Arts Funding in Ireland.

Keith Reid explores the impact of the economy on arts funding…

In its long and varied history, Ireland has often been revered for its impressive artistic endeavours – from the literary feats of James Joyce to the cinematic talent of Jim Sheridan. Today’s generation of young Irish artists are no different. But now, thanks to a decade of bad behaviour by the Irish political elite, are we being asked to sacrifice our future contributions to the arts?

Director of Finance for Ireland’s Arts Council, Martin O’Sullivan, says due to budget cuts in the Council, “considerable pressure has been put on the Arts Council to finance artistic projects across the country”. The Arts Council’s annual budget has been reduced by almost €20m since 2008. In 2009, when the budget was €73.35m, the Arts Council had to borrow €2m from the following year’s resources to fund all its projects, further reducing the budget for 2010. In 2011 the budget currently stands at €65.2m.

An Indecon report, which evaluated the economic impact of the arts in Ireland, was submitted to the Arts Council in 2009. It argued that not only are the arts important for Ireland’s homegrown talent to enrich our national culture and help regain our once vibrant economy, they are also important to improve our international image. For a small island nation with a relatively small population, Ireland has punched well above its weight when it comes to contributing to the world’s literature, cinema and art.

In an attempt to uphold this tradition, Fund it was born. Less than two months old, the initiative was set up by Business to Arts, a non-profit organisation that encourages creative relationships between business and the arts. Stuart McLaughlin, chief executive of Business to Arts, asked himself, “What do all those ‘likes’ on Facebook and followers on Twitter actually mean?” Thus, through the use of social media networks, email lists and other sources of contact, Fund it was born.

McLaughlin looked at previous funding models, and decided to develop a ‘crowd funding model’ for the Irish market, which already had success elsewhere. Artists can submit projects on where the Fund it team gives tips on making the project more attractive to potential funders.

The idea is that projects can be funded by receiving small amounts of money from a large number of people. The most important thing for artists submitting projects is to consider their potential audience.

For an artist to receive funding they must meet their target, which is usually a few thousand euros. After the projects, which range from film to fashion and music, go live on the site, it is up to the artists themselves to promote the projects using their own contacts. Fund it only provides the platform to source the funding.

To entice funders, the project creator provides incentives or ‘rewards’. This can be an advance viewing of a new film in the making or a copy of the album before its general release. According to McLaughlin the funders are “pre-buying their tickets for the play”.

So far the initiative has been a success; in its first six days over €5,000 was pledged. Even Martin O’Sullivan of the Arts Council has jumped on board, saying that he hopes to work closely with Fund it in the future.

With governmental funding decreasing annually, initiatives like Fund it give hope that through innovation and originality, we might just be able to give Ireland’s creative minds the resources they need.


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