CULTURE AND THE ARTS

CULTURE AND THE ARTS

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Arts, Society and Industry – My observations
by Michael Kaff
Independent Senate Candidate for the Gold Coast and Queensland
(Introduction by Roger Hawcroft)

“The Arts” has varied meanings for different people. To some it suggests activities and forms of expression that are “high-brow” and too difficult for the average person to appreciate, as well as often too costly for them to afford. To others, the Arts involve all forms of creative expression and include the activities of the amateur potter or playwright through to the most exceptional of painters, poets, singers, actors and the like.

The Arts are for everyone and are essential because they shine a light on humanity and the joys and despairs of life itself. Art infuses our society at all levels and is not just about entertainment but affects the aesthetics of industrial design, architecture, urban planning and so many other aspects of our society. (RH)

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The benefits of the Arts to our culture are incalculable. We all want a prosperous, productive, enjoyable and balanced life and the Arts can help us to achieve this.

The Arts are everywhere and I have observed and experienced many of its benefits first hand. The following include some of my observations and personal experiences:

What are the Arts?

The Arts include activities such as drawing, painting, sculpture, writing (poems, books, screenplays etc.), composing and performing music; singing, acting, dancing, movie-making (all aspects), designing (including graphic design and architecture), crafts….The list goes on and on…and the associated benefits are endless!

There are no endeavours that do not include the Arts in one form or another.

If you think that the Arts don’t apply to you, go and check out your collection of music or movies…and recall the last time you saw a live concert, show or attended an Art gallery or exhibition, or the last time you did some writing, drawing or designing.

Think about a time you had to suffer through a presentation that did NOT have Art involved and you wished it did. Believe me, the Arts are in everyone’s life and in more ways than you can remember or imagine.

“If you think that the Arts don’t apply to you, go and check out your collection of music or movies…”

Training and Education – The Arts should and must form part of our education and help to raise the creativity and culture of our society.

I have been a trainer/teacher/mentor for decades and have utilised and experienced Art in many forms, as both a facilitator and participant.

The best presentations target all five senses, where possible, using Art forms such as; videos, images, PowerPoints, cartoons, humour, anecdotes, story-telling, music, role-playing, impressions/accents, problem-solving, games, toys, artworks, drawing, design, discussions, exercises, whiteboards, etc.

These methods help with learning, relaxing, clearing and opening the mind and creative processes both consciously and unconsciously…and they help to make the learning enjoyable and therefore, memorable.

“You learn by doing and applying, not just listening”…and the Arts offer a great avenue to do this. We need the educational curriculum at all levels amended to include the Arts.

I want to see the Arts added to the education system known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to make it STEAM. (A for Arts). Besides, from where are the STEM disciplines going to get their inspiration if not via the Arts?

Arts can make learning FUN and you can actually gain and retain information without realising it. My colleagues and I have enjoy meetings and Professional Development so much more when some form of Art is utilised. We have a fun, productive time and the benefits of the Arts unwittingly flow through us to the workplace. We actually remember what we’ve learned.

Education and the Arts go hand in hand from pre-school right through to post-graduate studies. Sure, we all have to learn the 3 Rs plus other essential knowledge, but it’s the Arts that open us up to possibilities.

“I want to see the Arts added to the education system known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to make it STEAM. (A for Arts)”

It’s the Arts that help to free our minds, stimulate imagination and creativity and leads to innovation. It has to come from somewhere and the Arts are a powerful way to unlock your potential and generate new ideas.

We must, therefore, also have increased funding allocated so that adequate training and participation in the Arts becomes a way life for our education, life-style and culture.

Writing – Everyone is different and writing in various forms can come from the most surprising individuals. Some people write poems, novels, short stories etc. Writing is definitely an Art form.

For me it’s screenwriting and creating course learning/teaching material as well as presentation design; such as workbooks, Power Points, exercises, activities, visual stimuli and the like.

For teaching, Art in various forms ensures that participants enjoy and absorb the material presented. It helps to hold their attention and aids in learning, relaxation, stimulation, participation and motivation.

I have written two Baby Boomer romantic comedy screenplays, co-written the first three episodes on a Baby Boomer TV sitcom and co-starred in a pilot for the sitcom. What great experiences they were and I certainly enjoyed undertaking my screenwriting training and later the writing of the scripts which were based on real life events.

