Australia Council Chief Executive Officer Tony Grybowski announced at the Arts Activated Conference last October that $1 million over three years would be dedicated to supporting artists with disability after a successful pilot was run in 2014.
“The pilot program provided $300,000 to enable Australian artists with disability to create, develop, present, produce, exhibit and tour their work,” Mr Grybowski said.
“The pilot confirmed there is a rich pool of talent in this area, and that is why we extended dedicated funding for three years. This demonstrates our commitment to support the cultural ambitions of artists with disability, and we hope more artists who identify as having disability apply across all our funding programs.”
Mr Grybowski said the dedicated arts and disability funding was identified as a key initiative under the Council’s Strategic Plan and would play an important role in achieving those goals.
“The Council’s new strategic goals include a focus on Australia’s reputation for great art and artists, and the arts enriching daily life for all,” Mr Grybowski said. “This $1 million investment in arts and disability over 2015-2017 will provide development grants of up to $25,000 and project grants of up to $50,000 for individuals and groups.”
“Dedicated funding will be offered once a year to individual artists with disability and disability-led groups in the first round of the Council’s new streamlined grants model. The new grants program began in January and the first round closes on 3 March. Applicants need to select the arts and disability panel to assess their application.”
The pilot program was established after extensive consultation with the sector. Individuals and groups who identified as having disability submitted more than 200 applications in all art form areas from across Australia, including artists who had never before applied to the Council, demonstrating a high demand for dedicated funding.
Twenty five projects and development opportunities for artists with disability were funded through the pilot, including Melbourne performance artist Emma J Hawkins’ autobiographical show I am not a Unicorn! Her first solo work, Ms Hawkins said the show was a tongue-in cheek look at her life and what it means to stand at just over one metre tall.
“Sometimes I feel like Alice who has been shrunk or like a mythical creature walking down the street – a unicorn even. Some people think I live in a fairytale cottage and hang out with Snow White, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In fact I am a short-statured person who defies stereotypes, wields knives, swears and chops onions, in my show at least,” Ms Hawkins said.
“This show questions the notion of being normal or abnormal, being average or special, and whether we really want to be any of those things.”
Ms Hawkins said dedicated funding for artists with disability was an important step by the Australia Council and helped get her project off the ground.
“Being a performing artist in Australia is often equated to climbing a very big ladder to get to ‘the top’. As I see it, being an artist with a disability makes climbing that ladder even more difficult and dedicated funding gives us that crucial boost up,” Ms Hawkins said.
For more information or to apply for funding, visit: www.australiacouncil.gov.au for details.
Image: I am not a Unicorn! – photo by Amy Cater