The best agitation is about awareness

A new NAVA campaign targeting our politicians aims to reposition arts and culture at the forefront of the national conversation.
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Supplied courtesy NAVA 

The National Association of the Visual Arts (NAVA) has launched a new advocacy campaign targeting Australian politicians.

Using the hashtag #artsagenda the peak advocacy agency is encouraging artists to include our nation’s politicians in conversations that really count – conversations driven and facilitated by artists.

‘From 5-8 February, we want as many artists and gallerists and curators and artistic directors and art-lovers as possible to use #artsagenda to share how the voice of the artist leads Australia’s most important discussions,’ said NAVA Executive Director Esther Anatolitis.

‘We want them to aware of how the choices artists have made to show this work, right now, are critical to the national agenda. What this particular piece is asking us to consider right now.’

The campaign has been launched to coincide with the first sitting days of Federal Parliament beginning the week of 5 February.  

‘There’s a whole bunch of bills and a whole bunch of legislation before Parliament that has been carried over from last year … and they are the most important things before our elected members this week. There are bills that are about terrorism, about financial legislation, about finance,’ said Anatolitis.

‘And this week all the MP’s offices are preparing for the first sitting week – what questions they’re going to be asked in Question Time, how they’re going to respond to those questions that the others ask, what’s on the agenda and how are they going to talk about it.’

The #artsagenda campaign is an opportunity to position the ideas and interests of artists at the forefront of that agenda, Anatolitis explained, by highlighting artists’ current projects and the ideas which inform their work in the same week that Parliament is sitting.

‘All over Australia, artists are putting the final touches to work that they’re about to show next week. And that is work that artists have been thinking about for, probably, years and years. “What will I choose to make work about at this time?” It might be about an issue that is currently political; it might be something that engages with great rigor with that particular discipline that the artist has been working on … It might be something deeply personal, or something that a group of artists have collaborated on, and through that process have come to articulate something that is current, that is compelling,’ she said.

‘What does the voice of the artist tell us about contemporary times, about what is pressing and important and interesting, and how can we all propel and push that and make it a national focus?’

NAVA’s Esther Anatolitis speaks with Melbourne artists at MPavillion on Monday 30 January. Photo credit: Daniel Gardeazabal.

Anatolitis encouraged artists to use the #artsagenda hashtag across all social media platforms; to share their work on a national platform and invite politicians to consider the messages behind it – and also to contact them directly and inform them about the work.

She advised artists to say, ‘I’ve got this exhibition opening in your electorate and here’s what it’s about. I’d love it if you would say something about it – in Parliament would be great – but perhaps you might like to tweet about it?’

By arming politicians, especially backbenchers and local MPs with information about exhibitions in their electorates, artists can help swell support for or against particular concerns and help push arts and the arts sector to the forefront of the national conversation.

What you can do

From Monday 5 to Thursday 8 February, NAVA are encouraging artists across Australia to ask some big questions and put them to our politicians. It’s a strategy designed to enrich decision-making at the highest level with the voice of the artist.
Share your exhibition’s take on the national agenda using #artsagenda. How?

  • Write a social media post about how your exhibition’s focus contributes to Australia’s #artsagenda right now;
  • Pitch your upcoming show to your local, suburban and regional media as offering a timely perspective on the nation’s #artsagenda;
  • Tell your local MP what’s showing in their electorate, and encourage them to put out an #artsagenda media release – or ask them for a comment, and share it far and wide.

Anatolitis added enthusiastically: ‘Let’s do this. Join NAVA in building a critical mass of advocacy for the arts during the first sitting week of Parliament – setting a confident national agenda that’s led by artists.’

Gina Fairley and Richard Watts
About the Author
Gina Fairley is the National Visual Arts Editor for ArtsHub and Richard Watts is the National Performing Arts Editor and Team Leader, Editorial.