THE BURGESS REPORT: THE DISTINCT ROLE OF ARTIST-RUN CENTRES IN THE VISUAL ARTS ECOLOGY by MDR Burgess Consultants
The Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference / Conférence des collectifs et des centres d’artistes autogérés (ARCA) welcomes the publication of the Burgess Report, a study titled The Distinct Role of Artist-Run Centres in the Visual Arts Ecology by MDR Burgess Consultants. Commissioned by the Research and Evaluation Section of Canada Council for the Arts, the study’s goal is to provide the Canada Council, and by extension, the visual arts milieu, with a deeper understanding of the roles and characteristics of artist-run centres (ARCs).
Grounded in how the artist-run milieu perceives itself, the study highlights what sets artist-run centres apart, but also, what distinguishes them from other actors in the milieu, such as commercial and public galleries, and museums. A discussion on how these roles and perceptions have evolved over the last forty years provides some essential reading for emerging art professionals entering ARCs today, and a solid refresher for seasoned workers and artists.
A statistical review based on data provided by individual centres, reveals some impressive numbers that not only support some of the observations in the report but also serve to validate the work that is being done across the network to increase audiences through a variety of programming and outreach activities. A series of interviews with stakeholders in the visual arts milieu reveals how reliant the milieu is on the existence of ARCs throughout Canada today leading one public gallery curator to state: “the question is what would happen without ARCs. The whole scene would unravel. We would have no more artistic development, far fewer artists, no more contemporary arts in some regions.”
In anticipation of the release of these findings, ARCA had already been mandated by its membership to address some of the pressing concerns identified in the conclusions of the study. ARCA agrees that increasing financial resources in order for centres to keep up with increasing operating costs, and increasing awareness of ARCs’ overall contribution to the vitality of the visual arts sector and Canadian culture are ongoing priorities.
ARCA joins the regional and cultural associations that comprise its membership in inviting all stakeholders in the network to circulate this report widely as a means of:
1. demonstrating the high level of creativity and resourcefulness in operating artist-run centres;
2. acknowledging the contributions that are being made at community levels by thousands of artists and arts professionals;
3. identifying some areas of needed development or better support;
4. applauding Canada Council in commissioning this study, and providing centres with independent information and data to continue promoting the unique role of the network of artist-run centres at every opportunity.