The Proposed Irish Academy for the Performing Arts
The proposal to establish an Irish Academy for the Performing Arts was first put forward in the ‘Piano’ report commissioned by the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht in 1996. In the current programme for government, An Action Programme for the Millennium, the establishment of ‘a Dublin Centre for Performing Arts, incorporating a Conservatoire’ was adopted as an objective. Since then, the proposal has been progressed at government level by means of a report commissioned in 1999 from consultant Peter Renshaw, as well as the deliberations of two government-appointed working groups. It now appears that the establishment of the Academy and the appointment of a President is imminent, although public information and consultation with interested parties has been minimal and serious questions surround the manner in which the institution is to be constituted or funded.
Concerns of the Forum
While our members welcome positive support for artistic development, the following precise concerns in relation to the IAPA proposals were expressed at the Forum’s spring plenary meeting in St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin, on 21 April 2001.
1. The want of an articulated vision or mission statement for the project.
2. The lack of definition surrounding the project. While it is understood that the broad artforms of music, dance and drama are to be the core of the Academy, there is no detail of the particular genres that are to be included within each artform. In the sphere of music, there is no indication as to what musics will be available or how tuition is to be provided.
3. The lack of adequate consultation. The terms of reference for the project were not widely disseminated and submissions were not responded to.
4. The dearth of information surrounding the project.
5. The nodal structure that appears to have emerged is arguably a child of circumstance and expediency rather than the fruit of a clear artistic policy.
The following questions pertaining to the proposed Irish Academy for the Performing Arts (IAPA) are addressed to the Minister.
1. What is the rationale for the proposal to establish the Academy?
2 . Given concern over the process of consultation and want of response to submissions, is the Renshaw report (Proposal for an Irish Academy for the Performing Arts, July 1999) considered adequate as a blueprint for such an important development?
3. If the institution is to be founded anew, from whence will staff be drawn?
4. Has the Department of Education and Science a strategy to avoid asset-stripping the existing third-level providers of personnel?
5. How will the core element of music be provided in the proposed Dublin node of the Academy?
6. What music(s) will be the concern of the Academy?
7. Does the project not imply a criticism of the existing arts education providers? Is there not a case to empower adequately the existing providers rather than establish yet another institution in what is a relatively small sector?
8. How will IAPA relate with all the existing institutions?
9. Is there a record of consultation with the Council of Heads of Music in Higher Education?
10. Why a nodal structure? Is the central thrust of the project not already compromised by a structure imposed through political expediency?
11. How can inter-disciplinary cross-fertilisation take place in a nodal structure where different artforms are physically separated?
12. What moves have been made to establish the Academy as an all-island facility, as originally proposed?
13. How are the many advantages that accrue to arts students through study abroad to be supplied by IAPA?
14. Given that exceptional musical talent can manifest itself and require nurturing at a very young age, how will such demand be accommodated by a dedicated third-level provider of the type proposed?
15. Given that there will be a minimum student number below which such an institution will not be viable, is there not serious concern as to where these students might be discovered?
16. How does the recent provision of £46 million to the Cork School of Music (a constituent college of the Cork Institute of Technology), for its new building fit with the proposals for IAPA, given that the Cork school is due to be completed in 2003 and will be one of the most advanced music learning environments in Europe?
17. How will the proposed IAPA benefit those many areas of the State where there is little if any music provision at any level?
18. Is it not arguable that as a nation we would be better advised to support wider and more equitable access to arts opportunities in primary and second levels and to support our existing providers at third level, before seeking to add a further specialist level? Would this not ensure a better throughflow of students?
19. If it is proposed to proceed with the establishment of an interim governing body for the IAPA, what are its terms of reference?
20. Do detailed set-up and running costs for this institution exist?
21. Have courses and course content been discussed in any detail by the Planning and Steering Group?
22. Do not the range of questions and doubts surrounding the project suggest that it is essential to examine this proposal further and in a more inclusive way prior to the appointment of officers and the establishment of a governing body?
Forum for Music in Ireland / Fóram don Cheol in Éirinn
19 Fishamble St, Dublin 8. Tel 086-321 9644 Fax 01-648 9100 Email forum@cmc ie
Published on 1 July 2001