Much has been said in the past week about the further cuts to arts funding in the Federal Budget. Significant amounts of funding have been cut from the overall arts budget, despite there being no change to the Federal funding of the 28 major performing arts organisations in the country. I'm sure everyone has seen the plethora of articles outlining the exact numbers and consequences of these cuts, a simple Google Search for "arts budget" can provide all the answers you need. Independent arts is in a state of emergency like never before and now is the time of make or break. Can the independent arts scene overcome the hurdles put in place by these funding cuts? Is it possible for the indies to thrive in the absence of funding? Is there a way to revolutionise the arts industry, proving that the arts are one of the most integral industries in our society? The time for action is now. All or nothing. Artists, audiences, the general public. Now is the time for the arts revolution.
I recently saw a show by Fractal Theatre Productions, called My Love Had A Black Speed Stripe, in a tiny hall in the middle of Balmoral Park. Some of you may have read my review of the piece and heard of a performer's passionate plea to audiences and artists alike.
Anyone who has even dabbled in the arts knows just how difficult it is to achieve a sustainable lifestyle in the arts. If you are able to make money through your work, it is rarely enough to survive on. Many work second and even third jobs just to pay the rent and fund their passion. It's not easy. The financial and emotional drain of working in this industry is severe enough that immensely talented individuals have to leave for their own well being or risk their own lives fighting psychological demons that have already taken the lives of some of the greatest from past generations. Ernest Hemmingway, Kurt Cobain and Sylvia Plath; three artists at the top of their respective industries being cut down by the emotional weight of the arts. Those are just three people, I could name artists who have encountered the same struggles for hours; even longer for those who narrowly avoided a premature grave.
Arts needs support.
That's all it needs right now. Support. And the major funding bodies have withdrawn large amounts of their support, so we need a solution. The only way independent arts will stay around and be an attractive industry for years to come is to unite as a community. This is not the time to compete with one another, this is the time to embrace and support each other in creating international standard work for our audiences.
Let's say the average indie theatre ticket is 20 bucks. 20 dollars is not much, even on a tight budget, there is always time to go and support a show. Every weekend there is something on. A production at Metro Arts or the Judy, a work in development at the Billie Brown Studio, an arts gathering somewhere, something is always happening somewhere and it's not hard to find in this age of social media.
It is the duty of every lover of independent arts to immerse themselves in work and to support our dying industry. It is the duty of every independent artist to sustain their passion, even through the hard times and to continue striving to create work to rival those in the mainstream sector. It is the duty of the audience to immerse and familiarise themselves with the independent sector and to know that their contribution is directly supporting the future of arts itself.
Without an indie scene, the main-stage companies mean nothing. Excellence will be discouraged, and mediocrity embraced. Now is the time to unite, create and thrive together. Not in six months, not in a year, now. The independent sector is hurting due to these recent funding cuts however artists, united with their audiences can overcome this adversity and excel. Then, together we can raise our middle finger to the authorities that claim that independent arts isn't 'worth it'.
P.S. I could write for hours about this topic, so I have tried to limit myself. This article is just a starting point. Share the word with your friends, family, fellow artists, co-workers and anyone else who will listen. We will overcome the misfortune befallen our industry, and earn our support, one person at a time if that is how it needs to happen.