(Ms. Menaka Rodriguez currently heads the resource mobilization and outreach programme at Indian Foundation of Arts (IFA). She was awarded ‘Fundraiser of the Year’ by the Resource Alliance India at the India NGO Awards 2016. In this conversation with Atul Anand of Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, JMI, she stresses on the importance of funding for performing arts and asks us to give more thrust on community needs while raising concerns over the formalization of the informal sector under Creative Industry.)
Q: What are the financial challenges creative industries such as museums, art institutions, and performing arts encounter in the present context? How can be these be remedied at the level of policy?
A: I think one of the key financial challenges is access to funding for art institutions, performing arts, and other art spaces. Where can they seek resource that allows them to experiment to support skill and capacity building within their organization, to nurture programs, and do process works? Often funding is available for creative outcomes such as a play or a film. But where can we seek funds on a day-to-day basis for programs? So, access to funding and scope of available funding is very critical. I think it’s important at the policy level that government and corporate houses take the risk in the things they support. They should open up the scope of what they are supporting because today they either support things that have a celebrity value or things that are speaking of heritage and craft. What about the large gamut of arts and culture that doesn’t get support? If governments and companies open up the scope of funding in their policies, that would encourage more such institutions to come forward for funding. There should be incentives too. Many countries have 100 percent tax exemption for any donations made to arts and culture. Unfortunately, in our country, we only have 50 percent tax exemption. Could there be incentives for donations, partnerships, and to support performing arts in India?
Q: How do you see the role of informal sector in the Creative industry? What are the challenges for informal sector to integrate into Creative Industry?
A: The Informal sector is really large and a diverse sector. It’s a very critical sector because it is very much rooted in the local context and community that are involved in the work. It definitely has a role to play in the creative industry. Informal sector also often offers flexibility in terms of what can they do and what can be done. The challenges before informal sectors include access to funding, networks and capacity building. We have to be careful in our interventions in the sector because some things are organic and they grow organically as opposed influences from the outside . It’s important for these growths to happen from within the community, the craft and forms in an organic way. Of course, access to finance, resources, networks can then enhance those growths. Sometimes with government funding, access becomes really difficult. The funds for arts and culture are available with the government of India but often at the end of the year when the funds are not spent, they go back to the exchequer. So, how can we ensure that these funds are actually spent in useful ways that it makes easier for a craftsperson or a person in the arts to actually access these funds? Secondly, also in terms of resources that available to the craftspeople, do they have access to workshops that can enhance their skill-building, or do they have access to networks among musicians or other craftspeople in that area? These things are equally important.
Q: What would be your policy suggestion to transform the informal sector into a more formal creative industry?
A: I am still questioning whether there is a need to push the informal sector to integrate into the creative industry. There are questions such as how that would be done? Do we take inputs from the communities? Will the process be inclusive? So, I am not sure if I have policy recommendations. However, I would definitely say taking into account the needs of the community is important. Sometimes we go with our own preconceived notions of what needs to be changed. What does a community need, what are their aspirations, where do they want to see their crafts and practices go? I think those are important considerations that policymakers need to take into account. There should also be a holistic approach to these ideas of creative industry and culture economy because often we work in silos. Is there something in the craft sector that impacts the environment for example? A holistic approach to a community or an ecosystem is important in looking at ways in which we can move in the direction the community wants.