“…Art in various forms ensures that participants enjoy and absorb the material presented. It helps to hold their attention and aids in learning, relaxation, stimulation, participation and motivation”

I found the process an excellent outlet for my creativity and storytelling skills. Skills that I didn’t know I possessed, although I did have my suspicions.

I was always told that I was a writer but I didn’t know exactly what to write. When I discovered screenwriting, I found that this form of storytelling came fairly easily and naturally to me. Being a visual person I simply wrote what I saw, heard and imagined in my mind, based as I said on actual events. Inspiration simply came to me when I needed it and I put my thoughts down on paper. Then of course there were the re-writes…many of them!

I encourage you to write your thoughts, stories, life experiences, etc. and you will be amazed how much “comes out”. Even if nobody ever reads your work, the process of putting your thoughts on paper, ipad or computer will give you a wonderfully creative and relaxing outlet. It will also give your children and others an insight into you as a person and not just a parent, grandparent, sibling etc.

Rehabilitation, Disabilities and Mental Health – Individuals with mental and physical disabilities use the Arts to help release their minds from torturous pressures, seemingly impossible situations and society’s expectations.

Art, in its various forms, allows them to express themselves and communicate in ways that may not otherwise be available or effective.

This is not just limited to disabilities of course. Young people and introverts can use various Art forms to express their inner feelings and communicate with the outside world.

“Individuals with mental and physical disabilities use the Arts to help release their minds from torturous pressures, seemingly impossible situations and society’s expectations…and allows them to express themselves and communicate…”

Observations of such prisoners as Andrew Chan (Bali 9 smuggler) show the positive influence of painting and rehabilitation. This technique is widespread and allows captives and those feeling isolated and alone, for instance, to clear their minds, tap into their creativity and discover aspects of themselves that they may not have known existed, let alone experienced.

It takes them away from their present situation and into a peaceful and relaxed place. Arts also rests their minds and opens them up to new possibilities and discoveries. As we saw with Andrew Chan, the benefits can be life changing.

Arts Enterprises – See the pages on Small Business, Start-ups and Entrepreneurships. I support a holistic approach to society and the economy. The Arts are intricately connected to all aspects of both and Arts Business Enterprises should be considered the same as any other type of business venture.

Arts Enterprises funding should be supported for those who are looking to become self-sufficient, employ others (especially Arts industry employees) and give back to society….and not simply being self-indulgent and focussed on themselves.

Business Industries – The use of various art forms helps workers to release their mental inhibitions and limitations so as to enhance their creative process. Arts can relax and distract the conscious mind which allows the sub-conscious or unconscious minds to tap into the creative parts of the brain and soul.

Arts can help to alleviate stress and tension and improve mental health, which in turn helps to make you more relaxed, engaged and therefore, more productive. This also has a positive effect on your life in general.

The relaxed minds are then free to channel thoughts, ideas and inspiration, which lead to creativity and innovation in whichever business or activity they are involved. This then flows through the business/enterprise and in turn leads to higher productivity and a much improved bottom line (Profit).

It’s a win-win and the Arts helped to make happen. So if enterprises invest in the Arts now, they will reap the benefits, financial and otherwise, down the track!

“The relaxed minds are…free to channel thoughts, ideas and inspiration which lead to creativity and innovation…and a much improved bottom line”

Culture and the Arts – Culture and the Arts covers all aspects of our society and economy in one form or another. Everyone, every day uses the Arts in some way to improve or enhance their life. This includes listening to music, going to the movies, sitting to draw or paint, observing works of Art at a gallery, singing in the shower or car, humming as you walk, attending live concerts or performances, performing in an amateur production or watching a busker draw you in with their mesmerising talents.

The Arts is a creative outlet for many which would otherwise not have an opportunity for expression.

“A relaxed person has much happier relationships with others, which invariably leads to a more content, understanding, respectful and tolerant culture”

The Arts take your attention from the day-to-day issues that we all face and, if only for a short time, allows us to move into a world where we can temporarily get lost, recover, rejuvenate and feel free from worldly issues. This has enormous health benefits; physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Constant or regular involvement in the Arts can lead to much improved overall health which will serve us well now into the future. A relaxed person has much happier relationships with others, which invariably leads to a more content, understanding, respectful and tolerant culture.

Performing Arts – We’ve all been to a show, stage performance, movie, watched TV shows, listened to music, radio etc. Performing Arts are part of our culture. We feel that we couldn’t live without them.

