The Sidney Myer Creative Fellowships for 2021 have been awarded to nine Australian artists working in dance, performance, visual arts, writing, theatre and music.

They are: Alison Murphy-Oates (NSW), cultural leadership; Ellen van Neerven (QLD), literature; Eric Avery (NSW), music/dance; Hoda Afshar (VIC), photography; Jo Lloyd (VIC), dance, Joel Ma (VIC), music, multi-artform; Latai Taumoepeau (NSW), performance art; Michele Lee (VIC), theatre writing; and Tjungkara Ken (SA), painting.

Eric Avery

Eric Avery. Photo supplied

They will each receive a tax-free grant of $160,000 over a two-year period. The money is not tied to any specific outcome, instead the grants provide an income so that each Fellow has time to develop their creative practice without financial pressure.

‘’I am delighted to make this year’s announcement and extend my congratulations to these wonderful artists. It’s been a testing time for so many of us, and our arts community has suffered significantly with so many performances, exhibitions and theatres closed. It is my hope that this support will make a meaningful difference to support those that help us make sense of this world,’’ said Andrew Myer Chair, National Peer Review Panel for the 2021 Fellows.

“My life has changed because of this opportunity,” said writer Ellen van Neerven. “With this support I can work and think in the long-term rather than short-term, and put my creative practice at the forefront of my output.”

To be nominated for a Fellowship, artists and arts managers must be within seven and 15 years into their creative practice and must meet two criteria: outstanding talent and exceptional courage.

Musician and dancer Eric Avery said that for him “courage means to keep developing and making art no matter what happens in your life. I started learning violin later than most (12 years of age on a toy violin), and have worked very hard to develop my playing skills. I remember playing in orchestras as a teenager and being a black child; I might not have appreciated it then, but this took a lot of courage.”

Avery is a Ngiyampaa, Yuin, Bandjalang and Gumbangirr artist, who is both a classically trained violinist and composer, as well as a professional dancer. As a dancer, he works regularly with Marrugeku. As a violinist, he has worked with everyone from Black Arm Band to Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to Tina Arena. In his artistic practice he synthesises Western classical violin traditions with his ancestral cultural heritage. He has collaborated with many international artists including Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, African American jazz violinist Regina Carter and Grammy-winner Rhiannon Giddens.

Alison Murphy-Oates is a Ngiyampaa Wailwan woman from Central-West New South Wales, who has dedicated herself to supporting the development and empowerment of First Peoples artists and arts workers, and the growth of a network of First Peoples practitioners globally. She is Managing Director at Moogahlin Performing Arts and a freelance producer, arts administrator and consultant.

Michele Lee

Michele Lee. Photo © Victoria Scott

Ellen van Neerven was born in Brisbane and is an award-winning author, editor and educator of Mununjali (Yugambeh language group) and Dutch heritage. Ellen’s books include Heat and Light, an award-winning collection of stories, and poetry collections Comfort Food and Throat.

Hoda Afshar is an Iranian-Australian visual artist, born in Tehran and now based in Melbourne. Her visual practice spans photography and moving image and is focused on exploring specific social and political issues related to marginality, visibility and displacement.

Jo Lloyd is an independent Melbourne-based choreographer, performer and teacher, who has developed a distinctive voice through works including the award-winning OVERTURE from 2018.

Joel Ma founded seminal Australian rap group TZU, whose albums have picked up nominations for the Australian Music Prize, a J Award and an APRA Award. Under the moniker Joelistics, he continued his success as a music performer and producer, which has extended into co-writing and producing credits with acts like Haiku Hands and Mo’Ju. He also has a theatre writing credit for In Between Two (2015), which toured nationally, and he is currently developing a TV series with producer Tony Ayres and writer Nam Le.

Latai Taumoepeau is a body-centred performance artist. She describes her work – which combines dance and visual art – as belonging to the Tongan form of performance called faiva, which translates as marking/doing time and space.

Michele Lee is an Asian-Australian writer working across theatre, live art, audio and screen. Her works explore otherness, identity and found families, usually through contemporary narratives that privilege the experiences of women and people of colour. She has worked with Sydney Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company, Queensland Theatre, Griffin Theatre and Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, and her plays include Rice, Going Down and Single Ladies. She recently received development funding from Screen Australia for her original TV comedy concept, Next Big Thing, in which a young Asian-Australian theatre director must navigate a new job in an elite theatre company while being unexpectedly pregnant.

Tjungkara Ken was born in Amata, South Australia, in 1969. She is a Pitjantjatjara painter based on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in far north-west South Australia. She is part of the Ken Sisters Collaborative who were awarded the Wynne Prize in 2016 and she was a finalist in the 2017 Archibald Prize.

The Peer Review Panel for the 2021 Fellows included Andrew Myer AM (Chair), Amos Gebhardt, Helen Marcou, Jeff Khan, Jo Dyer, Josh Wright and Tarun Nagesh.

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