Let’s talk about the F word

The growing political attention on Western Sydney and Regional NSW is seeing a suite of new programs and funding opportunities to support creative communities and the development of artists from non-metropolitan areas. The question on everyone’s lips is how sustainable will these activities be once the funding expires; what does a sustainable model for arts-based enterprise look like in 2017?

With the below funding on the table, we’re taking a look at how each one helps the arts, and what questions we should be asking about their sustainability within our industry.  



  1. NSW Young Regional Arts Fellowship
    Closes 20th February 2017, click here for full details
    Fifteen $10k scholarships for artists and arts workers aged 18-25 (as of 1st May 2017) are on offer for a professional development plan. This includes visiting Sydney to undergo a mentorship program. Whilst there is value in leaving your community to enrich your practice, our question is where is the commitment to developing these artists in their community, rather than concentrating on the big smoke?

    Arts NSW note that their work aims to “support more opportunities for more people to experience and shape the arts, particularly in Regional NSW” and to foster “an innovative arts and cultural sector, and growing creative industries”. These are priorities we can all agree with and the clear benefits of collaborate work outside of ones community is important in the development of personal growth as an arts worker in the current arts ecology in NSW. However, with $10k on the table should we maybe be asking ourselves, that with the exceptional priorities of fostering innovative creative industries and supporting opportunities and experiences in regional NSW, why then are we not seeing fellowships and funding to create sustainable, innovative creative industries in and for regional communities and young people?

  2. Making Space Initiative
    Closes 6 March, click here for full details
    ArtsNSW has announced a $350k fund for locally-driven artist run initiatives in Western Sydney. These funds are contributing to activating community and commercial spaces into creative hubs that de-centralise and further enrich Sydney’s cultural life. This was an unmet objective for the inaugural Western Sydney Art Strategy, which offers the opportunity to open much needed studio and office space for all art-forms closer to home. Property managers and artists are encouraged to apply to activate spaces not already used for creative programming. The concern lies in whether this grant (and assigned deadline) oversimplifies the process of activating space –  are property managers prepared to assist, does local government own property, does local government have the policies in place to support these activities, will the funds be absorbed by commercial lease rates and development application processes, etc? $60,000 per applicant may sound like a lot of money, but without strong foundations in partnership and planning, how sustainable will these spaces be once the walls are painted and doors are opened?
  3. Live and Local in Western Sydney
    Currently not taking submissions
    Piloted in 2016, this program saw five local government organisations partner with the Live Music Office to produce live music events to support the development of localised musicians. It helped eliminate the financial risk of staging live music events and responded to the demand from young people and music lovers for more support for local live music. After five pilot events, the ongoing conversation is how to support live music activity beyond the micro-festivals.
  4. Live Music in Regional NSW
    Click here for more details
    Following the success of the aforementioned program in Western Sydney, $150K is being offered to local councils in Regional NSW to partner with the Live Music Office to produce micro-festivals to support local musicians. The program aims to build the capacity of local government to run their own micro-festivals, including guidance on best practice and partnership building in the music industry.
  5. CoLabs@Bungarribee
    Click here for more details
    Aiming to deliver projects across ten days in May 2017, CoLabs is seeking expressions of interest from creative practitioners. Expressions of interest should reflect an interest in contributing to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) initiatives through an arts lens. More details on how to apply and submit a budget can be found on their website.
  6. Blacktown City Council Creative Arts Fund
    Closes 6 March, 2017, click here for application details
    $40,000 is committed to Blacktown local artists and organisations to contribute to professional development and the development of community art projects in 2017.
  7. Creative Partnerships Australia, MatchLAB
    Recently closed. Good luck to all the applicants.
    Now this is what we are talking about! Professional development for artists to build more a sustainable practice by understanding different income streams and partnership building. This scholarship provides 25 artists from across Australia with the chance to develop critical skills in fundraising and partnership building. Successful applicants will be flown to Melbourne to participate in a two day intensive program, including developing a crowdfunding campaign that Creative Partnerships Australia will match up $10,000 funding. Check out the previous recipients on their website.


It’s the big ‘f’ word that starts some of the most productive and heated conversations within the arts.

Funding has become crucial for the survival of much of the sector, and in recent times it has become clearer than ever, it is volatile and holds the capacity to utterly cripple the arts sector. Whilst grants provide one means of obtaining capital to ensure the initiation or development of spaces, projects and developments, shouldn’t we be asking and aiming to diversify the funding models within our sector, to move away from grant dependency toward impact driven, profit for purpose business models?

These are big topics, and ones we will be visiting again. But as funding becomes increasingly competitive, and the grant pool shrinks, when funding expires, the arts should have alternative, sustainable models providing the means of stability and growth that grant models cannot allow for. After all, art is business.