Arts Initiative Australia is working to create a more viable future for the arts in Australia.

Spearheaded by a GenY board including lawyer Natalie Zwar, foreign exchange trader Andrew Luboski, social impact leader Claire Stokes as well as composer and Limelight publisher Andrew Batt-Rawden, a new organisation called Arts Initiative Australia is working to make the future of Australian arts more sustainable. It aims to connect artists needing support with potential funders, ensuring that individuals are able to generate an income from their work and are able to create without the pressures and limitations of funding concerns. Additionally, AIA provides artists with mentors, gives advice on establishing sound business structures, and helps artists put together the teams they need to realise their ideas.

The foundation is funded through donations, which can range from a recurring donation of $5 per month to one-off donations of any size. The money is then directed towards the creation of infrastructure, artistic works, and audience development, as well as resources for mentoring programmes, the fostering of partnerships, and advice in business, marketing, and legal issues.

An “arts-agnostic” organisation, Arts Initiative is supportive of projects across a wide range of genres. A digital platform developed by West Australian Symphony Orchestra cellist Louise McKay, Ensembly, is one of the first supported projects. Billed as a kind of ‘Airbnb’ for intimate artistic experiences, Ensembly connects artists, hosts and audience to allow for professional performances in intimate spaces, like private homes.

“Andrew and Claire at Australian Arts Initiative have already been incredibly helpful in developing my idea and enthusiasm into a project with direction and potential. They are guiding me towards their trusted associates in the media, legal advisers, and web/tech developers,” McKay told Limelight. “Being seated closely to the artists encourages a different kind of attention, inviting the audience to experience the deep connection that performers share with the works they are presenting, as well as with each other. One of AIA’s missions is to build capacity for audience and artists – my hope is that Ensembly will achieve just that, by engaging passionate artists to present a wide range of engaging and accessible performances.”

Tenor Louis Hurley is another artist receiving support from AIA. Having recently accepted a scholarship to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, AIA is helping Hurley to develop and manage a viable, innovative philanthropy schedule, as well as supporting him to approach foundations and funding bodies for grants. “Since graduating from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts I’ve found it very difficult to be a developing artist in the Australian classical music scene,” Hurley said. “There are no performance master courses offered here for opera, and young performers are having to deal with the insane costs of international study. We are having to be our own philanthropy department.”

“What Arts Initiative Australia are doing for me is essentially helping me build up my own philanthropy department by approaching foundations and funding bodies and helping me develop a philanthropy schedule. Support like this really means the difference between having a dream and chasing it, so I’m really thankful to everyone at AIA.”

Melanie Eden, another artist with AIA, has recently accepted a HEIMA residency in Iceland to develop her practice as a facilitator of arts-based educative experiences, where she addresses social and emotional wellbeing in education. AIA will support Eden by raising funds to attend her 50-day residency. “Getting over there and participating in this festival, and engaging with the school, its coordinators and students will really help me grow my own vision and practice,” she explained. “I’ve been an independent artist for some time now and I feel it is really important to share what I’ve learnt from the process, and what I’ve learnt is how to keep myself sane. I think creative arts therapy and experiential learning can play a big part in insuring mental health for the next generation. The residency will allow me to develop myself as an educator. It will give the time and space to build my own methodology, learn from others doing similar things, and expose me to the ins and outs of running an educational institution that is founded on the same principles that I work from.”

“Arts Initiative is the support network that I need at the moment,” Eden said. “Once you hit your thirties and your practice still isn’t economically viable it can be easy to burn out. I’ve felt like I haven’t had the necessary tools or guidance to really advocate myself in a world of bureaucracy. It’s only now that I am realising that there are avenues and people willing to support what I do and that I don’t need to do it 100 percent on my own. I can thank people like Andrew Batt-Rawden and Arts Initiative for giving the time and effort to invest in someone like me that is still working the sustainability ‘thing’ out. Knowing I won’t be going over with no money in my pocket takes a huge weight off my shoulders.”

Director Dan Graham is being supported by AIA in his creation of a new work about Shakespeare characters with neuro-diversity. He will be supported through the process of team development, including the recruitment of team members and the establishment of a sustainable financial model. “I have had the idea for some years and want to bring the flavour of the Elizabethan era to it. There will be some playwriting, musical performance and the work of quite a few actors. Ideas are flowing and it’s all very exciting but, of course, still in its early days,” he said.

Other projects receiving funding and support include Natalie Wadwell’s State of the Arts, a digital platform dedicated to promoting experiences of art and culture beyond metropolitan cities, Maddie Godfrey’s Spoken Word Sex-Ed, an educational program that uses spoken word poetry to educate about sexual health and sexuality, Leah Blankendaal’s |seed|, a festival of new music in Adelaide, Melanie Bainbridge’s The Pack Austraila, a direct arts-to-market web platform and app which will enable businesses to stream curated, all original, all local music playlists for their individual spaces and business types, as well as Stephanie Eslake’s CutCommon, an online publication for emerging classical musicians.

For more information on Arts Initiative Australia, click here.

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