|How is the situation for arts funding in the South Africa?
It is currently difficult to raise funding. I can compare our situation to what happened in Japan in the 1980s. Although many arts buildings, theatres and concert halls were built, there is not always enough money to create the arts that are to be performed in the theatre.
We do not yet have a strong and developed culture of corporate funding for the arts. Although funds are made available through the National Arts Council, the State lottery and some provinces, it is often not enough to build and sustain performing arts companies.
Moreover, the number of art forms has grown tremendously, thus increasing the competition for a limited source of funding. Since 1996, the state adopted a philosophy of distributing its funds to a wider spread of beneficiaries. Very often the little that each organisation received was not so significant that something meaningful could be achieved. It is sad that, just as the arts finally have the opportunity to bring people together and create jobs, the funding resources and opportunities required are not sufficient.
You are in a fortunate position in Japan in that you have recognised the need to fund the “software”. We need to get to that position sooner than later.
This is the essence of Artscape’s funding formula. We must look after the buildings and infrastructure, but if we cannot have live arts in the buildings, then the buildings mean nothing.
The model we have adapted for Artscape is such that we will use government funds to maintain the “hardware” such as the infrastructure and buildings, but we also need to raise funds to keep the “software” vibrant and alive.
How much is the funding for Artscape at this moment?
The national government gives us 21 million rand a year (380million yen). This amount has not increased much in the past few years. Our annual turnover is about 34 million Rand. I am trying to use the government funding as seed money to generate more money to develop the arts and look after the areas that have been neglected in the past.
From 800 employees in 1995, we now have 66 full time employees and 20 on short-term contracts. For the stage work we often hire ad hoc people to assist as required. My philosophy is to rather have a small infrastructure, so that any additional money we generate or receive from the state can be used for the performing arts, the “software”, and for education and training.
When was the resource centre in Artscape started and how does it link on to the education programmes at Artscape?
It was started in 2002. We believe that it is important for the performing arts to be introduced at school level and our audience development and education department has introduced several programmes for school children.
We also stage setworks (prescribed school curriculum works) which form part of the school curriculum in the three official languages. We have three official languages in our province: English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa. These plays are produced and performed on stage, so that the scholars can come to the theatre and see how the words that they are reading at school, come alive. According to the educational authorities, whenever we have presented setworks in Xhosa, the pass rates in that subject have improved!
I imagine you need a large budget for these programs. With the budget from the national government reduced, how did you find the additional resources to begin all these programs?
We try to raise additional funds from private companies, the National Arts Council, the State lottery and other government agencies. The funding model for the performing arts should ideally be revised along the same lines as Japan’s “Plan 21.”
Artscape is a non-profit organization. Non-profit organizations are treated slightly differently in each country like in the UK and in the USA. Could you explain the definition of a non-profit organization in South Africa?
In South Africa, non-profit organizations do not pay income tax. However, as a State-funded entity, we need to be completely transparent with our finances. Unfortunately there are no tax benefits for donations.
Your theatre might be called a receiving theatre or a commercial theatre even though your organization is a non-profit organization. What are the actual situation and activities like in Artscape?
Government policy required us to change from a production house to a receiving house. Artscape can be a receiving house and rent out its theatre space very profitably for 365 days a year. However, we would not make a difference in the lives of performing artists or add value to the performing arts industry. On the other hand, if we became a production house, we could not earn additional income by renting out the space and would require additional dedicated funding. So the Artscape model allows us to rent out the space as a commercial theatre and attend to the needs of the performing arts at the same time. It’s a delicate balance. Sometimes we have more commercial theatre and less subsidised theatre, and sometimes vice versa. But we try to find the balance between the two that will make the budget work and raise additional income to plough back into the performing arts.
Who takes the initiative to keep this balance for the theatre?
The Chief Executive does this in collaboration with the nine members of the board appointed by the Minister of Arts and Culture. Our board members represent the theatre, education, commercial and legal sectors.