ICYMI: The week’s top news in the arts

As arts orgs close their doors, other opportunities are being presented for artists. We give you a wrap of the week's news at a time when things are being decimated by COVID-19.


How to face working from home

As we settle into the new reality of working from home, we are staying on top of simple resource articles to help you both professionally, and ensuring your mental health and wellbeing are cared for.

Read more: Where you can find art online post COVID-19 closures

ACT and SA join QLD in support of artist impacted by Coronavirus

Arts South Australia has re-configured its available grant funds to assist artists and organisations to respond to the immediate pressures they are experiencing with the outbreak of coronavirus – a total funding of $1.5 million will be allocated in the coming weeks. While in the ACT, funding of up to $10,000 per artist will be available for Canberra artists to support arts development and the sustainability of their arts practices over the next 6-9 months. A total of $500,000 will be available. Applications will open on 30 March 2020 and close on 17 April 2020 at 5pm. Read how to tap this funding in our story this week.

Opera Australia announces employee support package

In direct response to the pandemic, effective from Monday 30 March, Opera Australia (OA) will be temporarily standing down the majority of its staff from across the Company until the end of May, offering a package that allows staff to access up to 80% of their regular salary (based on a 38 hour week).

The package is designed to retain their workforce in the face of widespread layoffs across the arts and entertainment sectors while facing a complete absence of ticketing revenue over the coming month.

The announcement will provide some certainty for OA’s staff. The company is also, in continuing discussions with the relevant federal and state governments, to secure further provisions to continue to support its workforce beyond the end of May.

The Executive Team of OA will all be taking reductions in their pay either in line with those who have been temporarily stood down or greater.

The company had previously been criticised for standing down its orchestra without pay, prompting stern words from funding partners including Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley MP, and sparking a MEAA-supported protest in front of OA’s Sydney headquarters.

Critical survey for advocacy in times of crisis

Ausdance, the peak body for dance, is collecting data specific to dance professionals, individuals, organisations and companies to advocate at Federal, State and local levels to ensure our information is on the table during funding/ rescue and stimulus discussions. 

Live updates are available to any industry bodies at any time and specific information can be requested. Obviously, the more respondents, the more accurate the data.  Lobbying, using this data, has officially begun today (26 March) and will continue consistently from here on. 

Ausdance QLD has created the survey on behalf of Ausdance – it is national and all states are welcome to their specific information also. The survey can be found on the Ausdance QLD website.  

Vale Elspeth Hope-Johnstone OA and Pru La Motte

Celebrated Tasmanian artist and photographer Elspeth Hope-Johnstone died this week in Hobart at the age of 94. She was a life-long promoter of education, women and the arts, and was a commissioner of the ABC, first chair of the Friends of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) and a life-long supporter of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. She donated Tasmanian art and furniture, dating back to the 1820s, to public institutions including TMAG.

As Elspeth Vaughan, she was a founding member of Tasmania’s watercolour school or Sunday Group of Painters which was at its height in the second half of the Twentieth Century.

‘Elspeth was an inspiration for artists and environmentalists alike. She lived for Tasmania’s wilderness and has left the state a tangible legacy of paintings, photographs and antiques. A remarkable Tasmanian,’ said former senator Bob Brown.

Also, in Adelaide, news of the death of Pru La Motte (b. 1928) passed away on 22 March, 2020. La Motte worked across mediums, but is best known for her expressive tapestries which she called ‘narrative weavings’. She will be remembered as a formidable force of the 1970s Australian craft revival and an accomplished textile artist.

WA Chamber of Arts and Culture respond to Ministers

Earlier this week, the leaders of 50 Western Australian arts and cultural organisations met to discuss a coordinated response, as organisational Boards are faced with a number of critical decisions and policy questions relating to the sustainability of their organisations in the coming weeks.

Data collected by website Ilostmygig reports the following statistics for individual arts workers who have listed WA as their home State:

  • $21,3 Million reported as lost income
  • 55,150 artists and arts workers impacted
  • 29,236 gigs / events cancelled plus numerous exhibitions and sales

Chamber of Arts and Culture WA Executive Director Shelagh Magadza said, ‘It’s important that we act quickly to determine what we can do as a sector to support each other through shared information and workshops around critical issues.’

