July 28, 2015
HIGH-profile director Andrew Upton has thrown his support behind the small-to-medium arts sector following the Federal Government’s announcement of a major funding shake-up.
The Sydney Theatre Company artistic director said small-to-medium companies were crucial to the future of major organisations and developing world-class talent.
“It really is vital to the lifeblood of the shows we make,” he said at last night’s Helpmann Awards.
“Just look at the category that one of our shows is nominated for, Calpurnia Descending, which is a small-to-medium company.
“That can’t be destabilised because it’s very fragile anyway … That’s where the next Hugo Weaving and Samuel Beckett come from.”
Upton said the STC had made two submissions to the government expressing its concern about changes to the funding model.
Arts Minister George Brandis announced in the Federal Budget that $104m would be cut from the Australia Council and redirected to a new National Program for Excellence in the Arts.
The shock decision to take money away from the independent funding body in favour of a ministry-approved program led to a vocal backlash and protests.
The Australian Council cancelled upcoming rounds of funding for small-to-medium companies and scrambled to restructure its grants program, and a Senate inquiry was established to investigate the changes.
Earlier this month, Senator Brandis released the draft guidelines for funding through the NPEA and called for public comment. The deadline for submissions is Friday.
Speaking on Radio National this morning, Senator Brandis, who was at the Helpmanns, said his office had received about 80 submissions so far.
“We genuinely welcome feedback from the sector as to the terms of the guidelines, so we will be taking those views into account,” he said.
“I know that people have suggested this is about my own personal tastes. It’s not, because … I’m not the assessor.”
Senator Brandis said a new opera that won four Helpmann Awards (Faramondo, by Brisbane Baroque) did not qualify for Australia Council funding and was funded through the Ministry of the Arts.
He said Faramondo was a “perfect example of the rationale of diversifying the opportunities for arts funding so that not everything is channelled through the Australia Council”.
Senator Brandis said it was “completely wrong” to suggest he was politicising arts funding and silencing voices critical of the government.
“This is about the best allocation of public money … The government of the day should have an arts policy,” he said.
His policy objectives included encouraging endowments and more private sector investment into arts companies, and more international touring.
Feedback on the NPEA can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org until Friday.