Code Revision Update

Image: Tian Zhang addresses artists and arts workers in conversation at a NAVA roundtable on the Code of Practice, Firstdraft Sydney 2019. Photo by Document Photography.

Principles, Ethics and Rights

The first section of the new Code will cover a range of principles, good practices and current legislation around gender equity, legal rights, social justice and workplace behaviours which also link to protocols that are led and maintained by specific authorities. This new introductory section will bolster the ethical framework of the Code, offering a useful starting point for conversations about the civic and cultural roles of the contemporary arts institution and its many players and stakeholders. 

As we begin work on this new section, NAVA recently facilitated an informal roundtable discussion with colleague organisations on freedom of expression vs freedom from ethics. 

Freedom of expression is particularly valued by artists, however in Australia, it is not effectively protected in law and at times this can result in confusion and contention over artists’ work. Noting that clarification is needed on the difference between claiming freedom of expression for artwork which is provocative or controversial, versus artwork or commentary that is racist or culturally offensive, one of the recommendations for NAVA’s Code of Practice is the development of a statement that galleries can endorse to address cultural appropriation or artworks which do not take into account the cultural safety of communities.

We also discussed training and toolkits for exhibiting or commissioning organisations to support artists when they and their artwork are ‘attacked’, and or to support front line staff who may receive complaints from visitors in regard to controversial or provocative artwork.

Work will continue on Principles, Ethics and Rights in the coming months.

Accessibility

The first Disability Focus Group meeting was held on 12 April and included eight artists and arts workers with disability. The meeting was facilitated by Daniel Savage. 

The group discussed the accessibility of the Code of Practice in regard to how information could be accessed and presented. This included discussing the language that the Code uses, universal design, how information could be simplified, additional resources such as videos, animations, case studies and Auslan videos, referral to other organisations and sharing with their communities. Participants discussed the need to communicate how the Code can assist artists, why it is important, and the need to have information on how to navigate and use the Code. They also discussed framing the Code from a human rights perspective and a need to identify what access and inclusion mean.

As part of the first Disability Focus Group meeting for the Code of Practice, feedback was provided on the website including the need for adaptive tools such as the ability to change the font size, contrast, colours, use text to voice. It was noted that these accessibility settings should be available across the entire website and accessibility options should be readily available on a website. Participants agreed that there should be no barrier to accessing the Code as this can make access difficult while also making people feel excluded.

Consultation next steps

In the coming months, NAVA will be facilitating focussed consultation with the commercial gallery sector and artist-run initiatives for sections of the new Code on commercial representation and artist self-organisation respectively.  

In partnership with Terri Janke and Co., NAVA will also begin a more formalised approach to consultation with First Nations artists, arts workers and arts organisations across the country. There have been numerous informal conversations with First Nations artists and arts workers regarding the existing issues and limitations across the sector and possible strategies to resolve some of these. Currently, our questions and discussions have been centred around broad topics including:

  • What a Code of Practice would look like if it was led by, and built for First Nations artists and arts workers?
  • What are the most appropriate approaches to consultation?
  • What information is key to the revision of the Code of Practice?
  • How will this research be presented in the Code? For example, should it be a single chapter, or embedded throughout the Code, or available as a separate resource? 

In addition to targeted conversations, our broader consultation groups and roundtables have also addressed broad topics concerning First Nations issues including cultural safety, leadership, self-determination, accessibility, copyright, ICIP, payment standards, commissions, workshops and more. If you are interested in being involved in the First Nations consultation, please get in touch with NAVA’s First Nations Research and Engagement Coordinator, Georgia Mokak via georgia@visualarts.net.au

Discussion Papers

Four new discussion papers have been drafted and are in final stages of editing: Commissioning New Work, Festivals, Hiring Space and Temporary Public Art. These will be released in early May together with a PDF of a new set of Guidelines for Commissioning Art in Public Space.

In the meantime, we have collated feedback received from the discussion papers on Awards, Prizes and Competitions, Residencies and Studios, Workshops and Education, and are currently collating feedback on Exhibiting, Loans, Funding, and Artist Self Organisation. We really appreciate the time that artists and arts workers have taken to respond to the questions in these discussion papers, sharing their knowledge, opinions and experiences. 

In collating the feedback on these topic areas we have found many areas where the industry appears to be in agreement, as well as areas where there is difference of opinion, requiring more consultation. There have been some overarching themes of a need for transparency, communication between artists and organisations, and clear guidelines or templates to follow. Some responses have also highlighted how deeper systemic societal and industry issues, including diminishing funding, impact the application of good practices.

Opportunity: PhD Scholarship

NAVA’s academic partners at RMIT School of Art, CAST Contemporary Art and Social Transformation, are currently undertaking a three year research project into the industry’s increasingly precarious work conditions with the aim to develop strategies which support broad application of the new Code of Practice and improved conditions for artists and arts workers.

Applications are now open for a PhD candidate to develop a project utilising creative methods to examine and test new artist-led approaches to developing new forms of social & economic organisation for the visual arts sector.  

Value and duration: $31,260 per annum for three years (no option for extension). 

Applications close on 1 June 2021.

Opportunity: Research Assistant

Supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant, applications are currently open for a Research Assistant to work with the team at RMIT University on Ambitious and Fair: Strategies for a sustainable visual arts sector

The role requires experience in qualitative data collection and management, project management and an understanding of the Australian visual arts sector. The role will also involve administrative support, coordinating team meetings, undertaking interviews, assisting with literature reviews, maintenance of research data and project communications.

Applications close on 12 May 2021.