The Chairman of the Arts Council, Ms Pat Moylan, addressed the Government's Innovation Taskforce today and urged that the employment potential of the arts be exploited as a way out of the recession.
Ms Moylan told the Taskforce that the arts and creative sectors combined currently support 95,649 jobs. "It is in the area of employment where I believe the arts can be a driver for Ireland. In the current climate where there are significant employment losses taking place in key sectors such as construction, retailing, manufacturing and other services, the arts can be a player now and a big player of the future. As we shift to a more knowledge-based, services-oriented economic platform, Ireland is well placed to lead the world in innovation because of its established arts and cultural heritage."
"The digital economy has tremendous potential to create new jobs and new growth. Companies in this sector are amongst the fastest growing in the world and have become major brands. In the aftermath of NAMA, there will be land and buildings that will not be used. Consideration should be given to inviting some of these companies to come and use these properties for a nominal fee. Ireland did this many years ago with advance factories and should consider it again as a way of attracting in some of these businesses.
"The video games industry is a good example of where the creative industries make a significant contribution to economic activity. Similarly with online gaming and other creative pieces. Developers in these spaces increasingly call on art, drama, narratives and music to produce innovative games. Ireland has the opportunity to make itself a hub for development in this space. Companies in these spaces spend much more than average businesses on R&D. According to the British Department of Trade and Industry, around 70 per cent of creative businesses have been involved with some form of innovation compared with 50 per cent for other industries."
Ms Moylan told the Taskforce it would be folly if, due to the recession, there was to be "thoughtless hacking" at the Arts Council’s budget. Instead she said the arts should be embraced and its job creation potential exploited at a time of major unemployment.
"The Arts Council annually supports 3,000 jobs (both directly and indirectly) with the €73 million allocation it receives from the taxpayer. In turn, those organisations pay €65 million in direct and indirect taxes each year."
Ms Moylan said the job potential of arts and culture, where another 10,000 jobs could be created, needed to be exploited. "With €10 million more, the Arts Council could support another 400 jobs. This investment would drive €28 million in turnover in arts and creative organisations and bring back €7 million in tax. Similarly, if our funds get cut by €10 million, the Arts Council will have to stop funding 110 organisations with a major loss of jobs directly and indirectly. There is tremendous potential for growing jobs in the interface between the arts and other creative industries and we should grab it."
"Our Irish winners of Tony awards, Booker prizes and Nobel prizes for literature says much about them as people. But it also declares to the world that a country which breeds and produces such illustrious achievement, such creative talent must itself have a lot to offer. Something to offer to cultural tourists, to inward investors, to companies seeking to locate enterprises, to other creative organisations needing the feed of art skills to serve their own creative work.
"Thoughtless hacking at the artistic foundation from which they emerged will reduce our chances of future champions of the arts."