The arts are in a bad way. For an industry whose lifeblood consists of exhibitions, live performances, venue hire, programs and human interaction, a viral pandemic which keeps audiences at bay is catastrophic.
To support community arts centres, the ACT Government is injecting $1.07 million of extra funding to aid recovery from COVID-19.
This is on top of the $350,000 rent relief package several have been enjoying for months, and now with health restrictions easing, Minister for the Arts, Creative Industries, and Cultural Events Gordon Ramsay says it’s time to get them back into business.
“These organisations support our artists and give our community really great places to view art, watch performances and engage in arts programs. Without them, we wouldn’t have such a strong artistic community that extends across every region of the ACT.
“This support will ensure these organisations can continue to employ Canberrans, support our artists and remain an important part of the fabric of our community,” Mr Ramsay said.
Beneficiaries include the ACT Writer’s Centre, Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres, Ausdance ACT, ArtSound FM, Belconnen Arts Centre, Canberra Potters Society, M16 ArtSpace, Tuggeranong Arts Centre, and Warehouse Circus.
The Belconnen Arts Centre upgraded was finalised earlier this year at a cost of $15 million, and will receive the majority of the new funding with an allocation of $550,000.
Belconnen Arts Centre executive director and co-CEO Jack Lloyd says it has been a difficult year but he’s excited to be able to share the new space with the people of ACT very soon.
“We really appreciate that we can now take on the new facility and start bringing it to life. With the building complete it is absolutely essential that we get in there and use it. This funding means we can continue to employ live performance program and technical experts, to start activating the Theatre and new gallery spaces this year.”
The Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres (A+G) are receiving $187,777.
Program manager Adelaide Rief is grateful for the relief.
“Fast-changing restrictions resulted in us closing the centres at the end of March, and we were forced to cancel and refund hundreds of bookings from a wide range of artists, groups and arts organisations. As an organisation that relies on earned income from venue hire and sub-licence fees, this was a massive, sudden drop in our income and we’re keenly aware that it had ripple effects out into our wider creative community.”
At the very beginning of the pandemic in March, the ACT Government also launched the Homefront package which provides up to $10,000 of support over the course of six to nine months.
A+G has continued to run many of their core programs online throughout the lockdown, including its ‘Artist’s Toolkit’. The toolkit program provides practical information on a host of financial matters from how to apply for grants and Centrelink payments to marketing strategies and something called ‘futuring’.
“Now is when the arts community is at its most vulnerable, particularly for artists and arts workers who work in non-ongoing projects, casual employment and gigs,” Ms Reif says.
“Providing workshops to assist artists navigate these difficult issues is the most practical thing we can offer, and in a time when the arts communities across the nation are struggling.”
Up to this point, it’s been largely up to the states and territories to keep the industry afloat. Many in the arts community found themselves ineligible for federal help.
“There are still significant gaps in the coverage of programs like Job Keeper and, in general, a shortfall in funds to meet the really extensive need that has been demonstrated by the sector.
“As we move into recovery, individual artists and smaller organisations will need support to survive, continue to make work, and to offer the arts opportunities that are so vital to community wellbeing,” Ms Reif says.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a support package of $250 million for the entertainment, arts and screen industries, of which $35 million is allocated to the theatre, music, dance and circus sectors.
However, it is unlikely to trickle down to local arts centres, and Ms Reif says the A+G for one probably won’t be seeing any of it.