Resources via Australian Copyright Council

The Australian Copyright Council’s legal advice service will continue to operate during these times.  They are currently putting together some resources for copyright in the time of COVID-19 and are in the early stages of planning some web information sessions. Keep an eye on their website as a resource to help you through the sea of information during these times.  


An upside of home isolation is that you can work on longer-track proposals and commissions that are still rolling out. Here are a few:

John Meade with Emily Karanikolopoulos’ Love Flower 2019. Image supplied.

$300,000 McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery and Southern Way Commission

McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery and Southern Way have announced the sixth call for entries for the 2021 Southern Way McClelland Commission valued at $300,000. This commission provides a unique opportunity for national and international artists to develop an ambitious public sculpture that will enhance the travel experience to the Mornington Peninsula and strengthen Melbourne’s reputation as a major hub of contemporary public art.

The commission forms part of an ongoing program of new sculptures that alternates every two years between sites along the Peninsula Link freeway at Skye Road and Cranbourne Road, resulting in 14 commissions over the 25-year period to 2037.

Southern Way generously donates funding for the sculptures. After four years on public display the commissions form part of McClelland’s permanent sculpture collection.

The 2021 commission will replace Michael Riddle’s sculpture Iconoclast located on the Skye Road site, on the Langwarrin exit ramp close to McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery.

The call for submissions is open from 28 February until 29 May 2020. The fabrication and delivery of this work must be completed by the end of August 2021. Submissions must be received by no later than 5pm AEST on 29 May 2020. How to apply.

NAVA reveals Arts Day on the Hill 2020 date

Are you passionate about advocacy for the arts? The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) 2nd edition of Arts Day on the Hill, which will take place on Wednesday 12 August. 

Arts Day on the Hill is Australia’s national day of advocacy for the arts. The program, which culminates at Parliament House in Canberra, will feature a strong online component of advocacy training and network building well ahead of the day, with an intensive day of engagement on 12 August, currently scheduled as the first sitting week after the Parliamentary winter break. 

Ahead of Arts Day on the Hill, NAVA will release an online program of advocacy training in a range of formats. Participants will be connected with members of Parliament and provided with the tools and resources to champion an ambitious arts agenda for a long-term impact. 

Applications for this year’s Arts Day on the Hill Advocates will open online in coming weeks. For more information about NAVA, visit www.visualarts.net.au

Image courtesy Parramatta Artists Studios.

Important update to 2020 Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grants Program

The 2020 Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grants Program (ACDGP): Bushfire Renewal Round will focus on supporting the building, rebuilding and promotion of the creative industries in bushfire-affected areas of Australia.

The ACDGP: Bushfire Renewal Round opened for applications on 10 February 2020. Due to travel and other restrictions related to COVID-19 which may impact on proposed projects delivery timeframes, the deadline for applications has been changed. The new submission deadline is 2pm (AEST) on 18 June 2020. This will allow applicants time to make adjustments to project proposals. Visit DFAT for information on how to apply. 

Parramatta Artists’ Studios Residency call out extended

The energetic home for creative production in the centre of Western Sydney, Parramatta Artists’ Studios (PAS) has supported hundreds of artists since opening in 2006. Part of their programme offerings includes The Artist-in-Residence (AIR) at PAS – a residential apartment and studio space to artists from outside of Sydney, Australia.

Applications have been extended for the 2020 – 2021 Artist-in-Residence. The program supports artists from diverse practices and across career stages and cultivates a supportive environment for artists to progress their careers

Applications close Tuesday 21 April, midnight AEDT. Read the information in the 2020 – 2021 Artist-in-Residence Application Guide or Apply now.

Simone Slattery, King Island Festival of Arts, Culture and Environment, 2019. Photo by: Anthony Albrecht and courtesy of the artist.

Create NSW rejigs grants to accommodate current COVID-19 restrictions

This week, Create NSW’s Small Project Grants have been redefined to address the current situation of social distancing and the cancellation of non-essential travel.

