Having written the roadmap, Enoch steering arts for the long haul

Following the unveiling of the Palaszczuk Government’s new-look cabinet last weekend, Leeanne Enoch has told InQueensland she is “absolutely thrilled” to have retained the arts portfolio, saying there is still much work to be done in the arts and cultural sectors.

Nov 20, 2020, updated Nov 20, 2020
Housing Minister Leeane Enoch. (Photo: AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Housing Minister Leeane Enoch. (Photo: AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Weeks before last month’s state poll, the Palaszczuk Government announced Creative Together 2020–2030: A 10-Year Roadmap for arts, culture and creativity in Queensland and the two-year action plan Sustain 2020–2022, which detailed plans to start delivering that vision and further helping the sector recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

Creative Together follows on from the State Government’s $22.5 million Arts and Cultural Recovery Package, which was announced in July, and its priorities include elevating First Nations arts; activating Queensland’s local places and global digital spaces; driving social change across the state; strengthening Queensland communities; and sharing our stories and celebrating our storytellers.

The key actions outlined in the Sustain 2020-2022 plan include supporting and stabilising live music venues, Arts Queensland-supported performing arts organisations and festivals, and Indigenous Art Centres impacted by COVID-19; and providing support for independent creative practitioners to support creative development, presentation and business activities focused on future opportunities to retain and grow the state’s creative workforce.

The plan also includes dedicated support for programs that focus on attracting and retaining young people interested in pursuing careers in the arts; supporting sector innovation through the growth of skills and professional development; enabling the sector to access data and research on the impact of COVID-19 to inform programming, partnerships and business decisions; and establishing a dedicated First Nations Arts and Cultures Panel to prioritise investment in First Nations arts.

“For me, it was important to continue in this role because we had just released the 10-year roadmap and the two-year action plan, with the down payment attached to that,” Enoch said.

“That was obviously designed in light of the COVID restrictions, and there’s so much more work to be done in this space because the arts sector is very much a part of our economic recovery, so I’m thrilled.

“At this stage we’ve already seen more than $13 million already committed and hitting the ground for artists arts makers and venues and councils right now. We were very swift in our response to COVID-19, and we’ve been just as swift in our ability to get the money out the door with regards to our recovery fund.”

Last week the Government announced a further easing of social restrictions, which came into effect on Wednesday and paved the way for a full house at Suncorp Stadium for this week’s State of Origin decider and also allowed for seated, indoor ticketed venues to run at full capacity.

“I was very committed to ensuring that we had bodies of work ready to go for when restrictions were going to be eased, and of course now. Queensland has become the first state, the only state in all of Australia, to have 100 per cent capacity for seated ticketed venues, without any exemptions required.”

Enoch was quick to attribute Queensland’s ability to ease social restrictions to the state’s public health response and decisions made by the state’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young.

“The reason why we are in the position that we’re in is that we have followed the medical advice of the Chief Health Officer, who has been taking into account all the learnings about this virus,” Enoch said.

“Which is why we are the first state to be able to open to 100 per cent capacity for seated, ticketed venues, why we’ve been able to do things like hold a major festival [Brisbane Festival], why we’ve seen live music coming back in COVID-safe ways.”

In addition to performing arts venues such as QPAC being able to increase capacity for forthcoming shows, the latest easing of restrictions has also allowed for the minimum four-metre between audiences and performers to be reduced to two metres, with the exception of choirs.

“That means that places like Metro Arts, like La Boite, that have got the smaller theatre spaces can now take audiences and be open up again in a way that is going to be able to support smaller productions,” Enoch said.

“Seeing big productions come back gives confidence to the sector and small and medium-sized companies and venues are an absolutely critical part of the broader ecosystem that supports the arts right across our state, so to be able to see them open up to more audience numbers – and therefore have viable productions – makes a big difference to them, and to all of us.”

Although seated and ticketed venues are now able to operate at full capacity, Enoch said there was currently no timeline for easing restrictions for venues that traditionally held concerts for standing audiences.

“There were 25 live music venues that we supported through the Live Music Venue Support, so that funding really made a difference so that we could start seeing some of that live music come back to our communities and I know those 25 venues took advantage of that and have been supporting local bands and outfits to be able to perform to audiences in a safe way.

“Any further lifting of restrictions would be on that medical advice and I don’t think there’s any reason to do things differently in terms of that medical advice at the moment.

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“We’re reaping the rewards of it right now in Queensland, there are many artists that say there is no better place to be an artist than in Queensland right now and that’s because we have strictly followed the advice of health specialists and experts and the Chief Health Officer and we’ll continue to do that.

“In the meantime, all of the work that we’re doing under our 10-year roadmap and our two-year action plan through our COVID recovery plan, all of that is making sure that we’re stabilising and we’re keeping things alive in Queensland, so that when restrictions do ease even further, that we’re ready, that we’ve got that support and that we’ve been able to keep our sector pumping along, ready to take on the next opportunity.”

Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch at the launch of the European Masterpieces from the Museum of Art, New York, at QAGOMA in August.

Events on the state’s cultural calendar for 2021 already include the European Masterpieces from the Museum of Art, New York exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art; The Gold Coast’s HOTA Gallery’s Contemporary Masters from New York: Art from the Mugrabi Collection; and Opera Australia’s The Ring Cycle, which is scheduled for QPAC from October.

Enoch said she was optimistic these events would help further cement Queensland’s reputation as a cultural tourism destination.

“Quite often we compare ourselves to Sydney to Melbourne and in actual fact, we’ve got our own very unique brand, and that uniqueness is actually what is going to hold us in good stead into the future,” she said.

“The fact that we’ve been able to open up the way that we have in our state, the way that we’ve been able to support our arts and cultural and creative industries sector here, the fact that we’ve got a 10-year roadmap that absolutely says ‘this is where we’re headed’ …

“All of that is helping us to not compare, but to say, here we are – a unique offering to Australia, to our own people in Queensland, but also internationally as borders and restrictions start to ease over the next few years.”

Enoch said there was “a lot of hope” for the state’s arts and cultural industries and reiterated the Government’s commitment to those working in the creative sector.

“It’s been such a tough time and so many people have had to sacrifice so much, and the arts have been at the forefront of a lot of that sacrifice.

“With the work that we’ve been doing to stabilise and to keep everything going ready for this very moment when restrictions were going to be eased, my hope is that the sector, the arts workers, the people who make up the sector, that they feel hope for the future.

“That’s my message to them, that is that there is hope, and that we are seeing the rewards of our sacrifice.”

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