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Prime Minister not one for culture, it seems

KEVIN Rudd went to Adelaide on Sunday to help Premier Mike Rann launch his election campaign -- and the Prime Minister managed to avoid the biggest arts jamboree in the country.

Mr Rudd appears to have missed the Adelaide Festival, the Fringe festival, and Adelaide Writers Week.

Australian Major Performing Arts Group executive director Sue Donnelly said invitations sent to the Prime Minister's office from the companies she represents, including the Australian Ballet, Sydney Theatre Company and Opera Australia, were always declined.

"He's an incredibly busy man and he's got so many demands on his time but (accepting an invitation would be) a gesture to demonstrate the arts and performing arts are important in our country," Ms Donnelly said.

Mr Rudd may be out of step with an arts-loving nation, however. An Australia Council for the Arts survey has found 93 per cent of people regularly engage with the arts in some way.

At least 85 per cent are avid readers of poetry and other literature, but when it comes to actually creating art, visual arts has the biggest number of participants: almost 10 per cent have in the past year made jewellery or ceramics, sewed, painted or done photography.

The figures come from a survey of 3000 people late last year, the biggest survey of its kind since 2001.

Australia Council chief executive Kathy Keele said the survey revealed a change of attitude among Australians.

"We've moved past the either for sports or art," she said.

"That's a hurdle we don't have to cross any more."

Mr Rudd has visited art galleries during his term and his wife, Therese Rein, is patron of the National Portrait Gallery.

Arts Minister Peter Garrett regularly attends performances.

A spokesperson for Tony Abbott was unable to recall him going to an arts event since he became Opposition Leader.

Michaela Boland, National arts writer, The Australian
March 02, 2010 12:00AM