02/06/2020 - 09:48

Art sector seeks grant clarity

02/06/2020 - 09:48

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Denied the ability to perform or present their work during COVID-19 lockdown, arts organisations and independent artists in Western Australia have been investing their time navigating a range of recent funding initiatives.

Art sector seeks grant clarity
Alex Desebrock says it is unclear how many grants are available for independent artists.

Denied the ability to perform or present their work during COVID-19 lockdown, arts organisations and independent artists in Western Australia have been investing their time navigating a range of recent funding initiatives.

To provide more timely assistance to the sector, the state government has partnered with Lotterywest to provide $13 million to be shared between not-for-profit arts, sports and community organisations, with a further $4.9 million in repurposed funding from Screenwest and the Department of Local Government Sport and Cultural Industries.

The Screenwest sustainability package repurposed $2.5 million in funds for grants to keep people working during the pandemic, with the first recipients announced in late May.

As part of its commitment, the Department of Local Government Sport and Cultural Industries suspended six normal funding rounds to support independent artists unable to directly access Lotterywest funding.

The WA funding model adopted so far is different to those in other states, with a $50 million package announced in NSW and a $16.8 million program in Victoria.

A spokesperson for Culture and Arts Minister David Templeman said the government refocused existing programs to support the independent art sector and was finalising a regional relief package.

Independent artist Alex Desebrock, whose work includes theatre, live art, installations and interventions, told Business News people had already spent time applying for the (now repurposed) funding rounds before they were cancelled.

“There was a massive delay in communicating to us what was going on and what was happening,” Ms Desebrock said.

“In that time, a lot of energy and resources were placed into applying for funds that were still open.”

She said several coronavirus-safe projects had been counting on the funding rounds to go ahead, but had since been cancelled, preventing available works entering creative development.

Although Ms Desebrock welcomed the support for independent artists, she said it was unclear how many grants were available, so it was difficult to know whether it was worth applying.

Ms Desebrock said more communication and less laborious grant applications could help artists at this time.

Performing Lines WA senior producer Rachael Whitworth said her organisation had applied for the Lotterywest funding and was hoping to be successful, although it was still unclear how many people had applied and how much money each organisation could get.

“To me it still feels like a big unknown,” Ms Whitworth told Business News.

“If we are successful it will be really fantastic at creating opportunities for artists between now and September.”

Chamber of Arts and Culture WA executive director Shelagh Magadza said she was looking for more information about how the Lotterywest funding would work.

“There’s so many different levels of need, ranging from our large-scale companies down to individuals, so we are really on the edge of our seats waiting to see how that’s going to be framed in terms of policy,” she said.

Ms Magadza said the $1.5 million funding delivered by the Art Gallery of WA Foundation and the gallery’s board was an example of a targeted initiative for independent artists.

“I think it is pretty hard for government to find targeted packages that reach those independent people effectively, so doing it this way through the state gallery and working with the artists in their collection, I think is a really strong way of reinforcing this particular community and the visual arts,” she said.

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