Unhappy artists rise up against funding cuts

ACT Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay has agreed to meet arts representatives in late January to discuss the dramatic 66 per cent drop in arts project funding revealed on Monday.

During a “Town Hall-style meeting” held yesterday at The Street Theatre, 40 Canberra artists were told by musician Michael Sollis, that Mr Ramsay had agreed to meet a select group of arts representatives in late January.

The meeting then delegated five people to represent artists who were both funded and not funded, artists who did not apply, a staff member from a Key Arts Organisations, and indigenous artists.

It was also decided to start a program of direct action and public advocacy to be launched in the last week of January, including a social media campaign.

In the days since news of the cuts spread, more than 120 of Canberra’s artists have co-signed a letter to Minister Ramsay outlining their concerns.

Issues raised at yesterday’s meeting included concerns over the timing of announcements, mixed messages from government, the need for a more effective long-term arts strategy, the economic and social benefits of project funding and questions about the funding process.

The government’s explanation for the funding cuts in terms of a refocus towards key arts organisations, the group noted, had led to wild speculation about the “real reasons” for the cuts, as well as divisiveness in the arts community as disappointed artists tried to work out which projects had been sidelined and which KAOs or individuals had profited.

While the artists at the meeting were anxious not to attack the lucky organisations and artists who had gone up, disappointment was expressed at a statement from artsACT indicating that there was never any guarantee of a set level of funding. Project funding, the meeting noted, “is the primary source of support for the creation of artistic work and individual artists within the sector more broadly”.

Leading indigenous artist Jenni Kemarre Martiniello commented that while there had been extensive consultation by artsACT and the indigenous arts community on how to increase  indigenous participation in the arts in the region, “not one indigenous artist, group or project has received funding in this round.”

As for recent suggestions from government that these decisions could be reversed in 2018, the group says: “Imagine if the Australian government decided to reduce the amount of teachers or doctors across Australia by two thirds, but justified it by reversing the decision the following year.”

Anyone wishing to join the campaign can email ACTartistsfunding@outlook.com

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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