When Arts and Business Scotland welcomes guests to its "celebration" of another year of New Arts Sponsorship (NAS) grants at The Hub in Edinburgh this evening, it will be doing more than acknowledging a crucial fund-matching scheme that has now added over £6 million to support for the arts in Scotland since 2006, over £2.5m coming from the Scottish Government.
The NAS scheme encourages arts organisations to seek out new commercial sponsorship by adding the incentive of government support for each pound added to the cultural economy. However, Arts and Business Scotland, which began life as a regional arm of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts (Absa) and has been an independent body north of the Border since 2011, has a much broader remit than simply encouraging industry to provide money for the arts.
At tonight's reception, where performers include A Band Called Quinn - beneficiaries of the NAS scheme and soon to be part of the Made In Scotland showcase at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe - Arts and Business Scotland (A&BS) will also unveil a new corporate strategy that is designed to further emphasise the mutual benefit that association brings to both business and the arts, as well as acknowledging the organisation's move into a significant role in Scotland's heritage sector.
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Pledging to significantly increase its own earned income over the next three years, A&BS will outline proposals to encourage the arts sector to become more commercially minded in promoting its own contribution to the social and community, as well as economic, success of the nation, as Scotland's businesses learn from the success of the creative economy and the skills of people in the arts. Where the organisation has previously welcomed membership from either side of that equation and acknowledged those partnerships in the detail of its annual awards, Art and Business Scotland is moving to a single tier of membership as those partnerships become part of a broader picture that interacts with government agencies, local authorities and national quangos charged with running every area of Scottish public life.
This broadening reach beyond what is normally thought of as "arts" (theatre, dance, visual arts and music) to include work with Archeology Scotland and others on schemes like a Heritage Lottery-funded programme entitled Resourcing Scotland's Heritage represents a new phase in the work of A&BS under David Watt, who joined as chief executive last year.
He said: "This is an ambitious and challenging time for Arts & Business Scotland, but one which will no doubt reap huge rewards which will be felt across the cultural and heritage sectors. Our vision is for Scotland to be a nation where creativity and culture are at the heart of local communities and we will work to ensure that this continues to be a visible priority of the Scottish Government."
The change at A&BS has already been signalled by a substantial revision of the categories for the organisation's annual awards, nominations for which closed at the start of May, with the shortlist being announced next month. The new categories include Placemaking, reflecting contribution to a specific geographical area; People, recognising the cultural contribution to improving health, well-being and quality of life in the wider community; and Digital Innovation, whether in the execution of a creative project or in its delivery to a wider audience.
"Other categories are Entrepreneurship/Sustainability, International (for connections either in support or export of a project) and Leadership (recognising the contribution of an individual in the arts sector during 2013).
The awards ceremony itself, which will take place on Friday, October 24, will have a new, less formal format designed to make the most of a new venue, the transformed front-of-house spaces of Glasgow's Theatre Royal, next door to The Herald's editorial home. Appropriately, The Herald will be media partner for the Arts & Business Scotland Awards 2014 and will be revealing details of the shortlisted candidates in each of the categories in the run-up to the event.