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New ways of funding the arts

Ireland is a creative country. We have a reputation internationally for this and indeed this has been pointed out numerous times at a variety of think tanks and through a multitude of articles, comments and other blogs. Yet the system is in decline because of the emphasis on government funding over the years and the financial pressure on the Arts Council and those that it supports.

We need to look at alternative ways. Yes, philanthropy has always been an option but one of the issues with this historically (apart from the potential of mission drift) is that it is often for a limited time period. At some point usually in a short period of time the funding runs out. We need to think about more long-term and sustainable models to deal with this.

One example is the new breed of funders coming out of the United States such as Creative Capital (nifty name). Creative Capital was founded in 1999 to support artists drawing on venture capital concepts to provide funding, counsel and career development services. It is the only national grantmaking and artist service organization for individual artists with an open application process, supporting projects in five disciplines: Emerging Fields, Film/Video, Innovative Literature, Performing and Visual Arts. Like many venture capital organisations Creative Capital takes on a long-term partnership with artists. Creative Capital’s support system is built on the core principle that time and advisory services are as crucial to artistic success as funding. The money and support are long-term, even beyond the project that is initially supported.

In 2003, Creative Capital launched its Professional Development Program to share with a broader community of artists the tools and strategies for improved self-sufficiency that were initially developed for grantees. It has supported the Arts in the US with over $20 million in finance and support in the last decade. I know there are many who are concerned about the power of some of these modern social venture philanthropy funds, but at least the fundees know they have a revenue stream going out a number of years, as opposed to many currently government-funded arts organisations who live year to year.

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