Pardon me for going back to the original proposition, but as the discussion has developed I see the emergence of two streams that has confused the issue. Back in 2009 Nicole wrote .........
So I submit firstly that the proposition being put forward that "big" media and government should increase their coverage of the things we approve of and force feed the rest of the population with stuff they don't want is seriously flawed and naive. I'm not being rude - just pointing out the facts of the matter. That's not to say we should not try to encourage the ABC, for example, to maintain or increase their coverage and content but apart from their wide-ranging charter they have political overlords to satisfy and so they cannot but end up in a compromised position.
The fork in the road I detect relates to evidence offered by several posters who described a thriving local arts scene. This doesn't satisfy Nicole's complaint but the reality is that artistically and musically there actually is a healthy community of arts practitioners and followers spread across the country. Kangaroo Island got a mention. I can think of other areas like the Blue Mountains and the Dandenongs where thriving artistic activity is going on and has done for years. Sure, it's local, but that's where the action is and where like minded people can meet and connect and motivate each other. If you don't happen to live in or near one of those areas then it's a bit tough but my point is they do exist and have done so for many years.
Let me outline a couple of scenarios that work in different ways.
There is a thriving Folk Music community spread right around Australia. It is not governed by location. There are many small local folk music clubs that are part of a wider community that has itself well organised with a monthly magazine bearing news, forthcoming festivals, overseas artists, a gig guide to where and when local artists are performing, reports on shows and festivals - and it's not limited to "folk". It includes bush poetry, bush dancing, bluegrass and independent artists. They even have a National Convention each year. Ever heard of it? Probably not unless you're interested but the fact is that there are several thousand Australians who are involved at some level.
Country music operates in much the same way. You might hear about the Keith Urbans etc, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Beavering away week by week in countless halls and clubs around Australia there are country music clubs where people come to play and listen, go to weekend camps to compete for awards and go to Tamworth to busk in the hope of getting recognised. Thousands more involved and again they have their own national organisation and magazine.
Compare those scenarios with the level of interest, activity and involvement in the photographic world - specifically the camera clubs around Australia. Do you see anything resembling the same level of involvement and activity and numbers participating? Not a chance. So where does the problem lie? It's pretty obvious, isn't it? And if you're a media mogul and have three proposals on your desk asking for funding or coverage of Folk, Country and Photography, which one is going into the round green bin first?
There's a second problem with photography. There's too much of it. With a modern digital do-anything-auto camera every man woman and child can produce good photographs. Good enough to satisfy their needs for display on a computer anyway. So any photographs that are exhibited as "art" need to be absolute stand-out images that anyone looking at will know that they're far better than anything they can produce themselves. Tough call. Go along to your local show and look at the photographic entries. 90% will be absolute crap in terms of subject choice, composition and presentation. With a first place prize of $5 who in their right mind would enter such a 'competition'? And who judges it? Probably the wife of the mayor if you're lucky. So people struggle on as individuals and count themselves lucky if they can get a bit of wall space in a local coffee shop to hang a few examples of their work. A couple of years ago to try to encourage some interest in traditional photography I offered to provide $200 as first prize for a B&W print at our local show and it was refused on the grounds that it would "upset the balance" of prize values right across the show, including the scones and cake decoration I have no doubt. They would have been happy to take my $200 provided they had absolute discretion in redistributing it across all prize categories.
Consider the differences for painters. Joe Blow and his wife Mary know they can't paint. Never tried, never will. But they'll go along to the annual local Art Prize and admire the entries. Some will be pretty ordinary but some will be excellent and well deserving of the prize money which probably ranges between $2000 and $5000, depending on the status of the show and the sponsorship they have obtained. And many of the artists will sell their work. If you have the chance, go to Bright in NE Victoria at Easter and view the show there and you'll see what I mean - and that's only one of many around the country. And most of the people who go to look can't/don't paint themselves. And there will be "name" artists to perform the judging. Many of the local artists will belong to a society or club that provides space, tuition, workshops, outings and encouragement.
If you hunt around you'll likely find there's some form of infrastructure already there to support most forms of artistic endeavour. Other than photography, most seem to exist satisfactorily or even thrive but they do it on their own and often under the radar. I submit that the problem for photographers is twofold. Their own inertia and individualism and the fact that digital technology has over-run the craft element of the field so that there's little that's seen as special by the 'average punter'. And I don't have an answer for that.