Arts groups miss funding

AN already-ailing arts industry has been dealt a devastating followup blow with several key pillars of the local scene failing to get funding from the Australia Council. 

The Blue Room Theatre and Barking Gecko didn’t have their four-year funding arrangements extended after making it through to the final selection stage. They have instead been given a reduced one-year “transitional” grant cut to a 70 per cent rate to eke out an existence through 2021, with the council saying they should “recalibrate their organisations and make plans for the future”. 

Blue Room chair Shane Colquhoun said in a statement on April 3: “The overall results of the four-year funding round announced today represent the savaging of 

the small to medium arts sector in Australia. 

“It is a direct consequence of the federal government‚Äôs decisions regarding funding to the Australia Council since it came to power in 2013.”

Across a year’s programming the Blue Room supports around 400 artists and attracts more than 20,000 patrons.

Mr Colquhoun says the Blue Room will find a way to survive but “this is a senseless hobbling of a productive and vital industry. It is a signal to artists and arts workers that their work is not valued in Australian society.

“At this challenging time, where people are turning to the arts for comfort, joy, inspiration, solace and connection, the lack of support for the live arts sector seems even more short sighted.”

The Australia Council funding announcement was made April 

3, the same day the Blue Room was supposed to hold its season launch party. That had already been cancelled due to coronavirus, along with the first two shows of the new season. 

Strut Dance’s four-year funding application was also knocked back. 

Director Paul Selwyn Norton and chair Jon Smeulders put out a joint statement saying “Strut Dance is saddened to announce that is has received disappointing advice on its application… we recognise that this decision comes during an extraordinary turbulent and disruptive time for the arts sector and society at large.

“We were incredibly honoured to be in the final contention and we celebrate all the organisations that were successful.

From 400 applicants, 162 organisations were invited to make stage two applications, with 95 securing four-year funding.

Even those who did succeed like Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, PVI Collective, Yirra Yaakin and DADAA will have their 2021 funding cut to 70 per cent.

Australia Council’s CEO Adrian Collette says that’s “in light of Covid-19” and they wanted to support “the greatest possible number of small to medium arts organisations”.

Mr Collette also encouraged struggling arts companies to register their interest in the Morrison government’s Covid-inspired Jobkeeper payments, which provides companies up to $750 per week to keep employees on the books.

by DAVID BELL

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