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Funding boost for SA arts projects

InReview

Brink Productions, Australian Dance Theatre and the OzAsia Festival are among the SA arts organisations and projects awarded grants through the Federal Government’s controversial new Catalyst fund.

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The ministerial fund was set up late last year by new federal Arts Minister Mitch Fifield, following the storm created by his predecessor George Brandis’s restructure of arts funding, but is still viewed with scepticism by some in the arts industry.

With $12 million a year to invest in “innovative projects and initiatives”, Catalyst published the first grant recipients on its website yesterday ahead of today’s Federal Budget.

Among the SA recipients, Adelaide theatre company Brink Productions received $160,000 towards a project marking the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan during the Vietnam War, Adelaide Festival Centre Trust was awarded $400,000 to support the OzAsia Festival and Australian Dance Theatre (ADT) secured more than $79,000 for a contemporary dance work, Objekt.

ADT artistic director Garry Stewart and dancer Kimball Wong are currently in Europe working on Objekt, a collaboration with Germany’s Tanzmainz dance company that will reflect socio-political issues such as immigration, terrorism and xenophobia.

ADT executive director Shaun Comerford told InDaily that if the company had not received the Catalyst funding, it would not have been able to stage the work.

He said the ADT had to be more adaptable and “a little more risk-averse” as a result of the tough funding climate, with reduced money available through national funding body the Australia Council, and the State Government foreshadowing significant arts budget cuts.

Like many smaller arts organisations, it is waiting to hear in the next week or so how much it will receive in the Australia Council’s four-year funding announcement.

After the Council’s own budget was slashed by Brandis, it applied a cap of $300,000 to grants for small to medium organisations, which Comerford said was about 20 per cent less than the ADT currently received.

“It’s a sizeable chunk … everyone knew that going into the application process last year.”

Brink Productions general manager Karen Wilson welcomed the Catalyst funding for the company’s Long Tan verbatim-theatre project, which is based on interviews with soldiers who fought in the Battle of Long Tan and will be presented at the Space Theatre in August.

However, she said the grant did not give the company security, and it was also nervously awaiting news from the Australia Council – especially after receiving a 20 per cent funding cut from the State Government last year.

Asked what it would mean for Brink if it failed to receive enough Australia Council funding, Wilson said: “We have a significant project that we are working towards delivering in 2018 which we have received ANZAC funding for, so we will try to find a way to deliver on that project.”

The State Theatre Company of SA was one of only a few major performing arts companies awarded Catalyst grants, receiving almost $55,000 to support an international tour of local writer Andrew Bovell’s play Things I Know to Be True, which opens in Adelaide this month.

Other SA Catalyst recipients include: SASA Gallery at UniSA, $22,588 for a Border Crossings visual art project; History Trust of SA, $125,000 for an interactive exhibition at the National Motor Museum in Birdwood investigating the influences of motor culture on video gaming; Restless Dance Theatre, $13,000 to support the development of a new work; and Spinifex Arts Project Aboriginal Corporation, $70,000 for infrastructure requirements.

It was previously announced that $1 million (the largest single Catalyst grant) would be provided towards the acquisition and preservation of landscape artist Hans Heysen’s former Adelaide Hills home The Cedars.

While it is generally acknowledged that there are many deserving projects among the Catalyst grant recipients, some in the arts industry – including national body ArtsPeak – believe the fund duplicates the programs of the Australia Council, without the same accountability and independence.

State Theatre Company of SA executive director Rob Brookman told an arts funding rally in Adelaide last month that because Catalyst funds only projects, rather than providing core funding, it offers “no life-raft” for small to medium organisations fearing cuts from the Australia Council and the State Government.

Tamara Winikoff, ArtsPeak co-convenor and executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, told the website ArtsHub yesterday that through “sleight-of-hand”, the Government had diverted funds previously provided for the Australia Council to ensure “the sustainable operations of the heartland of Australian cultural production”.

“We also know that some decisions go outside the guidelines of the Catalyst fund – eg support towards the acquisition of artist Hans Heyson’s property, when the guidelines specifically exclude funding for ‘built or natural heritage projects’,” she told the website.

Catalyst funding is provided under three headings: Partnerships and Collaborations, International and Cultural Diplomacy, and Innovation and Participation. The full list of recipients can be seen here.

 

 

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