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“THIS is not OK” is the message loud, and clear, that a group of more than 25 of Canberra’s independent artists will be sending today to ACT Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay after news broke of drastic cuts in the 2017 round of arts project funding.While “CityNews” reported yesterday of a 75 per cent reduction in the number of projects funded when compared with last year’s, arts community analysts have tallied up the figures and estimated the cuts at 66 percent in dollar terms, still a catastrophic drop and one likely to affect the many youthful and emerging artists practising in the ACT.
It is no exaggeration to say that “Citynews” has been deluged with emails from distressed artists, shocked at the peremptory way in which the cuts were made, especially following ACT Labor pre-election pledge of $500,000 in additional arts funding.
ArtsACT Chief Adam Stankevicius has told “Citynews” that it is part of a refocusing that has been underway for several years and will see more emphasis placed on “Key Arts Organisations” (KAO).
On the artsACT website KAO is described as funding that supports leading ACT arts organisations and provides substantial programs, services, expertise and infrastructure to support and develop the arts in the ACT, as well as activities that strongly engage with the ACT community.
Those KAOs are mostly infrastructure bodies that support artists of their choosing. They are, in full, the ACT Writers Centre Inc, Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres, Belconnen Arts Centre, Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Canberra Glassworks, Canberra Potters Society Inc, Canberra Symphony Orchestra Inc, Canberra Youth Theatre Inc, Craft ACT Inc, Megalo Access Arts Inc, Music For Canberra, PhotoAccess Inc, QL2 Centre for Youth Dance Inc, Strathnairn Arts Association Inc, The Street Theatre, (The Stagemaster Inc) Tuggeranong Community Arts Association Inc and Warehouse Circus Inc.
But project funding differs from KAO funding as it’s aimed at “self determined artistically interesting and exciting projects”. Aside from principles of fairness and equity, that would seem to imply a responsibility to fund the individual artists who have always been at the heart of Canberra’s arts.
Disaffected artists, who are planning to meet this week to mount a response, are not questioning the good fortune of the lucky 14, rigorously peer-assessed by nine people, but rather the “deep impact” the cuts will make upon the ACT arts community.
As it is, the “list of 14” is dominated by A-list front runners, many of them well-established professionals and organisations, with the curious inclusion for such a short list, of several out-of-town ventures.
It seems to make nonsense of the jargonistic claim that project funding is aimed at maintaining the “vitality of the Canberra Region arts ecology”.
Figures showing the decline of project funding in the ACT can be found by searching for ‘ArtsACT’ on Facebook.