AN annual Perth art award celebrating artists with intellectual disabilities is under threat after the withdrawal of a major sponsor.
The As We Are Art Awards have been running in the CBD for almost 20 years, but the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has seen major sponsor Nulsen Disability Services pull out after it lost federal funding for its creative programs.
The company also provided about half the annual budget of As We Are, the not-for-profit organisation that organises the awards and provides other support for artists with intellectual disabilities.
As We Are manager Susie Waller says the sponsorship cut has hit the small organisation hard, and she’s working virtually as a volunteer to keep the doors open.
“We are pretty non-operational because we have no cash coming in,” she told the Voice.
Ms Waller says the art awards, which also attract a small sponsorship from Perth council, are AWA’s major event and attract more than 150 artists.
“Seeing families come to the event and perhaps seeing their son or their friend’s work for the first time – and it might be the first time they have taken their art seriously – to see their reactions is an amazing experience.”
Ms Waller says AWA has about 400 artists on its books.
Apart from the awards, the organisation alerts them to exhibition opportunities and helps to educate carers so they can support the artists.
This can involve giving advice on buying professional art materials, making sure carers give artists the time they need to finish work and ensuring artists have the freedom to make their own choices.
“It can be tempting for people to work on the artworks themselves, and it can be quite common, but its important not to interfere at all.”
To try raising funds to keep the service operating and the awards running this year, AWA is running a fundraiser in Fremantle.
Featuring Irish folk trio The Broken Pokers, the fundraiser will be held at the Pakenham Street Art Space on May 10 from 6.30pm. Tickets are $15/20 from asweareartists/eventbrite.com.au or $20/$25 on the door.
by STEVE GRANT