Despite having a fraction of the population, Canberrans consume art like a major city. I’d heard the statistic before — Andrew Leigh uses it to make a fascinating argument about the value of community — but this time I was hearing it in a different context: Jack Waterford, editor-at-large of the Canberra Times, was framing a conversation about the role of the critic. If Canberra has such an appetite for the arts, where are the critics? What is their role? How do they link artists to audiences? And — perhaps most strangely — why does Canberra lose its critics to the larger cities, Melbourne and Sydney?
If you ever get the chance to hear Waterford talk, take up the opportunity. Even when he’s dead wrong, he’s engaging and thought-provoking. I’m still mulling over ideas and it’s now several hours since I saw him talk as part of a panel hosted by the Childers Forum here in Canberra: The Role of the Critic.