We all have a music and movie collection or at least access to such entertainment. Our favourites hold pride of place in our collections and we draw on their therapeutic properties as and when our moods and needs require.

Many participate on stage for instance, allowing their love for performing to find an outlet and recognition, whilst still maintaining their “day job”.

“…if you have a desire to perform, contact your local theatre company and get on their mailing list”

For me the stage started in my 40s or so but I was fortunate to get principal roles in amateur productions of Jesus Christ Superstar (priest Annas) twice, Les Miserables (Jean Valjean), An Instrument of Peace (St Francis of Assisi) and Buddy, the Buddy Holly Story (Norman Petty). When I was a little “tacker”, I entered my first talent quest singing a Beatles number, with fellow primary school students backing me up as “go-go” dancers. I came second!

So if you have a desire to perform, contact your local theatre company and get on their mailing list. They are always looking for new talent both on stage and behind the scenes. You will meet some wonderfully talented and friendly people and you will be part of something special. You’ll never want it to end!

Film and Television – My screenwriting lead me to be involved in the local film and TV network industry. I have met many people involved in all aspects of these industries.

Those in the film industry help one another by volunteering their time, expertise and equipment, sometimes just as a favour or the promise of a meal and possible credit in the end product. You won’t find a more supportive industry, at base level, than the film industry in Australia.

The governments continue to fund international productions which, to their credit, bring temporary, yet inconsistent, jobs and opportunities to local cast and crew.

What we need is a policy that pumps funding and opportunities into the small and medium production companies and individuals so that their talents and resources can grow and evolve.

Unfortunately the funding, such as it is, often goes to production companies which have no intention of producing quality films. They simply churn out sub-standard “Australian content”, in accordance with funding requirements. Content that goes nowhere. At the same time they pay a pittance to cast and crew who are desperate for any type of paid work where they can produce films and use their talents.

“What we need is a policy that pumps funding and opportunities into the small and medium production companies and individuals so that their talents and resources can grow and evolve”

It seems that as long as you say you’re producing “Australian” films, regardless of the quality, the federal government will continue to waste money on you. Money that should be directed to more productive, genuine, better intended, and higher quality endeavours.

There must be a link between funding and outcomes, that involves more than simply being seen to be producing “Australian content”, regardless of quality.

When I co-wrote and filmed my TV sitcom pilot, all costs were covered by volunteers, myself and my co-creator. No government funding was involved.

Regarding the Television industry, I don’t have a great deal of first-hand experience, apart from my memorable appearance on Perfect Match when I was 30 something. No, I didn’t get the girl, but I did get a new briefcase.

What I did learn is that it is very difficult to get your show on TV. The network may require you to undertake the production yourself at great cost and then present it to them. Sometimes they only require a pilot episode. At other times you are responsible for producing the whole series on an ongoing basis, if successful.

“There must be a link between funding and outcomes, that involves more than simply being seen to be producing “Australian content”, regardless of quality”

Conclusion – There are many areas of the Arts that I have not covered above. I have only covered those with which I have, directly or indirectly, had involvement or experience or have gained knowledge.

This page includes but a few applications and benefits of the Arts. If nothing else, the Arts can help you to “get away from it all” and relax. Relationships can benefit with a more relaxed, and possibly more romantic, partner for instance. Arts can also stimulate and motivate you into following your dreams and ambitions, if only through a more relaxed and stress-free attitude….and there is much, much more that the Arts can do to benefit individuals and therefore, society as a whole.

The benefits to our culture are incalculable. We all want a prosperous, productive, enjoyable and balanced life and the Arts can help us to achieve this significant goal.

“The Arts can help to heal, nurture and grow a balanced and productive society. So don’t the Arts deserve to be a priority for government and not just an after thought?”

The Arts should and must form part of our education and help to raise the creativity and culture of our society.

You see, the Arts are not just a form of weekend entertainment. The Arts are the basis for who we are as humans, our culture, our entertainment, our means of expression, our solace in times of struggle and misfortune, our inspiration and so much more.

When we examine the history of various civilisations, the Arts stands out as a means to gaining insight into the peoples of the past, their behaviours, beliefs, life-style and culture. The Arts have obviously been an essential part of our history and evolution, so why do governments give the Arts such a low priority when they allocate funds and resources?

The Arts can help to heal, nurture and grow a balanced and productive society. So don’t the Arts deserve to be a priority for government and not just an after thought?

 

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