Small Project Grants support the creation, development and presentation of new work and professional development or promotion for NSW-based professional artists and arts and cultural workers. You can apply for between $500 and $5000 towards your project.

Applicants are asked to read the updated guidelines. They will:

  • Enable professional artists and arts and cultural workers to attend or participate in outstanding time-sensitive opportunities in local, online and other means than in-person contact.
  • Build the capacity and skills of professional artists and arts and cultural workers, through solo, local and online mentoring, development and residency opportunities.
  • Support professional artists and arts and cultural workers to develop work in local contexts, and explore the possibilities of presenting work online, through broadcast or through other means than in-person contact.
  • Respond to the impacts of the 2019 bushfire season and COVID-19 crises, for their local communities, in supportive and creative ways.
  • Strengthen the capacity of NSW-based professional artists and arts and cultural workers to become arts and cultural leaders.

In addition, organisations and clients currently in receipt of Create NSW funding but experiencing hardship in delivery, can now apply for a small grant to support individual artists involved in their program.

Small Project Grants close at 5pm on Tuesday 30 June 2020 (or before this date if funds are expended). Applications may be submitted at any time during this period. Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their applications no later than three weeks after you submit your application.

Extended deadline for Australian Academy of the Humanities’ 2020 grants and awards applications

In recognising the considerable disruptions caused by COVID-19, the Australian Academy of the Humanities has extended the deadline for its 2020 round of grants and awards to 5.00pm AEST Friday 5 June 2020. Visit the Australian Academy for Humanities to apply. 

Every year the Academy offers a series of prestigious grants and awards as part of our ongoing commitment to fostering and promoting the highest quality humanities research and supporting the next generation of scholars and practitioners.

This year we are offering the following opportunities:

  • Max Crawford Medal, Australia’s most prestigious award for achievement and promise by an early career humanities researcher.
  • Medal for Excellence in Translation, a major national award that recognises outstanding achievement in literary translation.
  • John Mulvaney Fellowship, $4000 awarded to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early career researchers and PhD students to undertake research or fieldwork in Australia or overseas.
  • Humanities Travelling Fellowships, offering up to $4000 to support early career researchers to conduct research overseas, including accessing archives and connecting with international researchers and networks.
  • Publication Subsidy Scheme, offering up to $3000 to early careers researchers to support costs associated with research publication.
  • Ernst and Rosemarie Keller Fund, providing up to $5000 for research activities concerned with German history, literature, language, politics or culture.

Help from AFTRS when we need to rethink our digital engagement

AFTRS has made the decision to temporarily suspend its on-campus short course offerings, but will now move some of the courses  and seminars to online delivery mode; including their new Professional Development Seminar series Short, Sharp and Immediately Useful.  
This means the Deals, Rights and Negotiations seminar will now be delivered online on Thursday 2nd April, so participants can become involved from the comfort of their home (or office if you are still working in it!) from anywhere in Australia through our live, interactive virtual classroom experience.

Other Courses that have moved online include the: Industry Certificate: Script Assessment which has only two spots remaining and will close Monday, Storytelling for Business, and Presentation Skills with Tracey Spicer next week. Coming soon will also be: Budgeting Fundamentals, Writing Video Scripts and Briefs  and Production Accounting Fundamentals.

This is a great opportunity to stay engaged with the arts community and keep your creative spirit motivated in these uncertain times and maybe, just maybe, find the spark of something to help you keep others motivated as well.

Getty Images gets involved

Today (25 March), Getty Images has launched the #ShowUs Grant in partnership with Dove to provide financial support and mentorship to female identifying and non-binary artists who are committed to authentically representing women in commercial photography.

The grant, tied to the Project #ShowUs Collection, which launched in March 2019 with the goal to change the way media and advertising represent women, is open to female-identifying and non-binary commercial photographers who have been shooting for less than five years.

The inaugural grant of $10,000 will be awarded to a commercial photographer or videographer. The successful recipient will also be invited to license their award-winning content through GettyImages.com at a 100% royalty rate. Open for applications, the grant is the first in a series of grants to be awarded during 2020 and beyond. Close date is 10 May. Visit Getty Images to apply for the #ShowUs Grant.

