New book celebrates the History of the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards

Chamber Made Opera Recital Helen Noonan photo by Jeff BusbyCelebrating the performing arts in Australia since 1984, A History of the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards is a lavish book showcasing the who’s who in the arts across Australia.

For the first time, this book tells some of the wonderful stories of the many amazing Award winners and chronicles the shifting cultural landscape in Australia over the last 30 years. The Awards have recognised and celebrated many of Australia’s greatest artists, arts organisations and facilitators and are one of the richest and most coveted Awards in the performing arts in Australia.

As Michael Shmith states in his foreward: “through the history of the Awards and the stories of the individuals, froups and facilitators luck enough to have received them, it is fascinating to chart the shifting cultural terrain of the past 30 years. The songlines are clearly defined.”

“While some people and organisations have gone to God or to the gods, others continue to thrive. And, best of all, the matrix is still being formed. It will be intriguing, in another 30 years, to see the contributions and the changes,” says Shmith.

The inaugural individual winner in 1984 was noted poet and playwright and Indigenous rights campaigner, Jack Davis AM OBE BEM; and from there it has been awarded to array of artists across the spectrum – director Neil Armfield AO (1988); choreographer Meryl Tankard (1992); actor Geoffrey Rush AC (1993); Soprano Lisa Gasteen AO (2002); multi-talented performer Eddie Perfect  (2011); and companies – Circus Oz (1984); Chamber Made Opera (1991); Legs on the Wall (1994); NORPA (2001); Back to Back Theatre (2005); Big hART (2008); CIRCA (2013) and many others.

“We are immensely proud of what we have achieved in directly supporting the arts over the last 30 year and this book helps us look back and reflect upon our performing arts history”, says Carrillo Gantner AO, Chair of the Sidney Myer Fund.

“I encourage you, to use this book as a starting point for your exploration of Australian performing arts. I hope it inspires you to go out and buy a ticket to one of their shows – we can all experience the laughter and tears that spring from the artists’ high-octane creativity. We live in a country with a very rich and diverse performing arts scene; it is ours to enjoy, celebrate and support.”

The Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards has one of the longest uninterrupted histories of Australian performing arts prizes, and the excellence for which they stand only grows higher as the list of winners grows longer.

“In terms of relevance to me, [this] is probably the most significant Award I have received during my career, both in terms of the opportunities it gave me at a particularly critical time, the recognition it gave me, and the pride I felt in receiving such an Award. It really boosted my confidence,” said Lucy Guerin – Recipient of the 2000 Individual Award.

“I learned … a long time ago when starting out, that if I wanted to be a creative person, a performer, an artist, I would have to do a lot of the work myself,” said Paul Capsis – Recipient of the 2010 Individual Award. “That’s why the Sidney Myer Fund Award has really been the most important to me … It was a great acknowledgement of the work I had achieved so far.”

The Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards were established in 1984 by the Trustees of the Sidney Myer Fund, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Sidney Myer, a passionate advocate and great friend to the arts. The Trustees of the Sidney Myer Foundation believe that real achievement should be recognised and rewarded. To date they have awarded well over $3 million.

A History of the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards has been published by the Sidney Myer Fund.

Image: Helen Noonan in Chamber Made Opera’s production of Recital – photo by Jeff Busby