Gallery inspiration

Fringe at centre of collaboration

In May this year, after so many arts organisations were exhausted from trying to survive a year of pandemic-induced challenges, the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation in Adelaide hatched a plan to provide some respite and inspiration for some local arts organisations.

The Foundation provided grants to CEOs from some South Australian arts organisations to enable them to fly to Canberra and stay overnight, to view the Botticelli to Van Gogh exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia and hear from the Gallery director Nick Mitzevich. Nick led the way in discussing the challenges in leadership, governance, donor, and audience development that each of the group confronted.

“It was recognition that not only were artists and arts organisations doing it tough, but arts leaders were struggling too,’’ Foundation Executive Director Kerry de Lorme explained. “By being able to step away from the office, to reflect, connect with the Foundation and other colleagues they all felt was so important. The sanctioned space, to hear and share such open reflections on leadership was incredibly valuable for everyone,” she said.

And although there was an assumption that the arts leaders would have already known each other, it wasn’t the case – some new friendships were hatched in what proved to be a cathartic and affirming time with Nick and the National Gallery.

One of the groups represented was the Adelaide Fringe, widely regarded as the second-largest Fringe festival in the world, behind the famous Edinburgh Fringe.

“It was a very intimate opportunity for those arts leaders – they had the space to be open and share the stories of how they had coped during the year, and discussed what challenges and opportunities they faced,’’ Kerry said.

In those moments of candour and vulnerability some new relationships were forged, and the result is an initiative that places the Adelaide Fringe and the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation at the centre of a new South Australian arts collaboration.

The program is called the Adelaide Fringe Arts Industry Collaboration and will provide residencies, rental of space for creatives, grants, workshops and other initiatives to support local artists. The Foundation is a major partner in the program.

The Foundation and the Adelaide Fringe are in their third year of a partnership that is built on some discrete grants supporting a community fund that buys Fringe show tickets for Not-for-profits to distribute to those who they are helping, such as families under pressure who could do with some entertainment, or volunteers as a recognition of their efforts. It’s one way of potentially broadening the Fringe’s audience.

This new program of collaboration represents a larger commitment from the Foundation but its potential to impact is arguably greater – eight arts organisations who previously had no exposure to Fringe are now part of its expanding network.

“It’s a great opportunity for audiences to engage with art forms and ideas,’’ Kerry said of the new program.

For the Adelaide Fringe, the collaboration represents a way of combining resources to help nurture and create connections between the state’s small to medium sized organisations and festivals by committing to the collaborations with funding and shared resources with the recipient organization. Resources include mentorships, secondments, marketing, administration support, linking in with databases, sharing information with networks, scholarships, venue hire, ticket subsidies and more. Such collaborations provide new and unique opportunities and optimism for the arts sector

Most importantly after the devastation COVID-19 wreaked across the arts, the collaboration offers the possibility of a more sustainable arts careers for some practitioners.

Adelaide Fringe CEO and Director Heather Croall said it was so important to create funded opportunities now.

Before the program, Fringe had established a partnership with George St Studios and The Mill that provided residencies for emerging artists. That partnership will continue under this collaboration and continue to include mentoring, access to specialized spaces and technical skills as part of the residencies.

The seven other organisations joining the initiative include Patch Theatre, Adelaide Youth Orchestra, Vitalstatistix and Aboriginal Family Support Services with Tipu. ActNow will also be part of the collaboration and provide an Artist in Residence program to support emerging artists from BIPOC and Queer communities in and around Adelaide.

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