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Securing a financial future for Malta’s artistic output | Toni Attard

Creative Economy Advisor from the Creative Economy Working Group Toni Attard fills us in on the recently set up Creative Trust: what exactly is it, and how can creative people in Malta benefit from it?

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
21 February 2013, 12:00am
Toni Attard: “Exclusive dependency on the public purse is not sustainable.”
Toni Attard: “Exclusive dependency on the public purse is not sustainable.”
Why was setting up the trust deemed necessary?

The trust is another initiative as part of the creative economy strategy to continue building a stronger and more sustainable investment portfolio for the cultural and creative industries. This compliments all the other funds which address specific priority areas, be they sector specific, such as the digital games fund or project led across various sectors such as the Malta Arts Fund.

In the strategy we devise a matrix that highlights our current ecology.

As the strategy notes: 'A healthy and diverse creative ecology requires various financial and fiscal mechanisms to empower and facilitate the implementation of creative ideas into innovative and sustainable experiences. Access to finance for the cultural and creative industries is a major obstacle for creative entrepreneurs and a major challenge for this developing sector. Direct funding programmes, awards, micro-loans or tax credits for the cultural and creative industries are designed to incentivise investment in the sector and address market failure.  Poor access to finance will lead to underinvestment in the sector from the optimal levels required by the economy'.

Various European countries with a strong and long tradition in public financing for culture are currently facing the repercussions of massive budget cuts. The Netherlands suffered a 22% drop in federal financing for the arts. Those with the strongest dependency on public funds suffered the biggest blow and a number of important cultural institutions, such as the Theatre Institute Netherlands, had to fold at the beginning of the year. This is a stern warning for the future of any public funding mechanism across Europe.

Although public funding for culture in Malta received an increase of 60%, we need to be cautious and strike the right balance with our financing portfolio that so far includes awards, grants, seed funding and tax incentives. These range from sector-specific initiatives such as the Malta Film Fund and the Malta Arts Fund to programmes such as INVEX that address horizontal objectives such as start-ups and entrepreneurship.    

Exclusive dependency on the public purse is unsustainable, does not motivate growth and instils a negative attitude of entitlement. We need to develop new models that encourage and facilitate access to finance while ensuring that cultural policy objectives are still met. Such models include public-private financing, venture capital and crowd funding.  

The trust brings together public and private investments as a long-term measure. It is now up to the Trustees to determine the best way forward however the law  permits them to strengthen the investment in the cultural and creative industries through:

1. Investment schemes;

2. National funding schemes;

3. Capital projects, and

4. Funding structures.

However, it should not double up existing funding programmes.

How will the Trust supplement the existing funding bodies?

The trustees will establish a work programme that determines the most effective use of available funds through an investment portfolio. Profits accrued from these investments will be distributed to existing funding programmes or invested in capital cultural projects. The Trustees may also partner with organisations to invest in new programmes. The Trust can also provide an added level of funding which aims to invest in high risk innovative small and medium sized creative enterprises that require capital for specific ventures in areas such as film, performing arts, games, fashion, architecture, television, digital and visual arts, heritage etc.

How will local artists benefit from the Trust?

The trust is a symbiosis of public and private investment for culture over a long-term period. Ultimately, it adds value to the development of a healthy, diverse and sustainable creative ecology which artists and creatives need to professionalise and grow.

Would it be correct to state that the Trust will provide more 'long-term' support to artists, as compared to the other funding bodies that are available?

Yes.

Being a more wide-ranging funding body, will the trust be tied to more holistic cultural plans - as outlined in the Cultural Policy and within plans for V18 - such as creative clusters etc?

The trust can invest in cultural infrastructure project as outlined in the law and as a public cultural initiative it is driven by cultural policy objectives. 

The nitty-gritty: if an individual wants to approach the Trust for financial aid, how would they go about it?

This will be determined by the Board of Trustees, however the Creativity Trust does not replace existing funding bodies and their ongoing application processes. Trustees manage and distribute funds generated by the Trust to programmes and initiatives as prescribed in the Creativity Trust Order.

For more information log on to Creative Malta.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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