A letter to Mr. Myer and Mr. Fifield

Re the cuts. The cuts that are making me think I just don’t have a future as an artist. That I’m just unlucky to be an artist at this time in Australia’s history.

Dear Mr. Myer and Mr. Fifield,

As an artist, in Australia, it’s always been an uphill battle.

Entry to University: selected as one of 33 lucky students out of at least 2500 (That’s what was left over after 2500 were culled out. Perhaps a couple of hundred actually get to the interview stage out of all those applications.)

I was lucky enough to be one of two students that received advanced standing into my degree, due to previous studies and I assume, talent. Certainly the head of the school, an established artist and teacher saw something in me.

I completed my degree and applied for Honours. I was one of the lucky few to get selected for that. I did my honours over a 2 year period, working full time and battling ill health, and I did well, honours First Class.

I paid for my six years of education myself and was Hecs debt free by the mid ninties.

So, talent, luck, hard work, stubbornness or a combination of all four got me through the start of my career.

NAVA, whom I’ve joined in the past few years, has been the one most important source for information. These things are hard to find and it’s an invaluable source for artists to find prizes, scholarships, grants, opportunities. The reason I’ve only joined them recently? I
couldn’t afford it.

Art, you see, is mostly self funded. So in addition to using the money from my full time job to pay my mortgage, bills, rates, all that stuff which comes with being an adult, I pay to be an artist. I pay in time off paid jobs to sit exhibitions, rent of galleries, materials, time,
always time, away from friends, families and loved ones. No one does this because they’re going to make even an tiny living from it. Few do. We often receive support from partners and friends. This gives us some limited opportunities. Most opportunities are those we make ourselves.

But this is not a sustainable thing. It was unlikely before that I would have gotten a grant or a scholarship, now, impossible. I haven’t had a pay rise at my full time job in four years so my chances of squeezing enough out of my pay are dwindling. I’ve relied on festivals
and short term rentals (over a weekend) or places where I don’t have to sit the exhibition (thus missing out on days of pay) to get what I do out there in front of people’s eyes, because that’s what I can afford.

But if you defund those things, we lose opportunities. Last year I participated in a Festival that had $100,000 less in it’s budget than the year before. That meant we had to hassle local shop owners to display our work for free. This was not an effective way to get art
seen. That $100,000 would have covered rent of space for the many, many artists who effectively got nothing for their efforts. I’ve got no idea what the next one will be like, or if it will even go ahead.

How much I paid for participating in the festival last year:
Materials – around $500
4 Days taken off from paid work – $504 loss of earnings
Labour costs (if I had gotten paid for my labour, which has to be factored into the price of the finished art works) $2500

So if I take out my labour, except for the four days I took off work to meet my deadline for this exhibition, it cost me over $1000 to have two paintings in an exhibition, which I didn’t offer for sale.

If I had factored in the labour – $3500 or so to participate. As you can see I’m not really getting a return.

I want to continue as an artist because it really is my vocation but the timing is bad – I’m in my forties and should be building a strong following and profile at this stage in my career. I do it because I love it and studies have shown, over and over, that art makes a difference to the overall cultural vibe of a city, it brings tourists to us, and adds much more value that we credit it for, just look at Mona in Hobart and Dark Mofo. And to expect artists to keep banging away at it and paying for it for themselves as well, out of the love of their heart is unrealistic. And then there the experienced creatives who work backstage to make these things happen, their knowledge will be lost and wasted.

Would you do six years of Uni, work in an unrelated industry and then use the pay from that to do the thing that you did 6 years of Uni for?

Young artists and small organisations are particularity getting done badly by these cuts.

They hurt Artists, writers, comic book artists and writers, dancers, singers, actors, poets, stagehands, casting professionals, curators, film makers, and will do for a long time, even if they are reversed. They hurt Australia.

Please, reconsider for the future of Art in Australia.

About victoria

Artist. Over sharer. Angry little ball of impotent rage. I'm 45, but I look 46, and feel 23.
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