02/10/2007 - 22:00

Not for profit: Help for artists mid-career

02/10/2007 - 22:00


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It’s the suburban life that inspires the projects of Fremantle-based artist Bevan Honey, who is about to benefit from one of Western Australia’s most unique arts funding programs.

It’s the suburban life that inspires the projects of Fremantle-based artist Bevan Honey, who is about to benefit from one of Western Australia’s most unique arts funding programs.


Mr Honey is the latest recipient of the Mark Howlett Foundation’s annual art commission, worth about $65,000, which gives mid-career Western Australian artists the opportunity to produce 25 original works over 12 months.


Funds are sourced from subscribers, who pay $3,500 and receive one original work, plus a series of prints, at the completion of the commission.


Mr Honey, who will start work in early 2008, said the program was extremely valuable because it provided a sustained income stream for artists.


“It’s an important opportunity to work on something for a year,” he said.


“It’s also a great model for supporting artists and a way of people getting something real and tangible back.”


Mr Honey said subscribers also received an insight into the process behind an art practice.


The Mark Howlett Foundation has had a total of 130 subscribers since it was founded in 1991, with a handful of subscribers having registered for each of the 12 previous commissions, many of which sold out.


Subscribers typically fall into four categories – small private collectors, institutions (including universities and hospitals), businesses, and friends and family of the foundation.


Artworks are allocated to subscribers through a ballot at the foundation’s annual exhibition, held in February or March each year.


The artist receives a periodic payment from the foundation for the 12-month duration of the commission, which amounts to 65 per cent of the organisation’s total revenue.


MHF founder and current chair, Penny Bovell, who established the foundation in memory of her late husband, Mark Howlett, said mid-career artists needed support because they were often neglected by galleries and funding programs. 


“In Perth, the underlying interest in (art) collecting is so impoverished. Artists have to linger in mid-career for a lot longer because there’s nothing else,” Ms Bovell said. 


She said the foundation had developed into a close-knit group during the past 15 years.


Its board, which meets every six weeks, is made up of 10 members, five of whom are former Howlett artists – including Ms Bovell, Trevor Richards, Trevor Vickers, Galliano Fardin, and Theo Koning.


For each commission, the board makes two studio visits and hosts a dinner to launch the artist’s exhibition, prior to a public opening.


“I think the beauty of it is, it’s a small group of people getting together. The way decisions are made is through consensus, which is slower but more valuable,” Ms Bovell said.


However, she said the organisation would benefit from broadening its subscription base and developing corporate sponsorship and patronage programs, which it had not previously pursued.


“To date, (our growth) has been fairly organic because we’re a voluntary organisation. A couple of times we’ve pushed to a point, toying with the idea of two commissions at once, but we’ve gone back to doing what we do best,” Ms Bovell said.


“One of the things we’ve spent very little on is the administrative arm. In order to deal professionally with institutions and corporations, we do need to raise our profile. It’s frustrating for us to know there are so many mid-career artists who would benefit from this.”


The foundation has an estimated $70,000 worth of stock in storage, which Ms Bovell said could be better utilised through leasing to hotels and corporate offices.


It also generates funds by selling prints and extra stock at the annual exhibition, and sponsors an annual drawing prize at the University of Western Australia.



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