Sculpture in the Gardens is a wonderful free event. Last event it attracted just under 350,000 visitors ( 2015/16) . It has grown exponentially over the 10 years since the first exhibition took place in 2007.
Part of the terms and conditions of the Friends Garden Art License Agreement( first entered into with the former Auckland Regional Council in 2005) was that ‘Friends will retain the revenue received from the sale of artworks, for the express purchase of purchasing artwork for permanent placement at the Gardens’
A collection of 21 significant sculptures is now on permanent display. Many of these permanent works were purchased by the Friends during previous Sculpture in the Gardens exhibitions and subsequently donated to the Botanic Gardens
The Friends, asked the Environment and Community Committee to allow them to utilize $74,000 of the funds held in their artwork acquisition account, to cover operational expenses associated with the 2017/18 event.
I put up an amendment against this, not because I don’t support the event, quite the contrary, but because by allowing capex to be spent as opex we are not encouraging sustainability of the event nor are we allowing the current purpose to ensure more art can be bought for the enjoyment of Aucklanders and visitors.
The manager of the Botanic Gardens Jock Hobbs said in the meeting, the event wasn’t currently sustainable. It was my desire to ensure the Friends of Auckland Botanic Gardens work with Council staff to find a sponsor for the event long term. I didn’t get majority support for this. Instead the resolutions passed were as follows
That the Environment and Community Committee:
a) approve the use of $74,000 of the funds held in the Friends of Auckland Botanic Gardens artwork acquisition account to cover operational expenses associated with the 2017/2018 Sculpture in the Gardens exhibition.
b) agree that the Friends of Auckland Botanic Gardensretain earnings from commissions on sculpture sales during future Sculpture in the Gardens exhibitions, and can utilise this funding for the general purposes of running the exhibitions.
c) delegate the General Manager Parks, Sport and Recreation authorisation to negotiate with the Friends of Auckland Botanic Gardens updated licence and conditions to supportoperation of future Sculpture in the Gardens exhibitions.
My amendments below whilst supported by some councilors, was lost on voices
That the Environment and Community Committee
a) Grant Friends of Auckland Botanic gardens approval to utilise $74,00 of the funds held in their artwork acquisition account to cover operational expenses associated with the 2017/2018 Sculpture in the Gardens exhibition on the condition this is repaid after the 17/18 event, back into the art acquisition fund
b) request the GM Parks, Sport and Recreation to work with Friends of Auckland Botanical Gardens to ensure sponsorship is in place to ensure future events from 18/19 onwards are self- funding and meet agreed art licence agreements.
Sadly in my opinion allowing the use of capex for opex will erode acquisition of more public art, lessen the urgency to look for a corporate sponsor and/ or mechanisms to ensure event sustainability, and will not honour the original intent of the agreement.