With a range of fellowships up for grabs, we spoke to the 2015 Peter Sculthorpe Music Fellowship winner Peggy Polias.

Artists across a range of disciplines from New South Wales are encouraged to apply for a number of lucrative Fellowships that enable professional and personal development, thanks to Create NSW. The state government’s new arts and cultural driver has a total of 11 fellowships available for emerging, mid-career and established artists, with priority categories for those working in Indigenous arts, artists with disability, those from regional NSW and from Western Sydney.

Artform Fellowships will receive $30,000 in funding, with successful priority area applicants receiving $50,000, allowing artists to embark on a self-directed programme of professional development encompassing a range of activities including mentorships, residencies, and travel.

Create NSW CEO Michael Brealey states that the suite of Fellowships recognise and reward considerable talent, enabling artists to advance their respective careers and accept important opportunities. “With substantial funding behind each Fellowship, they reward artistic endeavours and give each recipient a once-in-a-lifetime chance to propel their career with a bespoke and strategic opportunity,” he said. “We encourage artists and practitioners to come forward for applications, and we look forward to receiving applications before the closing date of 7 August, 2017.”

Limelight spoke with composer Peggy Polias, the inaugural recipient of the Peter Sculthorpe Music Fellowship in 2015. Polias has used the Fellowship to record her 2009 composition Picnic at Hanging Rock Suite for piano, as well as a composition entitled Hive, exploring the behaviours and activities of bees.

Why should people apply for the 2017 NSW Performing Arts Fellowships?

The Fellowships offered by Create NSW are sizeable grants tied to the expectation of a somewhat structured programme of outcomes. It is not only the significant funding, but the promise and responsibility to deliver a self-determined set of outcomes that gives the Fellowship programme gravity. While the application process is undoubtedly highly competitive, if you approach this process strategically you will gain clarity about the next steps to work towards in your career, whether successful in this application or not. And if you are awarded a Fellowship it’s game changing.

Arts opportunities are so competitive, and I would encourage creative artists Australia-wide to look at the local state-based opportunities as a way of “narrowing down” this competitive element. I definitely recommend that eligible NSW musicians apply for the Peter Sculthorpe Music Fellowship and peruse the range of awards offered by Create NSW.

What has the Peter Sculthorpe Music Fellowship allowed you to do?

The Peter Sculthorpe Music Fellowship has allowed me to build the beginnings of a recording catalogue, working with some wonderful musicians and colleagues in the process. I revisited my never-performed Picnic at Hanging Rock Suite (2009) for piano, making and releasing an album recording with the label Kammerklang and seven amazing pianists.

I spent 2016 composing a new suite, Hive, for clarinet, viola, piano and electronics. I collaborated on this work with Sydney group The Nano Symphony: Catherine Thompson, Neil Thompson and Lee Akinsanya. We held several workshops, and kept a collaborative Pinterest board and a Facebook messenger thread for inspiration and dialogue. In April 2017 we were able to record Hive for album release, again with Cameron Lam producing for Kammerklang.

Both albums are now widely distributed through all the major download and streaming platforms (Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, etc) and I can easily share these with interested listeners, performers, and potential commissioners.

I also undertook a programme of professional development, attending a range of short courses and events covering topics as diverse as: blogging, technology, entrepreneurship, podcasting, music industry.

I was able to contribute some funds to Making Waves, the composer discovery and listening project I co-curate with Melbourne-based composer Lisa Cheney. We began 2016 with a one-week planning intensive in Melbourne, working together in person for the first time (as all our work is otherwise remote/online). We welcomed significant audience growth through the year, launched a small merchandise offering towards making the project self-supporting, and were able to plan and produce a crowdfunded series, the Making Conversation: Australian Composers’ Podcast, with an awesome team of music journalists.

What would you say to other women composers thinking about applying for a Fellowship?

I would encourage women to put themselves in the ring in the same way that I would encourage all eligible colleagues to. I guess sometimes for women the lack of historical precedents can create a degree of self-doubt, and I am aware that in the creative industries there is scrutiny on awarding bodies in terms of continuing unbalanced gender representation among shortlisted applicants and recipients. I would hope that Create NSW have proven that this is not a barrier in terms of their own Fellowship offerings.

Meanwhile, for women, or anyone, who might be hesitant due to the complexities of their various day-to-day roles and responsibilities: the guidelines are quite flexible, and I would encourage you to submit a programme that accommodates your needs in terms of these responsibilities, while still meeting the eligibility criteria.

What’s been your proudest achievement to date?

I’m pretty proud to have completed the entire Fellowship program, alongside working and parenting a four-year-old. Being able to juggle creativity, work and motherhood has been an ongoing reflection since our daughter was born, and a big part of the Fellowship was that it allowed for more day-to-day creativity than otherwise possible, leading to the creation of a sizeable (c.37 min.) new work, Hive.

For more information on how to apply