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Art to Gamechange its Own Economic Model (Others Who Spoke 2 : Fuelling the Kreativ Malaysia)

Copyright © 2017 by
Low Ngai Yuen @ngaiyuenlow
Chief Executive Officer of Kakiseni
Executive Dirrector of Global Entrepreneurship Movement

SEVEN YEARS, have I been helming Kakiseni, a not-for-profit organisation, bent to spread access for the arts. From the onset, Kakiseni has had the honour to participate in the Dasar Industri Kreatif Negara 2011 – 2014 (“DIKN” or the National Creative Industry Policy) where we mooted the idea of supporting the arts practitioners by lightening their burden through grants to support production costs, set up the processes for support in extended community outreach, facilitated inter countries’ artists exchange and amongst a few more initiatives; got some guidelines going for arts organisations to start up their own performing spaces. All resulted in a 140% increase in the number of shows produced in 2012 and 2013.

While I am not alluding that the numbers are to be taken as the success of the programmesintroduced under DIKN – there are many more considerations that we’ve tabled with much gusto; it is also with much delight that we do see this as a positive result in that it’s enabled an environment that has allowed for much higher productivity in the arts fraternity. Meanwhile, the ongoing debate – not just in Malaysia but worldwide; questions the need to fund the arts in order to save the arts as well as the various ways to do it: be it grants, loans, taxes, awards, exemptions, guidelines and even various committees or councils set up.

Is there one sure fire, best way to do it? In the countless discourses that I’ve been having, my conclusion is that there isn’t. Not the way we have been doing it, for sure. Even after countless presentation and lobbying and we finally get policymakers to see the value of the arts in education, alongside science and mathematics; in nation building; in building high social capital; and in creating a generation that creates and innovate – the end crusher is always about the crossroads between arts versus labour versus demand versus tangible values. All because we put art and artists in the same economic model as we do everything else.

We need to reconsider this model. We need to restart the conversation not from the point of art for economic survival but art to enhance new commercial models. Box office income, patron and private giving, grants, public funding, commissioning works and sponsorship of the arts – there is a need to create how demand is being supplied to. From Patreon to Kickstarter; enough with the celebration of these as innovative success stories and start doing more, we need to don the innovation hat ourselves – urgently.
The call now is to redesign how arts is being consumed and how monetisation for one’s work can be. We need to think outside the system to look at the development and sustenance of artworks and artists, perhaps through more cross-disciplinary collaborations and marketplace with the other sectors. Artists need to gamechange not beat the others at their games.