Call for Papers: ANAT SPECTRA 2020

Why not use the time at home to put your head to pitching a paper for ANAT SPECTRA 2020 – a 3-day symposium with exhibitions, immersive screenings, performance and public talks, that is Australia’s pre-eminent showcase of the best research and creative work being produced through interdisciplinary collaborations between artists and scientists.

ANAT SPECTRA 2020  will be presented at The University of Melbourne  Wednesday 30 September – Sunday 4 October. Deadline for abstracts: 1 June 2020 and Notification of acceptance: 15 July 2020. Papers/presentations are to be no longer than 20 minutes’ duration. Here’s how to submit.

ANAT SPECTRA 2020 is presented in partnership with the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, home of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium, with program support from the Wilin Centre and the Margaret Lawrence Gallery at the University of Melbourne.

Piecing together clues from photographic history with NLA Webinar

Piece together dates and places from the many clues that family photos contain. Clothing, cars, historic events and even telegraph poles can help date an image and provide crucial information. Learn how to identify these clues and how best to search the National Library of Australia’s collections in this online Webinar, sign up 15 April 1-2pm.


Adelaide Festival 60th birthday finishes on a triumphant high

The 2020 Adelaide Festival curated by Artistic Directors Neil Armfield AO and Rachel Healy has seen an increase in total audience attendance by 24.8%, and has smashed its box office target (of $4.7 million) and generated the second highest box office in the event’s 60-year history, so far achieving a total box office income in excess of $5.3 million (figure is inclusive of umbrella shows, but does not include WOMADelaide).

The 2020 Adelaide Festival offered 73 events in theatre, music, opera, dance, film, writing and visual arts – along with its festivals-within-the-Festival: Adelaide Writers’ Week, Chamber Landscapes at UKARIA and WOMADelaide. The line-up includes seven world premieres, 16 Australian premieres and 19 events exclusive to Adelaide.

A total audience of more than 390,000 attended Adelaide Festival events (including WOMADelaide). The Festival sold 81,446 tickets, a 13% increase on 2019. Audiences of more than 114,000 attended free visual art exhibitions.

The Adelaide Festival schools program was the biggest in the Festival’s history with a 143% increase in ticket sales compared with 2019. 4,806 tickets sold to a total of 77 different schools across South Australia including 4 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander schools and 2 tertiary institutions (NIDA students who travelled from Sydney and The University of Adelaide Creative Arts students).

The 2020 Adelaide Festival ran from Friday 28 February to Sunday 15 March. Adelaide Writers’ Week ran for 6 days and nights from Friday 29 February to Thursday 5 March.

New look Melbourne Festival postponed until 2021

In sadder news, the executive team and board of the new Melbourne Festival have made the decision to postpone the inaugural festival until 2021 as part of the sector’s response to slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

Co-Artistic Directors Hannah Fox and Gideon Obarzanek said: ‘As people in the business of gatherings and live experiences, it’s hard to comprehend what this global issue will mean for the way we operate, consume art and socialise. We are worried for the full spectrum of artists, our colleagues and the whole community and hope that some unity and new ideas can be found in mass isolation. It’s heartening to see the ingenuity, resourcefulness, trench humour and generosity already being exhibited by our community and we will be contributing as much as we can in all of these areas as we reshape the festival for 2021.’  

Further details on the 2021 festival will be released later this year. 

Read: Coronavirus Australian arts event cancellations: state by state


Global first as Biennale goes online

In what is being described as a global first, the Biennale of Sydney has gone online after closing its doors just 10 days after opening.

This year’s exhibition, titled NIRIN and meaning ‘edge’ in Wiradjuri, is an artist- and First Nations-led biennale showcasing more than 700 artworks by 101 artists and collectives. The exhibition is taking the concept “edge” now to another level.

Working with long-time Biennale partner Google, audiences around the world will be able to engage with NIRIN on the Google Arts & Culture platform with live content, virtual walk-throughs, podcasts (which was already in place), interactive Q&As, curated tours and artist takeovers.

