Editorial: South Alive (and kicking in?)

The South Alive group has scored a $100,000 donation to commission a new sculpture in south Invercargill.

Please bear that figure in mind for a moment.

The Invercargill City Council is floating, in its draft annual plan, the idea of a special rate to be taken from southern city ratepayers to continue funding the employment of South Alive co-ordinator Janette Malcolm.

It would cost, they reckon, about $100,000.

Perhaps you can already see where we're going with this.

Not that the statue money could simply be hijacked to fund the co-ordinator's role. No, no, because the handsome figure was put forward by a patron of the arts for a clearly identified purpose.

But let's not be too narrowminded in how we regard art. After all, South Alive chairman Colin Anderson said the group would like the artwork to be representative of the suburb but otherwise had no specifications that the artist would have to work within.

No specifications? In which case what about the multi-tasking Ms Malcolm becoming, in effect, a real piece of art?

Performance art, obviously, as distinct from performance pay.

Something perhaps influenced by Marina Abramovic's piece The Artist is Present where she sat in the Museum of Modern Art's atrium for 736 hours while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her.

Invercargill's could be The Co-ordinator is Present, if that's not too derivative. Not for a moment would we suggest Ms Malcolm would be inert and immobile the way Abramovic was. Quite the opposite.

Art-lovers and ratepayers alike could be invited into the South Alive headquarters to watch her ardently pursue about the task of discerning and empowering their hopes and dreams for the area.

Should this idea fail to engage the good people at South Alive, their sponsor and the local community - and we can perhaps understand why it mightn't - then we're still stuck with the question how best to respond to the council's present idea of a targeted rates increase to continue the position.

The first thing for everybody else to remember is that it's entirely a matter for the ratepayers of south Invercargill whether they collectively authorise, or not, the council to dip into their pockets for this specific purpose.

Nobody else, neither the councillors nor the rest of the city ratepayers, should get a say-so. It's just a case of the southern community making its views known during the consultation process.

Things would get muddier, admittedly, if the affected ratepayers were closely divided on the issue. But we doubt they would be. So far there haven't been any conspicuous signs of them embracing that idea.

Meanwhile the council finds itself having to emphasise that this proposed special rate is not only just an idea, but also entirely distinct from south Invercargill getting fair turn-abouts for the same sort of work that the inner city and Windsor have previously enjoyed.

It's all about the role of the South Alive co-ordinator - this bearing in mind that she doesn't work in isolation. There remains a South Alive committee made up of community members.

This is a time of flux for a couple of co-ordination roles in the city. The council is also proposing, in its plan, to yank its funding for the inner-city group Vibrant Invercargill and either use the money for a town centre co-ordinator based at the council or to give the job to Venture Southland.

In many worthwhile roles, one of the duties of a project co-ordinator, and that person's support team, is to fundraise for the role itself. It's a task to be undertaken diligently - sometimes even artfully.

The Southland Times