Create NSW – the NSW Government’s arts and cultural driver – has announced over $650,000 in grants to be delivered to 70 music and performance focussed artists and organisations in support of new ideas devised in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding, which is a significant increase on the $450,000 originally committed, has been specifically targeted to help the small to medium-sized arts and cultural sector. In addition, a majority of the artists and projects chosen are based in areas affected by the recent bushfires.

BPH_QCF_Strange_Bedfellows_2_20151.jpgKanen Breen and Jacqui Dark as Strange Bedfellows

“The NSW Government recognises the impact these uncertain times have had on the arts and cultural sector and this funding package is focused on supporting the continued work of the sector,” said Create NSW Executive Director Chris Keely. “Artists and organisations across the State will now be able to deliver projects digitally, support their communities and ensure audience engagement in the immediate and long term – including presenting new events that will premiere once it is safe to do so.”

The funding has been allocated across four program categories: Digitise, Creative Koori Digital, Health and Wellbeing and Regenerate. Scanning the list of ideas for webinars, podcasts, and extended reality ventures, creativity is clearly still thriving, though with most grants coming in at under $10,000 and the majority of proposals involving multiple practitioners and supporting infrastructure, it is less immediately obvious how much of a realistic livelihood these grants represent to out of work artists.

The Digitise Initiative – by far the largest slice of the pie at $320,887 – will support 35 recipients who propose to expand their current creative practice in the virtual sphere and bolster their online presence. Among the organisations benefiting are Sydney-based new music powerhouse Ensemble Offspring. Its Lone Hemispheres Digital audio/visual recording project receives $10,000, which will allow 15 newly commissioned solo works by Australian composers to be presented as online world premieres.

Early music pioneers Pinchgut Opera have also received $10,000 funding for Pinchgut at Home, a series of five short classical music performance films to feature seven local singers and a pair of musicians to be made available free on demand. Meanwhile, opera singers turned cabaret artistes Jacqui Dark and Kanen Breen (aka Strange Bedfellows) have received $10,000 for Ghost Light, a new digital commission that aims to explore the idea of the ghost light through a digital short-form musical series. For those who don’t know, theatres always leave a single bulb alight even when they are dark, either to keep evil spirits at bay or to mollify the ghosts already said to inhabit playhouses.

Of the other three programs, the Creative Koori Digital Initiative ($106,000) will go to support 11 Aboriginal arts and cultural organisations and projects. The Health & Wellbeing Initiative ($121, 157) will support 13 recipients whose focus is mental health, elderly care, Aboriginal wellbeing, and people with disability. Darlinghurst Theatre’s The Luminary Series, for example, will connect younger artists with 10 veteran creatives, nominated by the Actor’s Benevolent Fund, to discuss resilience, COVID and life in theatre. And finally, the Regenerate Regional Event Initiative ($110,000) will support 11 local artists and projects across the State.

The newly announced funding is a part of the $6.34 million already allocated in support of cultural organisations impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, all of which is said to be in addition to the NSW Government’s $50 million Rescue and Restart package.