NSW arts-funding: disgrace & disrespect    

Keith Gallasch

Small to medium sector artists in NSW anxiously awaited Round 2 grant application results in April. Nothing. For months. They complained, despaired and now, en masse, are protesting not just the intolerable, art-wrecking delay but also the cruelly meagre 2.7% success rate outcome — six successful projects from 222 applications.

60 arts bodies rose up, led by NAVA (National Association for the Visual Arts) with a 24 July media release, NSW arts industry calls for ambitious investment following poorest funding round in history, from Executive Director Esther Anatolitis eloquently and comprehensively addressing the issues, supported with alarming statistics.

Given the grant outcomes, the Create NSW Assessment Meeting Report reads like a bad joke. Its panels were “impressed with the amount of high quality applications coming through in this round.” It observed that “[performing] artists either do not pay themselves appropriately, or the support networks available to artists do not have the capacity to include fees as part of the benefits that they achieve for their artists.” And, “the visual arts, literature and museums panel would encourage more experimental/creative applications and encourages applicants to take more artistic risk.”

Neoliberalised governments have long expected their arts “clients” to be business-like, but what of governments that can’t manage to be so themselves? In 2015 the small to medium arts sector fell victim to the federal government’s incoherent and utterly destructive Excellence in the Arts and subsequent Catalyst programs. Now NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin and Create NSW have disrupted timetables and imperilled or killed off projects altogether.

The Sydney Morning Herald revealed Create NSW’s rationale for the delay: “(it) had received a very high volume of applications which skewed the results and delayed assessment.” Rather than a confession of poor management, the excuse implicitly lays the blame on artists for daring to apply in large numbers. Like federal government Arts Ministers George Brandis and Mitch Fifield, Don Harwin has shown a profound disrespect for the artists of the small to medium sector. Much better is expected of Harwin, and Create NSW, beginning with an apology.

Top image credit: Wrecking ball, Rhys A. via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

1 August 2018