Hitting the road to get regional support right

Create NSW is hitting the road, pulling up a chair and sharing a cuppa with artists and arts workers, to get to the heart of matters that impact regional arts practice.
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Tullara Connors, 2016, trip to Ireland to be mentored by John Carty, Irish Tenor Banjo player, as part of her Young Regional Artists Scholarship (YRAS) program. Photo: Tullara Connors

As part of its commitment to better engaging the arts sector, Create NSW is hitting the road to talk about arts funding across the state.

Grainne Brunsdon put it plainly: ‘We are looking for better and more innovative ways to support and grow the arts sector.’

Brunsdon is Director Engagement, Partnerships and Development for Create NSW, a new department that is taking a more hands on approach to how government and sector interact.

Her theory is that while demand for arts funding far outstrips what is available, everyone can get advice and Create NSW can work harder to make sure the arts and cultural sector is supported.

‘There are different ways of putting together finance to make something happen.’ She continued, ‘There are lots of other bits of government that do things that might also offer ways to support projects. We can make those introductions to help get a project off the ground.’

Create NSW has partnered with Regional Arts Development Organisations (RADOs) across the state to deliver a roadshow for the arts.

Over the next few months Create NSW will hit the road to deliver workshops, panel discussions, one-on-one meetings with artists and organisations, arts project ideas clinics, funding information sessions and networking opportunities.

‘Previously when Arts NSW released their grant program they would do a number of information sessions across Sydney, Western Sydney and a handful of regional centres.  We have totally flipped that on its head. We are working with regional arts offices across the state to customise visits to each region’s needs. It is about cracking away the bureaucratic face and making ourselves visible, and real and being available to listen and learn about work in regional areas,’ Brunsdon said.

Scott Howie, Executive Officer at Eastern Riverina Arts, added: ‘The number of great art projects that start with a cuppa or a beer at the pub is huge.

‘Those relaxed face-to-face conversations about ideas, and talking through the future for your organisation or your practice is only going to lead to a better understanding of regions – and that is a win for everyone,’ he added.

The message being rolled out by the new look organisation is that they want to hear from people.

A roadie with a difference

Many artists can find applying for government funding intimidating. They might put in their application and then find out via email months later. 

‘We want to put a human face to government,’ said Brunsdon.

‘If you are in Sydney you can make an appointment and easily come into Create NSW’s office but it is not so easy in the regions. We want to make ourselves more available. We want people to feel comfortable to pick up the phone and know the face at the end of the line.’

Over the next few months the Engagement Team will be touring NSW to make those introductions.

Brunsdon continued: ‘We are in the privileged position to see across the state – to know what has worked for others and why. We see hundreds of funding applications each year, and we have very specialised knowledge in assessing projects across multiple areas. Why not leverage that knowledge and our partnerships with other peak organisations to make the sector stronger and to help grow the regions?’

Create NSW will partner with organisations including Regional Arts NSW, NAVA (National Association for Visual Arts), the Live Music Office, Ausdance NSW, Australia Council, Music NSW, and Firstdraft to deliver the regional sessions.

Each event will be tailored to address particular opportunities or challenges faced by an individual community and their needs, and will be anything from a one-on-one chat to a networking barbecue.

‘We cannot do this successfully without the people on the ground. They know their communities and what the demand is for services. We want to ensure that these visits are relevant,’ said Brunsdon.

‘We have simply just flipped it over really to the regional area to tell us what will be useful to them.’

A more level playing field

Brunsdon said the rollout of regional sessions was about creating a more level playing field.

‘We want to ensure that people have the same access to opportunities across the state,’ she said.

In May participants in Wagga Wagga are invited to pitch ideas and staff will provide advice about strategy, partners, resourcing and other funding opportunities, while in Griffith people can come along and learn how other people are making things happen in the region, or join an Arts Project Ideas Clinic.

Howie has been working with Create NSW to create the Wagga Wagga program. ‘In the past these things have been quite dry, almost just reading out the funding brochure. Rather than a one-size-fits-all, it is a more organic way to have a chat.’

Howie said that it can be harder for the regions to connect, adding that the one-on-one meetings were really important.

‘You can’t often sit down with someone and get a sense if your project is even in the right place. The plans for your organisation and what are you trying to achieve in the longer term, does not always come through in an application for specific project. To be able to put that to someone – a person – is invaluable for us out here,’ he said.

Howie believes that our understanding of regional arts practice has become a lot more sophisticated and Create NSWs policy has been more directed in bringing out those nuances across the state.

‘Each region is different, has a different number of artists living there, different types of practice engaged, and their own issues that they are trying to address. Initiatives like this start to acknowledge that sophistication and are dedicated to growing it,’ he said.

Coming to you soon

Over the next months Create NSW will be visiting a number of regional centres across NSW.

Check their website for current details.

Scheduled sessions:

1 May:  Lismore and Byron Bay – one-on-one meetings with sector

2 May: Tweed Regional Gallery will be hosting grant workshops and networking

10 May: Griffith Regional Theatre – Meetings and Arts Project Ideas Clinic

11 May: Cootamundra Arts Centre

11 May: Wagga Wagga – Panel discussion ‘Restless Giant or Sleeping Giant?’ with networking opportunities with First Draft, Live Music Office 

12 May: Wagga Wagga – One-on-one meetings and Arts Project Ideas Clinic; “Talking Machines” launch at Museum of Riverina.

17 May: Mudgee – Meetings and Arts Project Ideas Clinic

18 May: Nyngan – Meetings, Arts Project Ideas Clinic and Community BBQ

19 May: Dubbo – Arts Project Ideas Clinic

Further visits are being planned to other regions including:  Goulburn, Coffs Harbour, Broken Hill, Bermagui, Tamworth and Newcastle.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina