EU, Brexit and the Arts Industry: What will happen to the UK Arts Sector?

Is the UK better off in the EU?
Is the UK better off in the EU?

I’m undecided which way to vote and need to consider to what extent the EU provides opportunities I can personally take advantage of. In theory, access to Europe and the freedom of movement is great but a rise in far right politics, nationalism, Islamophobia and continued discrimination, particularly against ethnic groups, doesn’t encourage me to think we are closer to practicing the harmonious union of nation states our leaders advocate. Many groups consider it difficult enough in the UK so will Europe, with all its challenges, be any easier for citizens with non-European origins to move freely? It’s all about perspective.

For most people, the Brexit issue didn’t appear life threatening but with the vote less than a month away, Brits are now considering the benefits of staying in. Despite the scaremongering and poor performance of leading politicians explaining the issues, we do need to consider if benefits of lower prices, more jobs and increased trade will be at stake.

The Economy

The UK economy is undoubtedly strong and has benefited from being in Europe. Whilst the ‘Out Campaigners’ argue Britain is the fifth largest economy and can survive on its own, we should consider whether its economic ranking is a direct consequence of having preferential access and influence on the EU trading block comprising of half a billion people. We also need to consider the view of the Bank of England and IMF who provide an overview of the UK’s likely performance as a consequence of exiting. There remains a belief by many that Britain is in a position to command the same political and economic clout as it did at the peak of is colonial empire but this simply isn’t true, particularly with the rise of new global economic blocks and their growing influence on the political sphere. There are so many things to consider such as what is right for businesses, particularly small enterprises and how will they compete on a world market?

So what does this mean for the UK Arts sector?

In theory, being in the European market opens up opportunities for its creative industries. European Union funding nourishes and protects innovation in the UK and it is hoped such benefits will continue. Arts funding has historically been one of the first areas to be cut by UK Governments in periods of austerity so would a UK Government exiting the EU act differently during what may be a financially turbulent time?

The vibrancy of our arts sector is one of Britain’s great qualities. It is an arts superpower and home to recognised artists, musicians, filmmakers and theatrical impresarios. The UK is apparently the second-largest exporter of television in the world, worth £1.2bn in 2012 and home to the second-largest design sector on the planet, worth £131m in exports in 2011. The EU is Britain’s second-largest export market for music. Approximately 1.6 million people in the UK are employed in the creative sector, pumping out £71.4bn in gross value added. Of course, this is the result of the talent and drive of individuals in the British arts sector but there is no doubt that EU membership and funding from the EU’s Creative Europe initiative has and will continue to be been a contributing factor.

So Yes or No?

I’ll be the first to say the EU is not at all perfect and I do have my concerns about how the UK handles immigration and its economy. Is it right for Britain to throw away 40 years membership of one of the most lucrative markets on its doorstep, not to mention once again jeopardize the continuation of the union of the UK with a possible second Scottish referendum?  What will all this mean for the creative industries? I’d love to hear your views. It’s time for UK arts professionals to speak up and vote!

Schomburg’s two great exhibitions on African American Theatre and AfroFuturism

As my exhibition comes to an end I’ve been taking time to check out a number of exhibitions and events currently available to see. Two very interesting exhibitions are at New York’s Schomburg Centre in Harlem.

The centre celebrates the 75th anniversary of our renowned American Negro Theatre (ANT). Known to the locals as “The Harlem Library Little Theatre,” the ANT was founded in 1940 as a community space for thespians to work in productions that illustrated the diversity of black life. This exhibition is taken entirely from the Schomburg Collections and highlights the ANT’s stage productions from 1940 through 1949 with photographs, posters, playbills, and news clippings. Images include scenes from successful plays such as Anna Lucasta, studio workshops, and radio broadcasts featuring prominent talent like Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and Lofton Mitchell, whose careers began at the ANT.

The second show is Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination Curated by artist John Jennings and Reynaldo Anderson,this exhibition includes artifacts from the Schomburg collections that are connected to Afrofuturism, black speculative imagination and Diasporan cultural production. Offering a fresh perspective on the power of speculative imagination and the struggle for various freedoms of expression in popular culture, Unveiling Visions showcases illustrations and other graphics that highlight those popularly found in science fiction, magical realism and fantasy.

Both shows run until December 31st so if you’re in the city please visit. The exhibition galleries are open Monday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. For further info please visit http://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions

In Conversation- Joanne Oplustil, President & CEO, CAMBA

Joanne Oplustil, President & CEO, CAMBA
Joanne Oplustil, President & CEO, CAMBA

As you may know, I’m currently preparing for another show at Chelsea’s Amsterdam Whitney gallery. I’m particularly looking forward to the possibility of supporting the work of CAMBA by donating 10% of sales from my work. I’ve been a supporter of the charity for a couple of years now and would like to see this organisation achieve its objectives to help many of New Yorkers who are facing a variety of hardships.

Joanne Oplustil, President & CEO, CAMBA / CAMBA Housing Ventures was kind enough to provide answers to some questions I posed to her regarding the agency, it’s mission and future.

Q- Can you provide a summary of the organisations origins and it’s vision?

CAMBA was founded in 1977 as a merchant association in Flatbush to reduce crime and beautify the community. CAMBA’s leadership quickly recognized that commercial revitalization was impossible without creating paths to opportunity for residents, particularly the burgeoning population of immigrants and refugees. CAMBA grew in direct response to community needs, and today we reach 45,000 New Yorkers annually with 160 programs delivered from 70 locations throughout the five boroughs.

