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Arts funding announcement brings mixed news for SA organisations

Adelaide arts organisations Restless Dance Theatre and Vitalstatistix are celebrating this week after having their multi-year federal funding reinstated by Creative Australia, but a devastated Slingsby Theatre Company says its long-term future is now uncertain after its application was knocked back.

Dec 14, 2023, updated Dec 14, 2023
Madalene Macera, Charlie Wilkins and Bhodi Hudson in Restless Dance Theatre's 'Exposed'. Photo: Roy Vandervegt / supplied

Madalene Macera, Charlie Wilkins and Bhodi Hudson in Restless Dance Theatre's 'Exposed'. Photo: Roy Vandervegt / supplied

Creative Australia, which was established this year as the Federal Government’s principal arts investment and advisory body (replacing the Australia Council), says 159 organisations nationwide will receive multi-year investment from 2025-28 – an increase of 45 organisations compared with the 2021-24 cycle.

Among them are around 12 South Australian arts organisations, including Restless Dance Theatre, which works with dancers with and without disability. The award-winning company was shocked to lose multi-year funding in 2020, with artistic director Michelle Ryan saying at the time that it threated to “clip the wings” of the company.

In the investment announced this week, Creative Australia has awarded Restless $1.2 million in funding over four years.

“This investment is instrumental in enabling our organisation to continue creating art for the global stage, providing more employment opportunities for dancers with disability,” Ryan said.

“It also allows the organisation to expand our training programs extending our unique teaching methodologies into national markets and [to] nurture the next generation of dancers with disability.”

Restless, which will premiere a new work titled Private View at next year’s Adelaide Festival, also thanked the State Government for its “steadfast support” of the company, along with other collaborators, sponsors and donors who it said had enabled it to continue to deliver its programs over the past four years.

While Creative Australia is investing $42.4 million per annum in a range of arts and culture organisations, Adelaide’s Slingsby Theatre is among some key companies across Australia that have had their applications for four-year funding rejected, with others including Melbourne-based La Mama Theatre and Brisbane’s Metro Arts.

The decision by Creative Australia to not include Slingsby in its four-year funding program is devastating

Like Restless, Slingsby lost its multi-year funding in 2020. Despite this, and thanks partly to pandemic recovery funding and other support, artistic director Andy Packer said the past two years had been “a period of great success” during which the company had performed for more than 100,000 audience members, created and toured productions nationally and internationally, and presented a world premiere (The River that Ran Uphill) at the 2023 Adelaide Festival.

“We are incredibly proud of these achievements,” Packer told InReview today.

“The decision by Creative Australia to not include Slingsby in its four-year funding program is devastating. It has effectively dug up the road ahead that we saw for the company. We must now see if we can find a new path. Again.

“In 2024 we will preview the first of a triptych of works at Adelaide Festival, premiere our collaboration with Handspring Puppet Company at WOMADelaide and tour our production The River that Ran Uphill to Sydney Opera House and Canberra Theatre Centre. The immediate future for the company is secure thanks to the steadfast support of Arts South Australia, a group of passionate donors and the Slingsby team’s incredible resilience.

“The long-term future, however, is now very uncertain.”

Edgell Junior in Slingsby’s show The River that Ran Uphill. Photo: Adam Forte, Daylight Breaks

In a statement announcing the latest round of funding, Creative Australia said there was an increase in investment in First Nations organisations, youth and disability-led groups, and regional organisations, with CEO Adrian Collette adding: “The strong competition for this investment highlights the immense talent and vision of our small to medium art sector.”

In addition to Restless, other South Australian organisations that have received multi-year funding for 2025-28  include Vitalstatistix, ActNow Theatre, Tutti Arts, Australian Dance Theatre, Insite Arts, Australian String Quartet, Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre, Gravity & Other Myths, Patch Theatre, Artlink Australia and Adelaide Contemporary Experimental (ACE).

Port Adelaide-based multidisciplinary arts organisation Vitalstatistix, which was defunded from multi-year funding in 2016 following then federal arts minister George Brandis’s brutal cuts to the Australia Council and then missed out again in 2020, has been awarded $1.2 million for 2025-28 through the Emerging and Experimental Arts category.

Vitalstatistix director Emma Webb said the funding would make a huge difference to the organisation and the artists it supports.

“We’re super-excited,” she told InReview. “One of the really great things is that it’s our 40th birthday next year and so, although this funding starts in 2025, having it locked in means we can really concentrate on celebrating our 40th anniversary.

“We’ll be launching our program in January / early February, and we’ve got a whole range of different works that are celebrating both the value of experimental art as well as the feminist and queer practices that Vitals is most known for.”

She notes that the number of organisations that have received funding in the Emerging and Experimental Arts grants category is double that supported previously: “I hope it’s a great sign of what I think is a growing interest in experimental and socially engaged practice and art.”

Vitalstatistix artistic director Emma Webb. Photo: Morgan Sette / supplied

Looking further ahead, Webb said the funding stability meant Vitalstatistix would be able to present more premiere seasons of works that it supports in development, pursue a range of other ambitious projects with artists with whom it works, and expand its Adhocracy hothouse program.

She added: “It’s been a lot of hard work by the organisation and my team to get to this point, so it’s definitely a celebration, but we’re also really mindful that there are always people who go through this process, which is a big process – it’s a huge amount of effort and time and emotional investment – and I know what it feels like to get to the end of that and not get the funding.

“All of my solidarity goes to organisations that haven’t got that good news, because it’s very gutting.”

Adelaide-based ActNow Theatre, which focuses on tailoring socially conscious performance projects and working with diverse communities, said it was grateful to have its work recognised, but also acknowledged that not all organisations had been so fortunate.

“This funding is crucial to keeping our doors open,” a spokesperson told InReview.

“But it’s important to acknowledge that arts are still deeply underfunded and there are many organisations that are doing important work that missed out entirely this year. We’re hopeful for a future where we can all get the support we need.”

Other key South Australian arts organisations such as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Windmill Theatre, State Theatre Company South Australia and State Opera are supported through the National Performing Arts Partnership Framework.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

InReview is an open access, non-profit arts and culture journalism project. Readers can support our work with a donation. Subscribe to InReview’s free weekly newsletter here.

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