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INSIDE TRACK: Creative Scotland attempts to put a value on art

One of the only constants at Creative Scotland, the national arts funding body, seems to be change.

The body's latest annual plan has been published, only a day before it was announced that its director of creative industries, Caroline Parkinson, is to leave. Creative industries are an important part of the quango's remit, and indeed it is due to publish one of its strategies on the topic by December. Ms Parkinson leaves in September, so the new director will not have a lot of time to get her or his vision in place. The job is to be advertised shortly.

The annual plan speaks of many things that the body aims to do in the coming year: a new desire to investigate what it can do for Scots language and culture, a film strategy - although no new money, apart from what can be perhaps levered out of Europe - to be published this month, and several funding measures.

From October there will be a new way of funding artists and companies outside the Regular Funding regime (for which many companies are applying at the moment). Open Funding will provide grants of between £1000 and £150,000 for projects of up to two years in length. This will be where individual artists, including those who have been applying for the very popular Artist Bursaries (which are to be discontinued), will be encouraged to seek funds. In a chat with me this week, chief executive Janet Archer said: "Individuals will be able to apply for that fund and be taken every bit as seriously as companies. It's a new programme and we will monitor it quite carefully. I think Artist Bursaries have been fantastic for those that have got them, but the reality is we have only been able to fund a tiny proportion of the number of applications we've had, because it's a finite amount of money. You could argue that if we get enough strong applications from individuals into the Open Project fund, we have more artists funded than through bursaries."

How does Creative Scotland judge the artistic worth of what it funds? It is an old and vexed question, and I remember similar questions being asked of the Scottish Arts Council.

Perhaps surprisingly, Creative Scotland's boss does not believe it has a coherent system in place. Ms Archer said: "I am hoping by the end of this year we have pinned that down. Obviously it's a hot topic of conversation." She said that judging quality was of course subjective and complicated, especially when artists take risks "on the way to excellence" that don't quite work. She said the Framework for Artistic Assessment, as it will be called, would be a "robust, fair and transparent base for discussions about artistic quality and audience engagement" and would be formulated by the end of July.

"We haven't really got a system at the moment, to be honest," she said. "We have an approach, and of course we do evaluate things on an artistic level and we go and see work and report on it, but what I want is a much more coherent system that everyone understands. I think we can do that fairly quickly. I don't think it is difficult to do, but we need to share our ideas with the sector and generate as much consensual agreement as we can."

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