Ahead of this week’s Meeting of Cultural Ministers the arts advocacy group suggests emergency plan.

Slashed funding to the Australia Council could see the number of key arts organisations of small to medium scale decimated from 147 nationwide to just 60. This is the damning conclusion of analysis conducted by ArtsPeak, the confederation of peak arts organisations and state arts industry councils, who today urged attendees at the upcoming Meeting of Cultural Ministers (MCM) in Mildura to implement an emergency plan to save the Australian arts ecology from the potentially destructive impact of recent cuts to the Australia Council’s budget.

Almost $105 million has been syphoned away from the Australia Council in order to create the new Government administered National Programme for Excellence in the Arts in a move which has provoked anger, protests and petitions since its announcement. ArtsPeak’s assessment of the disastrous implications of the recently instituted changes to the arts funding infrastructure comes just two days after newly appointed Minster for the Arts Mitch Fifield claimed that “the quantum of money in the arts portfolio is the same,” insisting that the NPEA would not negatively impact any strata of the Australian arts community.

ArtsPeak has approached all the federal, state and territory arts ministers attending the MCM, which will take place on October 2, to alert them to the consequences for state and territory arts organisations of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decision to radically restructure arts subsidy in Australia. It believes that the best chance for averting disaster for Australian arts now lies in the hands of state funding bodies, and has suggested urgent changes that if instituted could help alleviate the financial stresses that deficient Federal funding is likely to cause over the next four years for important local arts groups.

 ArtsPeak Co-convenor Nicole Beyer

Nicole Beyer, co-convenor of ArtsPeak and Director of the Theatre Network in Victoria said, “We estimate that almost half of Australia’s small to medium arts organisations are now in serious jeopardy. The federal government has created a headache for state and local governments who are its partners in supporting a healthy and dynamic cultural sector.”

“There is now insufficient funding to ensure a viable ecosystem of large and small arts organisations and programs for individual artists.” Beyer continued.

Tamara Winikoff OAM, ArtsPeak’s other co-convenor and Executive Director of the National Association for the Visual Arts added, “It’s a cost shifting exercise. If the cuts to core funding go ahead, the states and territories will be under pressure to make up the shortfall. However, we believe there are both immediate and longer term measures which the ministers could adopt to fix the problem.”

Among ArtsPeak’s relief strategy suggestions is a bailout package of transitional funding for small to medium scale organisations to immediately address the dollar shortfalls that Federal cuts will likely cause. The group has also implored the Federal Government to conduct thorough research and consultation with the arts sector, as well as other levels of state government, to accurately assess the needs of both arts and culture organisations and consumers. A lack of proper consultation before the announcement of the major funding restructure has been one of the major criticism made of the Federal Government and former Minister for the Arts George Brandis, and has led to the establishment of a Senate Inquiry into the NPEA.

Draft guidelines released earlier this year showed that the NPEA would not support individual artists or core funding for small to medium organisations – the same areas that cuts to the Australia Council have directly disadvantaged. Minister Fifield has however pledged to address the concerns of the arts sector with regard to the seeming bias in this early draft, although an exact timeline on when this new draft may be available is yet to be confirmed.