CAPO funding will allow Canberra artists to look to the skies

Genevieve Jacobs 3 December 2021
Karen Quinlan with Michael Sollis

CAPO patron and Portrait Gallery director Karen Quinlan with Michael Sollis, the 2021 Fellowship recipient. Photo: Hilary Wardhaugh.

A multi-year, multiform project focusing on the stars above us in the southern skies will benefit from this year’s Capital Arts Patron Organisation Fellowship, announced last week.

Renowned Canberra composer Michael Sollis from the Griffyn Ensemble will continue his work on an extended project inspired by Estonian composer Urma Sisask.

Based on the southern constellations and part of a much larger opus of work, Southern Sky was written after Sisask spent time in Australia, including at Mt Stromlo. Based on Australian rituals and astronomy, the music was first performed just a week before the 2003 fires ravaged Canberra, including the observatory.

Fascinated, Sollis has used the music as the basis for a series of projects involving the skies, including time spent with Indigenous musician Warren Williams on Arrente country in central Australia and a trip with astronomer Fred Watson to observe the northern lights.

“The pandemic and a range of health issues over the past two years have given me cause to reflect on the impact artists can have and what matters to me personally,” Michael says.

“The Fellowship will allow me to support other artists to build on work they’ve been developing over the last decade and to create responses across a remarkable spread of disciplines and cultural backgrounds around what the stars mean to them.”


READ ALSO: Navigating a complex history: Songs from a Stolen Senate


Now in their 38th year, the CAPO awards annual grants round provides financial and in-kind support for a range of new arts projects by emerging and established artists.

With a value of up to $15,000, the Fellowship is partially funded by Riverview Group and through the sale of donated art and business items at the annual fundraiser and auction.

CAPO is run by a volunteer board from the business and arts world.

Director of the National Portrait Gallery Karen Quinlan is the current patron.

Local business and charity partners are approached to donate funds in the form of grants, for which creatives from all disciplines of the arts can apply. This year, there were 90 applications, a huge increase that the board attributes to both the prestige of the CAPO grants and the straits in which many creatives find themselves.

Belle Palmer and Peter Chamberlain

Emerging artist award winner Belle Palmer and Allinsure sponsor Peter Chamberlain. Photo: Hilary Wardhaugh.

Grants totalling $32,000 have been awarded to 20 creatives with projects ranging from the purchase of equipment to staging exhibitions. Local artists and businesses are also approached to donate artworks or business items for CAPO to auction annually.

Among this year’s other grant winners, the Rosalie Gascoigne Memorial Award has been presented to Sian Watson, who will cast a series of wax sculptures in bronze which were made during lockdown; the Tall Foundation Award was awarded to Michele England to develop new skills in gold gilding, punching and painting techniques emphasising sustainable materials; the Robert Foster Memorial Award was presented to Bengt Cannon to purchase a new hydraulic forging press.

There were three winners of the inaugural Allinsure Emerging Artist Award this year.

Belle Palmer will use her award for repairing and making her workshop functional again. Lucy Chetcuti will use her award to explore techniques in encaustic wax painting to create a new series of work based on painting in the expanded field. Linda Chen will use her award to develop and rework a new play treatment and writing process with a mentor.

“It was fantastic to be able to attend the recently held Capo 2021 Awards function and find out more about all of the worthy award winners and grant recipients”, Allinsure managing director Peter Chamberlain said.

“Tate Harris and I were particularly excited to meet the 3 recipients of the Allinsure Emerging Artist grants, Belle Palmer, Lucy Chetcuti and Linda Chen and to hear how each of them would use their grant to further their art”.

Other recipients can be found on the CAPO website.

The next CAPO auction, postponed from October this year due to COVID, will be held on Saturday, 5 February 2022, at Canberra Contemporary Art Space, 44 Queen Elizabeth Terrace, Parkes. Tickets are limited and can be purchased online through the CAPO website or by calling Marilyn Gray on 0407 512 296


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