The Artistic Director said that the physical artworks account for only half of the biennale’s program, publications, and ideas.  He points to an artist book project called “NIRIN NGAAY (to see the edge)” by Trent Walter and Stuart Geddes, as well as other publications, such as a newspaper project by Maria Thereza Alves. Both will now be published online.

The biennale’s public art program, “NIRIN WIR (edge of the sky),” also includes expanded notions of art that translate well to online viewing.

History stops for coronavirus – prizes postponed

This week the AGNSW postponed the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2020The gallery intends to present the exhibition later this year (not 9 May to 6 September as previously advertised).

Entries have been suspended and the dates for submission and delivery of entries to the prizes have been postponed. Artists are no longer required to deliver works to the Gallery between 30 March and 3 April 2020. New dates will be advised with appropriate notice. The Archibald Prize will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2021.

While AGNSW have postponed their prizes, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre wants to give artists more time to submit their entries for the 66th Blake Art & Poetry Prizes so have decided to extend the entry deadline to 31 May, 2020. With over $46,000 in prizes, the Blake is one of Australia’s longest-standing and most prestigious prizes, and there’s currently a last call for all artists exploring the wider experience of spirituality, religion and belief.  https://bit.ly/36voyaW

Head On adapts and invites renewed participation 

Head On Photo Festival 2020 will go ahead as a predominantly online event in the wake of COVID-19. Exhibitions, webinars, talks and more will all be hosted on a digital platform during the Festival dates 1-17 May and the Festival are exploring presenting a paired back physical version in November. 

Not only is this a positive and creative response to the current climate but at a time when many people will be in isolation, this digital platform will also provide our audiences around the world with a variety of interesting artworks, images and activities to engage and interact with.

Philanthropist reinvigorates Artists’ Fund with 10-year vision

Philanthropist Brett Kelly, Brett Kelly’s generous donation of $50,000 over a 10-year period sparked the creation of ClubB50, which invites willing and able Australian art lovers to commit to donating $5,000 a year for 10 years.

The funds collected will go to the Artists’ Benevolent Fund, which was initially established by Bret Flugelman in 1989, and re-established in 2020. Read more on the fund.

The purpose of the Benevolent Fund is to support artists who have been impacted by current states of emergency. With recent events such as the devastating bushfires, floods, and now COVID-19, ClubB50 could not have come at a better time.

Brett Kelly is the Founder, Executive Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Kelly+Partners Charted Accountants, who are the principal sponsors of Art Month Sydney. ‘We must continue to support those who have the ability to help us see a world we cannot see, and by doing so affect that important, fundamental sense of self. I am pleased to help ClubB50 in their efforts to make a difference,’ said Kelly.

Committed patrons of ClubB50 will each receive an original artwork by Alex Seton, known for his work in marble. As well as the ClubB50 initiative, Australians are invited to donate what they can by visiting nava.net.au/artists-benevolent-fund/   Donations will start from $20 and are tax-deductible.

Kyneton Contemporary Art Triennial 2021 dates

Looking ahead to March 2021, Kyneton (VIC) has announced dates and artists for it second iteration of the Kyneton Contemporary Art Triennial (KCAT).

Presented by local arts collective Kyneton Contemporary Inc. and taking place over nine days, KCAT (pronounced kay-CAT) celebrates the work of eleven contemporary Australian artists. The event’s theme is Holding the Circle – an intersection of contemporary art, community, transmission and exchange – with the town of Kyneton at the core of inspiration.

New works by artists Ravi Avasti (VIC), Hannah Brontë (QLD), Michael Candy (QLD/USA), Adam Lee (VIC), Eugenia Lim (VIC), Emily Parsons-Lord + Sara Morawetz (NSW), Steven Rhall (VIC), Simone Slee (VIC), Hanna Tai (VIC), and Katie West (WA) will be presented across a variety of unconventional sites across the town of Kyneton.

Scheduled for 13 – 21 March 2021. KCAT2021 will be officially launched on Saturday 14 March 2020. As part of this launch, a very special publication detailing the art presented in the inaugural KCAT in 2018 will be released. Force Fields: Art, Architecture and Audience to document the first KCAT will be launched. 

More news you may have missed.

Visual Arts Writer
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