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Budget fails independent arts sector: AICSA

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SA’s peak arts industry body has warned it will be targeting marginal seats in the lead-up to the state election after its plea for new funding to redress the “dire” situation facing the sector was ignored in yesterday’s budget.

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Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis’s 2017-18 budget included funding for a number of arts projects, including an extra $31 million for the upgrade of Her Majesty’s Theatre, $1.25 million for next year’s Adelaide Festival and $1.9 million for an international search to find a designer for the new Adelaide Contemporary Gallery on the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site.

However, there was no money for the Arts Industry Council of South Australia’s proposed initiatives to support what it describes as “the heart of art making”.

“While we recognise that this budget has seen no cuts to the arts, overall the Government has ignored the calls of artists and arts organisations to redress the dire and stagnant funding environment facing individual artists and small-to-medium arts organisations in South Australia,” AICSA chairperson Gail Kovatseff said in a statement.

“New initiatives have entirely focused on capital investment and major institutions. We welcome these initiatives.

“However, even a modest investment in grants programs, individual career development and arts innovation could have had a deep impact on the development of new South Australian artistic work, the heart of art-making in South Australia – artists themselves – and keeping artists in our state.”

In a letter sent to the Treasurer late last year, the council, which represents more than 100 SA organisations and artists, pitched a survival plan for the sector which would have cost $4.2 million in 2017-2018 and $17 million over four years.

Its proposals included a new development fund offering grants to early-career artists, a $2 million annual increase in funding for peer-assessed programs benefitting small-to-medium arts organisations and individual artists, and a new grants program for innovative and experimental arts projects. It also urged the State Government to set up a cross-departmental taskforce to develop a longer-term arts and culture strategy before the next state election.

A number of South Australia’s small and medium arts organisations were left reeling last year after being defunded by federal funding body the Australia Council.

Although the State Government has said it is investing $1.1 million into Arts South Australia’s delivery of its programs, the AICSA said this was merely a “one-year reprieve from savings/efficiencies, which maintains the status quo”.

Kovatseff said AICSA will ask all parties contesting the next state election to release their arts policies.

“We’ve always been clear that these are critical needs of the industry and we will run an election campaign highlighting the various parties’ positions on the arts …we will target marginal seats,” she told InDaily.

She said it did not believe the State Government understood the “breadth of the arts sector”.

“The future of contemporary global artistic practice in South Australia relies not only on infrastructure, festivals and arts centres, but on artists themselves and the small and medium-sized organisations that develop, commission, present and nurture them.”

InDaily has sought comment from the Government.

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