26 March 2020

Homefront program is a welcome lifeline for hard hit ACT arts sector

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Gordon Ramsay

Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay says the Homefront program will offer a hard hit arts sector swift assistance. Photo: File.

The ACT’s arts and creative community is welcoming the Homefront program as a coronavirus lifeline from the ACT Government, which has allocated $500,000 in funding to the sector.

Grants of up to $10,000 each will be available for Canberra artists to support arts development and the sustainability of their arts practices over the next six to nine months across all artforms, including screen artists.

The money can go towards research and development, making new works or sharing works via online platforms, artists fees and living expenses to undertake arts activities. Artists may also apply for the creation and development of works to be exhibited or performed in public venues in the future when it becomes safe to undertake these activities.

Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay said the grants program recognised the disproportionate effect the COVID-19 crisis had on the arts and creative community

“We know that artists are very generous members of this community”, Mr Ramsay said “Right through the fire crisis, they did a lot of lead work in raising funds and donating talents so that others who are impacted would be supported.

“This is the time for us as a government and community to step up and support them, in a strong way.

“The arts will be important as we come out on the other side. We want artists and creatives to be ready and skilled up, whether in their capacity or with regard to individual works.

“When he was in quarantine for the plague, Shakespeare wrote King Lear. This is a great time to save as many jobs as we can and support artists but also foster new and important ideas, arts and practice.

“And this is not just about artists, it’s about the entire community. Arts and culture keep us not only sane but civilised. We’ll need a strong cultural sector as we come out of this”.

Musician Michael Sollis, who has been part of reactivating the Canberra Artists Action Group, welcomed the announcement, noting that the ACT is currently the only jurisdiction providing artist-specific support.

“The way it’s designed allows artists to actually work, do what they do and create work,” Michael said.

“Is it going to be enough to save the sector? Of course not, but the reality is that every industry is profoundly impacted. This support enables artists to generate projects that involve the community, meet the challenges of distancing and communication and our personal challenges of not being employed.

“I think it’s important to realise that so many artists that have completely lost their income.”

Choreographer Liz Lea was also positive about the speed with which the ACT Government had acted to develop the Homefront package.

“Homefront represents the opportunity for much needed financial assistance in these extraordinary times,” she said.

“In this way, artists can continue their practice and continue to work within the ACT community to support our community through developing arts outcomes for the benefit of everyone.”

For creative producer Adelaide Rief, the key question in a broadly welcomed announcement was how Arts ACT will ensure that the money goes to artists who need it most and how that would be determined.

“It’s super hard to ask people ‘but do you really need this money?’, especially at the moment, but applications are not very accessible at the best of times, and particularly now,” she said.

She also called for clarity around the application process; in particular, what the living expenses category would cover.

“$10,000 per application, $500,000 pool, so up to 50 individual applications could be successful. This is pretty significant given the usual pool of successful applicants is much smaller. But could it be broader if the amount was less?” she said.

According to the Arts ACT website, applicants will need to provide a statement outlining how the funding will support their arts development and practice, a brief biography and a current CV.

Applications open on 30 March 2020 and close on 17 April 2020 at 5:00 pm. Announcements on successful recipients will be made at the beginning of May

“We wanted to ensure there was a targeted and streamlined process so that we could make it really quick,” Minister Ramsay said. “This is new money and we wanted to ensure a good simple process exists around how to best support our artists. It’s a very simple application process and agile process of analysis and recommendations.”

For any inquiries related to this new funding, contact artsACT on 6207 2384.

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What great initiative! Full-time, stable jobs in the arts industry are scarce so artists are, like a lot of casual and freelance workers, falling through the cracks at the moment. At the best of times, it’s easy to forget how hugely important the arts are but now as we’re stuck indoors binging Netflix or reading a book, I think the very least we can do is appreciate the artists who have dedicated their blood, sweat and tears for our amusement, often for a pittance amount of income in return.

This once again demonstrates just how out of touch this local government is, how wasteful and how self-indulgent. Now more than ever there are far greater priorities for the ACT Labor/Greens Government than giving another $500,000 to its mates in the arts community so than they can construct more piles of ‘public art’. We should suspend payment of rates to force the ACT Government to act responsibly.

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