What do you like most about Vivid Sydney? The lights, the music or the ideas? Of that $8 million+ spent by tax payers, how much of that went to local talent?

I’ve been keeping track of the installations and events over the past two weeks and I can’t help but wonder. Can we do no better Sydney? I would love to see a sustainable well funded Australian artistic celebration. How do we as a nation promote a more vibrant culture of art. How do we use events like Vivid to support more relevant, organic, local talent. How do we give artists a platform to sing and paint the song lines and story lines of contemporary Australia?

“When is an arts festival not an arts festival? When it’s a giant advertising campaign – Vivid Sydney. The primary aim of the festival is not to celebrate and develop Sydney’s arts ecology, but to boost tourist dollars.”
– Richard Watts (Arts Hub)

Vivid Sydney has taken some pretty hard knocks by the arts community for not featuring local artists. Lots of money and marketing opportunities handed out to heavy weight players rather than artists on the ground. Sydney arts organisations have been feeling a sharp sting of jealous. Let’s now take a look at how Vivid Sydney 2013 has progressed.

Now in its fifth year, Vivid Sydney has become Sydney’s major festival in winter. The festival is an initiative funded by Destination NSW on behalf of the NSW Government, attracting nearly half a million people to its free and ticketed events. Last year’s Vivid Sydney attracted crowds of more than 500,000 and generated around $10 million in income for the state, said NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner at the launch.

“It is not an arts festival in the old sense of the word, it’s a celebration and promotion of Sydney’s creative industries.”
– Creative advisor Ignatius Jones at Vivid Sydney launch 2013.

The Vivid Live music program is headlined by German pop pioneers Kraftwerk. The Vivid Light Walk will feature large-scale multimedia screens showing the work of photographers including a century of photos from The Sydney Morning Herald, documenting a changing Sydney. Vivid Ideas will feature more than 100 events including talks and panels by British trend forecaster Ruby Psuedo, American clothing entrepreneur Johnny Cupcakes, British artist David Shrigley and Chris Ying from US food magazine Lucky Peach.

“At least events NSW is spending $8m on pretty lights instead of $45m on V8 super cars! Even though Vivid is not ideal, I just realised how much worse it could be!”
– Gloom Sydney Festival

As an artist living and breathing in Sydney it’s difficult to come to any sort of positive or negative response to Vivid Sydney. This low risk high budget ‘pretend art event’ seems to meet the needs of mainstream Sydney. How sad, for now.

I hope my work with Musomap, World Musician Day and Popup Concerts helps create many more vibrant decentralised live and local music opportunities across the city.