Australia Council for the Arts to Invest $83 Million in Arts Organizations

The Australia Council for the Arts announced today that $83 million in funding will be invested in small and medium sized arts organizations over a four-year period. Designed to bolster the country’s arts sector by providing longterm support, the Four Year Funding Program is a new grant model that will allot about $21 million a year to 128 organizations starting in 2017.

The council’s CEO, Tony Grybowski, said, “This was the first time organizations across all areas of practice seeking multi-year funding were assessed at the same time, with both emerging and established companies being successful. This has enabled organizations to be viewed as part of an holistic national framework, within areas of practice and across the arts sector as a whole.”

Two-hundred and sixty-two applications for funding were received and about half were approved. Organizations had to request a minimum of $55,000 for funding per year, and could not ask for more than $222,400. Each organization will receive an average of $162,000 each year, which is more than organizations received under previous programs.

Even though forty-three organizations will receive multi-year funding from the council for the first time, more than fifty organizations have missed out. According to Debbie Cuthbertson of the Sydney Morning Herald, people are calling this “the worst week ever in the Australian arts.” The organizations that were passed over are now concerned about whether they can continue to operate. The new funding program follows former arts minister and senator George Brandis’s redistribution of funds in 2015. Nearly $78 million that would have went to the council was used to establish the National Program for Excellence in the arts instead, which is being administered by his office—the fund has since been renamed Catalyst. His successor as arts minister, Mitch Fifield, gave $23 million of those funds back to the council.

Among the groups that will not receive funding is the Center for Contemporary Photography and the National Association for the Visual Arts, who previously led a campaign protesting cuts to the Australia Council. The association used to receive around $181,000 in past years. Director Tamara Winikoff said, “We're not going to be silenced.” Yet, the organization’s next steps remain uncertain. She added, “We will have to seriously examine our business model and change how we do things in the short term.”