New minister, still cutting

LOCAL music ensemble Decibel has little hope it will finally go on a US tour to promote its new app after another “disappointing” blow to federal arts funding.

The group, composed of talent from Edith Cowan University, missed out on a US tour because of Australia Council funding cuts of $105 million over four years, announced in May.

And there’s still little to get excited about, band member Cat Hope says, even though new arts minister Mitch Fifield last week decided to return $32.4m back to the council over four years and pool $12m in a new program called Catalyst.

“There’s less money available so it’s now more competitive,” Ms Hope, who’s also an ECU associate professor.

• Decibel new music ensemble has missed out on a US tour as a result of Australia Council funding cuts. And they’re not the only ones to have missed out, WA Chamber of Arts and Culture chief executive Henry Boston says. Pictured are Cat Hope, Stuart James and Aaron Wyatt. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

• Decibel new music ensemble has missed out on a US tour as a result of Australia Council funding cuts. And they’re not the only ones to have missed out, WA Chamber of Arts and Culture chief executive Henry Boston says. Pictured are Cat Hope, Stuart James and Aaron Wyatt. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

Having received a totol of about $100,000 in council funds on four other occasions for past projects, they liked their chances of getting their $50,000 US trip partially funded by the peer-reviewed body in mid-year funding round.

But that round was dumped by former arts minister George Brandis.

The group was due to tour the US late this year to promote its “ScorePlayer” app—developed together with prolific US composer John Cage—which uses new animated notation technology for reading music. (This technology is the next step up from graphic notion, so say goodbye to reading music on paper).

“We’ve invested about two years into this project,” Ms Hope says.

“Now, if we don’t go soon to hold workshops and demonstrations, to show people how it works, we’ll miss the moment.”

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“If the government really wants to encourage innovation and international recognition, it’s going the wrong way about it.”

Senator Fifield says Catalyst will do “some very different things to the Australia Council”.

“We’re proposing that Catalyst can help support new ways of partnerships and collaboration,” Mr Fifield says.

“So…someone might want to set up a new fellowships program, or they might want to come up with an innovative way of funding an infrastructure project. So on the partnership and collaboration side, that’s something really that the Australia Council doesn’t do.”

But Greens arts spokesperson Scott Ludlam took to Twitter this week with the #freethearts hashtag, saying it’s still just a “slush fund”.

“Brandis’ pointless $20m arts slush fund is now Fifield’s pointless $12m slush fund,” Mr Ludlam tweeted.

He told the senate on Monday that Senator Brandis had “broken something that didn’t need fixing” when he pulled funding from the Australia Council to create his own National Program for Excellence in the Arts.

“I have never seen this degree of unanimity of representation,” he told senators.

“They have clawed back a little over a third of the funding and put it back into the Australian Council’s peer-reviewed process, where it belongs. That still leaves $12 million in this new Catalyst entity that nobody can figure out what it is for.”

WA Chamber of Arts and Culture executive director Henry Boston has “significant concerns” that no money returned to the council will address funding cuts for small-to-medium arts organisations.

“A broader group of applicants will be competing with the small-to-medium and major organisations for a smaller pot of money,” Mr Boston says.

“It’s very disappointing that not more funds were returned to Australia Council.”

He says there’ll be a heavier workload on arts organisation, making it harder for to complete core business: making art.

Community Network WA managing director Pilar Kasat, based on Murray Street in the CBD, says it’s had to put three projects on hold to revisit business plans over the past few months.

It’s vying for $200,000 per year—about 10 per cent of its kitty—from the council.

The Voice has previously reported the community network, Perth-based Tura New Music and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts stood to lose a combined total of more than $700,000 because of the cuts.

by EMMIE DOWLING

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