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'Dark days' for SA's arts sector

Arts & Culture

South Australia’s small to medium arts sector is going through “very dark days” as organisations learn this week if they will receive ongoing federal funding, says Arts Industry Council of SA chair Gail Kovatseff.

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The Australia Council yesterday began notifying organisations if they have been successful in their application for four-year funding, with many expected to lose out under the new model.

SA Arts Minister Jack Snelling said today the Federal Government’s “rupturing” of arts funding arrangements would lead to widespread pain in the sector, while Kovatseff described the cuts as unfair and “purposeless destruction”.

Organisations have been asked by the Australian Council to keep the outcome of their applications secret until it publicly announces the results of the latest funding round on Monday, but InDaily understand a number of SA companies have already received bad news.

Andy Packer, artistic director of Adelaide-based Slingsby – whose most recent production was the critically acclaimed The Young King at the old Dazzeland site during the 2016 Adelaide Festival – posted a Facebook message yesterday that was widely interpreted to mean the theatre company had missed out on funding:

“We travelled through the night until we came to a small clearing where people congregated. We sat together with these strange folk sharing in stories and togetherness. And when we awoke, though the party had broken up, still the memory of this night lived deep within us” – Slingsby

Earlier this week, InDaily published an article by Packer in which he offered a heartfelt message of thanks to his fellow artists as they waited for the “impending bloodshed”.

Other SA small and medium arts organisations that traditionally receive funding from the Australia Council include Australian Dance Theatre, Brink Productions, Vitalstatistix, Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute,  Patch Theatre and Restless Dance.

The Daily Review has reported that it is estimated about 130 companies nationally have reapplied for the funding, and only 60 to 80 will be successful, with the next round not until 2019.

AICSA’s Kovatseff said that due to the Australia Council’s embargo, she was unable to comment yet on which South Australian applicants had already been notified that they would lose funding. However, she said there was no fundamental reason for the cuts.

“This is very dark days for the small to medium sector … it is a lot of purposeless destruction.

“These are organisations that have served their constituencies extremely well. It doesn’t make sense; it’s extremely unfair.”

While the Australia Council’s budget has been shrunk, federal funding has been directed to a new ministerial scheme, Catalyst, which gives grants to specific arts projects but has been criticised by many in the sector for a perceived lack of accountability and independence.

SA Arts Minister Snelling said the Federal Government’s new funding arrangements would jeopardise the viability of some small, medium and independent arts organisations.

“It’s unfortunate that the actions unleashed by former federal arts minister Senator [George] Brandis have amounted to the unilateral rupturing of the collaborative funding approach,” Snelling said.

“Cutting Australia Council funding has undermined the established cooperation upon which state and federal funding in Australia existed.”

Although South Australian arts organisations have previously been warned they also face reduced state funding in the future, Snelling said today that the State Government would work through Arts SA to assist those affected by the Australia Council cuts.

He announced a series of measures, including “greater funding opportunities from within the existing Arts South Australia budget” and an extension of the closing date for funding applications through the state’s Arts Organisations funding program.

The State Government will also work with organisations to look at alternative operating models and partnerships, suspend the State Government’s partnership funding requirement for 2017 for arts organisations affected by the Australia Council outcomes, and offer counselling and other help for individuals in organisations defunded by the council.

“These organisations are the engine room of our arts sector,” Snelling said of the small to medium sector.

“They are the proving-ground for our leaders of tomorrow.

“It is a crucial layer in the sector, especially in South Australia across all art forms, and our leading organisations and cultural institutions depend on a flourishing and vibrant emerging and mid-tier framework to support their own success.”

Arts SA has invited representatives of applicant organisations and the Arts Industry Council to a meeting tomorrow to discuss its response to the national funding announcements, with executive director Peter Louca acknowledging that they are going through “an especially challenging time”.

“It [Arts SA] will aim to work with those affected and beyond in the coming weeks and months as we manage the impacts on our sector,” Louca said.

The Arts Industry Council of SA  is also is offering strategic advice to help organisations affected, while the Australian Network for Art and Technology is hosting a “Share the Pain, Share the Love” event in Adelaide this evening.

Following its AGM this Monday at Nexus Arts, AICSA will host an open discussion about “funding cuts advocacy” in the lead-up to the federal election.

 

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