Darling Vitals family, this is quite a long message and I appreciate the time you take to read it in these difficult days.
Our Federal funding outcome
Vitalstatistix was extremely disappointed to receive news on Friday that our Four Year Funding application for Federal Government support from 2021-2024 was declined by the Australia Council for the Arts.
As our dedicated supporters will remember, Vitalstatistix was defunded from multi-year Federal funding in 2016 alongside a swathe of colleagues from around Australia, in the wake of the Federal Government’s cuts to the arts under then Minister for the Arts, George Brandis.
In the four years since that loss of funding, Vitals still went from strength to strength.
We responded through prioritising our creative development programs – our residencies, labs and events such as Adhocracy, and their associated year-round public programs of free showings and artist talks, which we know our audiences love and regularly enjoy.
We also presented significant public projects including: works in partnership with Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, the Art Gallery of South Australia and many others; performance seasons at our beloved venue Waterside of exceptional Australian new works that South Australian audiences would otherwise not have seen; and our five year climate change project Climate Century, among other keynote projects.
We have spent the last year applying to the Australia Council’s Four Year Funding program for small-to-medium cultural organisations; proceeding through the expression-of-interest stage, submitted in April 2019, and then submitting a full application in November 2019. This is no small endeavour, practically and psychologically, as many of you know.
This latest funding outcome for Vitals does not technically represent a loss of funding, unlike some of our colleagues such as the brilliant Restless Dance Theatre – among many others –, to whom our hearts go out: we know the devastating shock of such an announcement.
However, for Vitals and many others, this heartbreaking result does represent a loss – one of potential, of work for artists, of new Australian art and culture, of the capacity to realise our vision for progressive contemporary art and community life.
For many of us, it feels like the Australia Council is in the business of palliative care at the moment. As Ben Eltham outlines, not for the first time, in his excellent Guardian piece yesterday, Australia Council funding has declined by nearly 20% since 2013; and around 60% of their budget is still quarantined for a small group of the largest performing arts companies. This doesn’t leave much left for small-to-medium organisations and especially for independent artists. It means that each time the Four Year Funding program is offered we will invariably see more and more small organisations defunded or unfunded.
As you would be aware, the Australian Government, rightly and in response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, is currently spending an unprecedented amount of nearly $200 billion on various initiatives.
While some arts organisations and arts workers will benefit from some of these broader measures, as yet not one dollar of this spending has been put towards forward thinking arts specific initiatives to keep our sector alive. As Ben Eltham says, “There is enough money to fund Australian culture properly of course. It is simply a matter of political will.”
Of course, the times we are in show this to be the case for many areas we supposedly could not afford even a month ago – a raise in social security, free childcare for people who keep our society running, and many other things.
Somehow, in this current extraordinary environment, the arts have not managed to secure any new investment. This is how impotent the Australia Council, chaired by ex Rio Tinto mining boss Sam Walsh AO, has become. This is what the Federal Government thinks of the arts. We must work to change this.
We encourage our community to be actively involved in the current campaign for a Federal arts rescue package, to ensure no worker is left behind and to save our creators – please join and stay in touch with National Association for the Visual Arts, Live Performance Australia, Theatre Network Australia and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance for actions that you can take. #CreateAustraliasFuture #SaveOurCreators #NoWorkerLeftbehind.
The future for Vitalstatistix
Vitals turned 35 years old in 2019 and we are not going anywhere but onwards.
While the Four Year Funding result has been extremely disappointing, to say the least, we are very fortunate to have the generous support of the Government of South Australia and the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, alongside the many larger cultural organisations we regularly partner with and of course our community of artists, audiences and supporters.
We are also fortunate to have current Australia Council project funding for Adhocracy, and we will make the most of their new small ‘Resilience’ grants, as we encourage all artists and small arts organisations to do.
We have our beautiful home, the Waterside Workers Hall, that provides our organisation an anchor for our contribution to contemporary art and community life. And we are extremely adept at making not much go far, Port Adelaide style!
Over the coming months we will be creating our plans for 2021 and beyond. These plans will focus on the things we do best – supporting artists to develop incredible new works, through residencies and artist labs; enabling them to show works-in-progress; connecting Australian artists; continuing to be a cultural hub in Port Adelaide; prioritising women, queer and First Nations artists; and undertaking keynote projects, where we can secure project funding and creative partnerships for these initiatives.
However, it is impossible to not grieve for the projects and works we had up our sleeves for you, if we had received the Four Year Funding, I will admit.
Meanwhile we are proceeding with our national call out for proposals for Adhocracy 2020, with some significant changes responding to the COVID-19 crisis. We are committed to getting this funding out to artists, so please do apply by May 25 – INFO HERE.
You can read our initial response to COVID-19 HERE.
In line with important public health measures, our venue Waterside is indefinitely closed and our staff team are working from home. This closure means that all of our 2020 public program, including some projects we had yet to announce, are cancelled or on hold until further notice. We are honouring all artists’ fees associated with these projects for the whole of 2020.
We are exploring other ways that we can offer some small, flexible funds to artists over this time and we have a number of new projects we still hope to announce for late 2020.
We know that our closure, and all the closures, significantly and disproportionately impact on the livelihood and mental health of independent artists. We remain committed to working for a better, fairer and just deal for artists and arts workers, and promoting community, kindness and justice more broadly.
Our love also goes out to the members of our choir-in-residence, Born on Monday – we know that not meeting weekly is really challenging and frustrating for many participants.
Comrades, all of you, we look forward to celebrating our reopening of Waterside with you at a time in the future. That is going to be one epic party.
Lastly, my big love to my wonderful staff team – Emma, Toby and Isobel – and my brilliant and supportive Board. Team Vitals is powering on.
Image Credit: Climate Century 2015 – Winds of Increasing Magnitudes by Sundari Carmody and Matthew Bradley. Photo by Sandra Elms.