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What is ‘Artistic Vibrancy?’

A few months ago on a speaking trip to Australia, I had the pleasure of meeting with Nick Herd, Director, Research and Strategic Analysis for the Australia Council for the Arts, and several of his colleagues in Sydney.  Among the many topics consuming Nick and his colleagues was the question “What is artistic vibrancy?” A new set of reports by Jackie Bailey, a member of the Australia Council’s research team, address the topic in a refreshingly clear and objective way.  Most arts grantmakers attach a lot of weight to ‘artistic excellence,’ but I’ve often wondered if anyone really knows what that means.  What does it mean, really, to be artistically vibrant?  Is artistic vitality different than artistic excellence?  What are the underlying processes that support artistic health in a theatre?  In a museum?  Should programming a season be like choosing a new Pope – deliberating behind closed doors, then a puff of white smoke up the chimney?  Given the distressed state of affairs, one might think this to be a subject of considerable interest in our country, but I never hear anyone talking about it.  Are there too many sensitivities around artistic autonomy to lay it out on the table for a good examination?  The Australia Council has dared to look inside the black box that sits at the center of our sector.  Let’s see what’s inside.


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