Antonia Seymour, general manager of Arts on Tour, told the gathering artists were experiencing “a chronic state of anxiety of stress and fatigue, and of feeling undervalued”, brought on by a precarious funding environment.
For independent artists and small-to-medium-size arts companies, considered the backbone of the arts sector, application success rates for project-based funding at state and federal levels were less than 20 per cent, she said.
The estimated success rate for federal funding grants was 15 per cent and in the latest Create NSW project funding round the success rate a mere 2.7 per cent.
“We also know that from 2021 the number of small to mediums receiving multi-year funding will decrease by about 25 per cent, meaning there will be more competition for reduced project funding,” she said.
Mounting a national tour was challenging, requiring the support of Australia Council and Create NSW, and yet there was no coordination between the agencies, Ms Seymour said.
“It takes up to a year to build a tour and on average two to three hundred hours of work, liaising and negotiating with dozens of venues. If only one of the two funding applications are successful the whole tour falls over,” she said.
If a tour did get up, there was no funding avenue to build audiences with a follow-up tour for that company.
All those stresses strangled creativity. “The current funding environment for independent artists and small to mediums has anxiety and insecurity built in. Funding for making new work is precarious at best and it’s difficult to capitalise on success,” Ms Seymour said.
Part of the answer was for the sector to shift focus from questions of what constituted good art to demonstrating the benefits art had to the wider economy, in building social cohesion and supporting mental health, Mr Collette said.
Over the next three to five years, the Australia Council intended to build a case for more funding by “drawing the dots” between cultural creativity and its broader community benefits.
Creative industries contributed $116 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product and employed 6 per cent of Australia’s workforce.
Forty per cent of overseas tourists came to Australia for cultural experiences and nearly a million went bush, breathing life into the economies of the regions.
Denying cuts to NSW arts funding, Mr Harwin said funding of arts infrastructure was at “unprecedented” levels and he intended to push for greater budget support especially in the development of new works telling unique Australian stories.
Linda Morris is an arts and books writer at The Sydney Morning Herald