There are many great reasons for developing a permanent Arts Centre for Cornwall. They include establishing the legitimacy of arts in the community, publicizing artistic events in the community, raising the profile of the arts in the community, developing an arts legacy for the community, encouraging artists and the community to see our as a viable career or vocation, improving the economic prospects for artists, developing economic benefits for the community at large.
But before such a project possible, there are some significant obstacles to developing and maintaining an arts centre. I believe that these obstacles are significant problems that must be overcome before any such plan is considered.
The first is that, for such a centre to be financially viable, a stable financial footing must be developed: either any or all of municipal government or corporate or private sponsorships must be assured for the long term, or the artists themselves must guarantee support it financially for the long term. Consider that, even though sports are thought to have significant public support in Cornwall, the Civic Complex has operated at a significant loss every year.
The second is that professional management of the centre by a well-qualified team is absolutely necessary. Volunteers are neither legally responsible nor capable of supplying the expertise and consistent support that such a project requires.
Given past experience and the arguments above, it would appear that there is little possibility that the Arts Centre project should go ahead. I would like to argue that it should.
Most people, when they consider the idea of the arts have a pretty constipated idea of what the arts are. They forget that the band that plays in their local bar is part of the arts. So are the people who design the signs they see, clothing they wear, the buildings they live in and work in, the music they love, the sitcoms and movies and plays and books they pay for to entertain themselves — these are all part of the arts, as are painting, sculpting, writing, performing — in fact, any creative endeavour you can think of is an art. Surprising Fact: Art is one of the largest industries, the largest employer, in our civilization.
An Arts Centre can improve not just art and the artists in our community, but most certainly it can improve employment in Cornwall and region and the financial viability of all of the ancillary industries and services that artists use.
So: do we need an Arts Centre? The answer is yes.
Can we afford it? The answer is only if we decide to.