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Pollies to face questions over funding
The West Australian

The State's peak arts body has used the conjunction of festival season and the election campaign to fire a warning shot across the bows of the major political parties to ignore the arts at their peril.

Chamber of Arts and Culture chairman Warwick Hemsley said the commitment of both sides of politics would be put under the microscope at a public forum this month. "We want our major political parties to show how serious they are about the health of our arts sector," he said.

"There are some big issues facing this State as we go to the polls but we don't want arts and culture to fall between the cracks.

"This forum isn't an inquisition. It's an opportunity for our political parties to put on the record and demonstrate their commitment to the quality of life in our State through a long-term investment in the human capability and built capital of our arts sector."

Mr Hemsley said business and the wider community needed to support arts and culture but government funding for the sector had remained static or decreased at Federal and State levels.

Crucial areas that needed attention included the reintroduction of indexation of funding to arts organisations, increases in baseline funding and improved infrastructure.

He said it was exciting to see the energy brought to the city by the Perth International Arts Festival and Fringe World but local talent needed to be nurtured.

"It is noteworthy how many young people are participating in the experience," Mr Hemsley said. "It is adding enormous vitality to central Perth."

Culture and the Arts Minister John Day, shadow minister John Hyde, Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren and Nationals MLC Colin Holt will face questions at the Get Your Arts Into Gear forum at the De Parel spiegeltent in the Perth Cultural Centre on February 25.

Mr Hemsley said there had been growing bipartisan recognition of the importance of the sector but that had not translated into elevated funding across all levels of government.

He said the sector wanted the political parties to demonstrate a tangible plan for enhancing WA's liveability through arts and culture.

Mr Hemsley, a property millionaire who chairs the WA Opera and sits on the council of the National Gallery of Australia, took over from Rio Tinto boss Sam Walsh as the chairman of the arts lobby group two weeks ago.

The WA arts and culture sector employs more than 40,000 people.