submitted by James Agapitos on 07.11.2006
Look. [Magazine of the] Art Gallery Society of New South Wales.
The answer I give to my stockbroker, who is a dear friend, when he teases me about my asking for more profit, is “the more money you make for us the more we can afford to give to the arts”. He really should stop teasing me, as he is a giver himself and knows the importance of benefaction and the pleasure it brings.
Australians are amongst the most generous people in the world, especially to causes we understand such as sport, health and religion; and when nature strikes, our generosity as individuals and as a nation is legendary. This has been proved time and again, most recently by our instant reaction to the earthquakes and tsunami.
It goes without saying that Australians can afford to be generous as we are now enjoying the benefits of an enviably affluent economy that is the result of years of hard work and good economic management.
It is equally clear to me that a number of our talented achievers, in various areas of endeavour, would not have reached their goals without some form of financial support, which can be as vital as the proverbial window of opportunity. Once success is achieved we love and admire them all without discrimination; we douse our sports stars, actors, musicians and singers.
Why is it then, when it comes to giving, that the visual arts are placed at the bottom of the list of preferences? I believe there is a serious lack of understanding of the civilising effect the visual arts have on the community at large. It is sad the general public’s perception that the visual arts are elitist has remained largely unchanged.
We also hear that, for the sake of votes, governments prefer to support causes other than the arts. It is not widely enough known that the AGNSW receives no public money for acquisitions. The reality is that all acquisitions are funded by income earned by the Gallery, the Society and from benefaction.
Another disturbing fact is the lack of support from citizens with ethnic backgrounds and from members of minority groups, who continue to argue that they are not welcome and are not represented on the committees of our cultural institutions. Whatever the reasons, the fact is that the visual arts are missing out.
Meanwhile, at the AGNSW it is the members of the Society who are in the pivotal position. The Society, with its 32,000 members is the largest of its kind in Australia. A recent statistic showed that 62% of the members have a bachelor degree and 31% have a postgraduate degree. We are the ones who have understood the importance of the arts and we are the ones who need no further convincing.
It seems to me that we are the anointed ones. We are the group who can and do make a difference, and through our generosity and benefaction we can leave behind a better Australia than the one we have inherited.
Actually, the AGNSW has a wonderful scheme in place called Recognition Now, which should be a great encouragement to members, who are planning a bequest, to declare their intentions now. By doing so we are supporting an institution dear to our hearts as well as serving as an example to others when they decide to put their wishes on paper.
Food for thought?
- Editor, Look (Magazine)
Probably the Gallery’s most dynamic supporter, benefoctor ond activist combined, lames Ago pitos, with his partner Roy Wilson, are also wonderful friends of the Art Gallery Society. For more in formation about the Gallery’s bequest program, Recognition Now, contact Jane Wynter on 9225 1818.
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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