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Friday the 13th: a bloody day in the arts

Dee Jefferson

Sydney theatre-makers (and PACT alumni) Post in Oedipus Schmoedipus at Belvoir (2014).Photograph: Ellis Parrinder

ICYMI: it’s been a brutal day in the arts. Actually, a brutalweek/month/year. Today was just the latest blood-letting: the Australia Council announced its much anticipated latest round of Four Year Funding grants, which left 65 companies – mostly in the small-to-medium performance sector – defunded for core areas of their operation. Some organisations – including Erskineville’s PACT – are contemplating closing their doors forever as a result of the losses.

Many excellent small companies did get funding – and we’re relieved about those. But it should be noted that many of those organisation who  got funding received a lot less than they needed for their budgets – due to the reduction in Aus Co’s available funding pool by the Government in 2015.

But here are some of the Sydney arts institutions that weren’t successful in their applications for four-year funding (we’ll add more as we hear them):

  • Australian Design Centre (formerly Object)
  • Force Majeure (creators of FBi SMAC award-winner Nothing To Lose, and founded by Kate Champion – who just directed the inaugural production for the National Theatre of Parramatta).
  • Legs on the Wall
  • Mosman Art Gallery
  • PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (whose alumni include Amrita Hepi, comedian and theatre maker Zoe Coombs Marr and the post collective, and regular STC actress Eryn Jean Norvill).
  • Synergy & TaikOz Ltd.

Major inter-state and national losses include Melbourne’s Next Wave festival for emerging and experimental performance, the Emerging Writers Festival, journals Voiceworks and Meanjin, peak bodies Ausdance, National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) and Music Australia, and Melbourne companies Theatre Works and Red Stitch.

All these companies have decades-long histories and track records of producing high quality work. They employ artists, they develop talent, and the contribute to an arts sector in which everything is about a ‘trickle-up’ effect. You don’t get freshly-minted theatre, dance or art superstars – they take decades to develop their skills, working from emerging arts sector up to main stages.

In a joint statement today about the funding cuts, the artistic directors of the major theatre companies around Australia (including locals Sydney Theatre Company and Belvoir) acknowledged that they were all personally products of past Australia Council support, whether directly or by way of the small to medium sector where they developed their skills.

They also wrote: The impact will be felt for a long time, and it will be felt everywhere - not just in the communities who have lost arts organisations. It will be felt on every stage in the country, and it will be felt overseas. There will be less variety, less brilliance, less diversity. This is an unprecedented assault on the independence and the viability of the arts in Australia.

Tune in to the ABC tonight at 7pm and 7.30pm for coverage of the Australia Council funding announcement.

Head along to 107 Projects on Saturday May 14 at 7pm to see the next generation of Australian theatre-makers responding to adversity with resilience and creativity, in one of PACT's signature Rapid Response Team performances.

Read more about the consequences of the just-announced funding cuts here:

Deborah Stone for Artshub: 65 arts organisations lose funding

Music critic and author Anwen Crawford for The Monthly: on the effects of losing youth lit journal Voiceworks.

Formerly Music NSW exec and Underbelly Arts Festival director Eliza Sarlos for The Guardian: The arts industry has the right to be angry

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