Curate spaces that matter to Canberrans

It's not enough simply to invest in buildings in order to create an incredible place. The sign of a great city or precinct is also the strength of its cultural and artistic life.

Culture imparts a sense of place, improves quality of life, and stimulates economic activity. Businesses and individuals looking to invest, relocate, or visit, give considerable regard to the cultural identity and amenity of the destination city or precinct.

The poet T. S. Eliot once noted, "Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living". To borrow from this, city-building and place-making isn't just about allowing people to make a good living – it's also about living a good life.

With innovative space curation initiatives like Art, Not Apart having received support from Access Canberra and the Land Development Agency, it hits home that Canberra and its CBD must develop and compete on its cultural  cache if it is to succeed.

And there are many hidden gems in our city. For example, drop by the City West car park, and you'll stumble upon local artist Tommy Balogh hard at work staging his next pop-up exhibit.

The property industry is a first-mover on many of our city's cultural initiatives, and the recent push to curate meaningful spaces for the community is a positive step in the right direction.

In this regard, it has been noted that Access Canberra provides valuable assistance in navigating the approval processes of the various agencies. However, why is the application process to hold cultural events on public land so exhaustive and expensive in the first place?

Equally, why does approved privately funded art on public land incur multiple fee payments, and require the benefactor to pay for the maintenance of the artwork? Especially when artsACT have no new government-funded commissions, this seems like a quasi-tax on philanthropy.

There have been calls for the government to drop the things inhibiting innovation, and to change decision-making processes to activate culture and the arts in our city.

Although there's common ground and understanding of what needs to be done, the truly difficult part to accept is, despite knowing what needs to occur, change doesn't happen fast enough. 

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 14 May 2016.