Today, CAMBA:

  • Provides for Basic Needs: This year, CAMBA provided shelter to more than 4,500 people, permanent supportive housing for more than 1,110 individuals and families with special needs, and 45,000 pantry bags to hungry Brooklynites.
  • Develops Human Capital: Annually, 9,000 youth attend CAMBA educational and enrichment programs, and 2,000 adults engage in job training, English or adult literacy classes.
  • Prevents Harm: CAMBA’s services are designed to help families and individuals avoid an array of societal ills, from preventable hospitalizations, to family violence, to eviction or deportation. Last year, we prevented more than 3,186 families from being evicted.
  • Remediates: CAMBA helps stabilize New Yorkers with drug addiction or mental illness, reconnect youth who have left school, and settle refugees who have suffered trauma in their home countries.

What sets us apart from peer organizations is CAMBA’s holistic approach to transforming lives. We know that children succeed only as part of families and communities, so we invest in parenting, education, job training and health in addition to providing safe, sustainable and affordable housing. CAMBA provides essential services to improve client outcomes and help residents attain self-sufficiency. By providing holistic support to help individuals and families gain stability, we fortify the neighborhoods we serve, having community-level and City-wide impact and driving local economic growth.

Q- According to published figures, you’ve helped over 45,000 people in the city. In which areas and issues have you been most effective and why?

We help 45,000 New Yorkers every year! Each of our programs has distinct outcomes we are trying to achieve, but we have an excellent track record of accomplishing what we set out to do. I am particularly proud of our development of more than 1,500 units of permanent affordable housing, in just the first 10 years of developing housing.

We view affordable housing as a platform for individual and family stability and economic success, as well as a cornerstone for community revitalization. Through dedication to design excellence through contextual buildings, attractive façades and durable finishes, CAMBA Housing Ventures’ buildings demonstrate that affordable and supportive housing is a community asset and provides dignity for tenants. Our dedication to design excellence and proactive property management oversight have shifted expectations about what affordable housing looks like, removing the stigma associated with affordable housing and elevating design standards. CAMBA’s developments bring over a half-billion dollars in public/private investment into some of New York City’s most impoverished neighborhoods, bringing much–needed affordable housing, jobs and social services.

CAMBA provides permanent housing and onsite support services to more than 1,100 formerly homeless families and adults, including those struggling with mental illness or HIV/AIDS, at 18 residences throughout New York City. Through financial literacy, healthcare, access to employment, education/job training, independent living skills, and support groups, we help people who have been in and out of hospitals, jail and homeless shelters become stable and make meaningful contributions to their communities.

Q- Growing on the last 35 years of successfully helping communities, where do you see the organisation in the next 30 years?

CAMBA has been growing and responding to change for 38 years. And I believe that’s what we will continue to do – expanding our role in community based health care, creating and preserving safe and affordable housing for New Yorkers in needs, and helping the next generation of young people break the cycle of poverty and gain the skills they need to succeed in education, careers and families. We will continue lift up communities where the needs are more dire by taking a holistic approach to individuals, families and neighborhoods. And I hope I am around to see it!

For further information on CAMBA please visit http://www.camba.org

CAMBA
CAMBA

What is art for? Alain de Botton’s animated guide

In this exclusive video for the UK Guardian newspaper, philosopher Alain de Botton gives his top five reasons why art is such a vital force for humanity. Are we wrong to like pretty pictures? Why is some art painful to look at? Can art heal your feelings of urban alienation? Relax, watch and find out. This article was originally featured in September 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/video/2014/sep/10/what-is-art-for-alain-de-botton-guide-video

Rebuild By Design- At the Copenhagen Architecture Centre

This week I had the pleasure of visiting friends in Denmark to explore contributing to a very worthwhile project this autumn. Fingers crossed, there will be more to reveal shortly.

In the meantime, it was great to catch up with a number of exhibitions and events in Copenhagen including ‘Rebuild by Design.’

When Hurricane Sandy landed on the American East Coast it left behind chaos and destruction. ‘Rebuild by Design’ was a competition created to find solutions to repairing the damages and making the coastline more resilient to future storms. The exhibition presents a series of 10 solutions. Among the winning projects were OMA and Danish firm BIG who both provided innovative solutions to making the coast a safer place to live.

I was impressed with the many case studies included in the show such as New Meadowlands and Hoboken in New Jersey. I was most impressed with Hunts Point Lifelines, a collaborative project involving Penn Design, Barretto Bay Strategies, Buro Happold and McLaren Engineering amongst others. Hunts Point Lifelines sees jobs and the City’s food supply as critical resilience infrastructure, and communities as powerful integrators of economic, social and ecological potential to strengthen the whole, rather than the water’s edge alone.

The exhibition is supported by Realdania and is developed by  Rebuild by Design in cooperation with The Danish Architecture Centre. The show runs until 9th April 2015 but for further info please visit the Danish Architecture Centre website.

Easy Reading is Damn Hard Writing!

Africa Writes 2014
Africa Writes 2014

I had an enjoyable weekend at Africa Writes, the Royal African Society’s annual literature and book festival in association with the British Library. The energy and enthusiasm of some reminded me of the George R.R. Martin quote “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.” We can undervalue to power of literature and worth it holds in preserving our consciousness.

Launched in 2012, Africa Writes annually showcases established and emerging talent from the African continent and its diaspora in what is now the UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing. The weekend delivered an exciting and varied programme of book launches, readings, performance and discussions, featuring debut authors alongside acclaimed writers and poets. I’m glad I attended, particularly since I discovered I’m related to one of the guest speakers! The event also highlighted the disturbing challenges many black writers and publishing houses face regarding distributing books where protagonist are people of colour, represented in ways far removed from the negative stereotypes seen in the media.

We talk about equally, living in a progressive and educating society, but this is hampered when black authors and their chosen subjects are marginalized or perceived to be relevant only the minority groups they come from. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of this event, the authors and represented publishing companies despite the challenges. For more info visit Africa Writes website.