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The Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund will provide more than $1.17 million in funding in the latest Community Grants Rounds, supporting 70 arts projects, community capacity building projects and professional development for artists and arts workers across regional Australia.
While the diversity of projects is admirable and showcases the thriving sector, there are a number of trends that echo across the country.
In a statement Regional Arts Fund explained: ‘There is an emphasis on arts projects that respond to the contemporary regional community needs, in particular a focus on mental health and youth.
‘Regional Arts Australia welcomes these new and much-needed conversations around arts and health issues. A move towards multi-disciplinary artform projects further highlights the scope of the projects and emphasises the importance of collaboration across artforms and sectors.’
Arts & Health
A number of supported projects will use arts to facilitate community conversations about mental health issues with Regional Arts Australia Chair Kate Fielding commenting, ‘Importantly, the arts are continuing to be used as a vehicle to further explore mental health in our communities and to spark conversations around these critical issues. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of these vital projects.’
Of particular note is the project MENTAL: The Mother Load by Julie Waddington, taking place in Tasmania. This funding will enable a performing arts creative development, engaging artists who are mothers to explore and research the experience of mental load. Four core performing artists will collaborate and lead investigations around Australia through a series of creative practice workshops and online interaction.
My Black Dog, taking place in Bega, NSW, is a new research and performance project by fLiNG Physical Theatre that explores the mental health of young people in regional, rural and remote locations. The project will involve art and wellbeing workshops and community discussions and will culminate in a performance to be presented in schools and theatres throughout the Bega Valley.
Focus on Youth
This round also saw a marked increase in projects that directly benefit regional youth between the ages of 12 and 25. Over the 2012-16 period, 11% of RAF projects and funding went to youth projects. This round we see that increase to 14% of projects are aimed at youth.
This increase is even more pronounced recently, with three youth projects in round one of the Community Grants, and 10 youth projects in this current round. This includes four dance projects, and other projects across film, visual arts, music, theatre and cross-art forms.
Choreographers Madeleine Krenek and Frankie Snowdon will lead a team of professional dancers, designers, street artists and young people in the Northern Territory to develop and present a new Alice/Mparntwe version of The Lost Dance Project (TLDP).
TLDP is an investigation and comment on the rise of social media and our ability to disconnect ourselves from the real world, and an experiment in engagement in live art.Through contemporary dance, the Internet, street art and pop-up performance, the team aims to encourage a digitally reliant generation, as well as the broader public, to re-discover their connections to their surroundings, to art and to each other.
The impact of social media and digital dependence among youth is also explored in Stompin’s 2018 major show, Mirror Mirror. This new, full length dance work will take place in Launceston and explore the very real dilemma young people are facing as they endeavour to define their identity in a world filled with increasingly distorted portrayals of beauty, wellbeing and success both on and offline.
The Crack-Up Sisters will lead a large-scale collaborative community project in Grandchester, Queensland for young people and local participants in the Diamantina Region. A two-week long workshop program will teach dance, circus and whip cracking to the young participants and will culminate in the showcase piece The Big Red Rumble.
Voyage will be an original dance theatre work created in regional Victoria by Awaken Dance Theatre Company as a collaboration between dancers (aged 12-30) and creative director Kyla McGregor. The intention is to engage young and upcoming artists and the piece will explore ideas about journeys, including personal stories, and movement potential will be developed through workshops and exploration activities.
Mentorships, Partnerships & Networks
In addition to the strong field of arts projects, regional arts organisations are actively demonstrating their ability to build sustainable partnerships and networks. Of particular note in this round of funding is the state-wide project to be delivered by Southern Forest Arts in WA: Connecting the Creative Grid.
This extensive project is the pilot project of an unprecedented collaboration between forty WA regional arts organisations, eight peak arts service organisations and an industry advocacy body to build capacity across the regional visual arts sector in WA. This funding will support 70 mentorships within the overall project.
In Port Augusta, South Australia, ceramicist Andrew Allen will collaborate with gifted Aboriginal artist Donald McKenzie over a ten-day residency to create an exhibition of work for Tarnanthi Festival in 2019. Further, building on techniques learnt, Donald will be enabled to run ceramic workshops in his own community.
In this round we see 15 of the 70 projects involve mentorships or residencies. Regional Arts Australia Executive Director John Oster noted that, ‘partnerships and the strengthening of networks are vital to the success of regional organisations. It is inspiring to see the growth of relationships and networks through the support of the Regional Arts Fund community grants.’
Regional artists are travelling interstate and overseas to upskill and return to share their skills, and increasingly regional arts organisations are hosting residencies and mentorships in their own towns. This shift further strengthens the understanding that regional artists and arts organisations provide unparalleled knowledge and skill, and play a vital role in the national discourse around artistic development.
The Regional Arts Fund supports sustainable cultural development in regional and remote communities in Australia with the recipients showcasing the breadth and calibre of projects across regional, remote and very remote Australia.