at possibilities of promoting cultural exchanges and arts education programmes within the state, at local levels, to enhance the arts industry’s contribution to cultural understanding, mutual tolerance and social harmony. Further, support for learning and research will be crucial in allowing
For example, using the Penang Traditional Arts Festival as a focus, local and invited artistes from the regions could facilitate practical workshops and talks on music, dance, theatre, visual arts, design, craft making or literature for local practising artistes, school children and college students. These practical workshops would not only create intercultural exchange through jamming sessions but expose participants to different types of traditional and contemporary arts of the Asian region and raise their awareness about how traditional performing arts can be contemporarised so that they are relevant to the times. Workshops on how traditional crafts can be branded and enhanced by modern design and marketing strategies could promote economic sustainability among traditional artisans.
Developing this kind of commitment would allow present and future
A particular facility that is important for archival and documentation of projects held in
The library can act as a centre for research and learning for arts and culture in the state, while housing archives of important documentations of the state’s cultural activities and artistic history. It can also have its arts collection expanded and strengthened to house as wide an array of materials for Penangites to be able to refer to.
It can also provide spaces for intellectual interaction and artistic practice – for training and performance.
7. Longer term perspectives
Bringing the arts industry into the centre of strategic planning for
Firstly, Penang (and
Secondly, we need to establish the creative industries as a central engine of our economy, driving innovation, and contributing above their weight to the vital task of growing our economy. The state government can take the lead, even at federal level, in recognising the vital contribution of the creative economy, including the arts, and in working pro-actively with the industry (including investors) to meet and, where possible, anticipate their needs. Part of this will be to build an unrivalled pool of talent for industries and investors to draw on, which may well involve the state government in developing the same formal, structural support for the creative industries as is associated with other industries, such as assistance with infrastructure and skills development. Including the local arts industry in initiatives such as the recently announced Penang Science Park and a Skill Competency Centre (to draw in more cutting edge technology investments), and other InvestPenang discussions, would be a start. The arts industry should also be centrally included in the search for ways to help develop entrepreneurship and business developments in creative industries, through developing appropriate training, apprenticeships and/or seed funding. The Arts Council in
In summary, the state government has a fundamental role and some major opportunities in providing leadership and public funding to stimulate creativity and sharpen
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
CREATIVITY - THE ARTS & THE FUTURE OF PENANG
A Proposal by the Penang Arts Alliance
(See separate Arts Memorandum for details)
The Penang Arts Alliance (PAA) comprises an assemblage of diverse art-groups with a shared passion and vision based on equity and social inclusion for the development and sustainability of the Arts Industry in Penang. PAA acknowledges that the formulation of a Policy for Creative Arts based on the CAT principles avowed by the Pakatan Rakyat state government will enable PAA to articulate this vision.
Given Penang’s rich legacy and ongoing celebration of the creative arts - music, visual arts, theatre, storytelling, and multi-ethnic performance culture, Penang is set to play a central role for the Arts Industry within the wider context of the state’s development.
PAA is therefore convinced that the Arts Industry can provide Penang with a dynamic and innovative edge. This in turn will have a significant and positive impact on the cultural vibrancy, sustainability, social cohesion and harmony of our state. Support for the local Arts scene will also contribute significantly to Penang’s target of becoming a major regional tourism hub.THRUST
Ø The Arts industry should be strongly rooted in our diverse and rich local experience, locally controlled and locally driven. It should be built on the assets already owned by the Penang community.
Ø PAA proposes the creation of a cultural hub – defining a geographical area as having a particular role in celebrating the arts and disseminating arts-related information. (Suggested area to include Dewan Sri Pinang, the Esplanade Town Hall, Padang Kota and Fort Cornwallis).
Ø PAA proposes the support of an iconic arts festival e.g. Penang Traditional Arts Festival as a flagship event that celebrates Penang as a leading world centre of heritage, culture, tradition and the creative arts.
Ø PAA proposes the setting up of an Action Committee comprising active members from the arts community and public sector departments of government to monitor, network, champion and manage the arts industry in Penang.
- lack of systematic information dissemination on activities
- bureaucracy and red tape by government in permitting performances and in imposing tax
- lack of funding and sponsorship for projects
- revisit the Majlis Kebudayaan Negeri (MKN) to widen its membership and inclusiveness, and define more strongly its objectives
- establish a one-stop centre to attend to all necessary permits, licenses, booking of venues, and other related administration
-make accessible all public spaces such as youth centres to all arts groups
-base funding policy on the principles of transparency and inclusiveness, with a key objective to support a wide range of local, sustainable arts activities, by also encouraging private sponsorships
-lower and standardise rental rates of performance and rehearsal spaces in state-owned buildings for amateur arts groups. (For example: Dewan Sri Pinang, P. Ramlee Auditorium, Auditorium A Komtar and the Town Hall)
- abolish the Entertainment Tax for ticketed performances by NGOs.
3. Marketing & Promotions
- establish an Arts and Culture Information centre
- establish a dedicated Penang arts and culture website
- promote proactive media interest - state government spokespersons to be active in promoting arts activities and related possibilities to the media
- the state government to actively support, promote and disseminate existing project events such as the Living Heritage Treasures of Penang Awards, Penang Sculpture Project and the Little Penang Street Market.
- To promote cultural exchange through workshops and educational programs such as Anak-Anak Kota, PESSOC (Junior Orchestra), PSO, Temple of Fine Arts & schools Boria competition.
Developing a policy for the Arts in Penang should be seen as an integral part of an overall development strategy for our state