A Arts Audiences project has started to assist arts organisations in constrained economic times.
8.2.2 Policies and programmes
The current Arts Council strategy Developing the Arts, 2011-2013 articulates its commitment to public access and participation. It is intended to realise this through touring and dissemination activities, venue support, shared service incentivisation and public engagements. A conference hosted by CREATE and Voluntary Arts Ireland (October 2011), explored issues of arts practice, policy and inclusion. Broadly, it acknowledged the inhospitable context for arts participation given the uneasy relationship between the state, the market and civil society in Ireland and the considerable challenges this poses in terms of scale and system. It is widely accepted that civil society in Ireland has been disabled by a policy of co-option during the boom years with implications for all aspects of social cohesion, including arts policy. Along with the dangers posed by the current crisis, it underlined the need for new thinking to underpin progress in this domain.
The National Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art and National Library and Museum as well as the other national cultural institutions operate a policy of free admission and have education and outreach departments that offer workshops, symposia, in-service teacher training, lectures, resource rooms, demonstrations etc. All the national cultural institutions are now being severely challenged by budget cuts and staffing restrictions: this is having and will inevitably continue to impact on access and outreach policy in the coming years. The Heritage Council runs a National Heritage Week and a programme of intervention in schools to raise consciousness of the natural heritage. Annual projects - such as Culture Night when, in 2012, 34 centres of population in Ireland, urban and rural, opened the doors of 500 cultural and arts organisations to the public free of charge - function as high profile events that focus on an access agenda.
In 2009, the Arts Council in collaboration with Temple Bar Cultural Trust commenced an Arts Audiences project aimed at assisting arts organisations to increase organisational capacity to build audiences in constrained economic times. It undertakes project work, mentoring and pilots in good audience development practice, marketing and customer service with a particular focus on new technology and social media.