Relief for the Arts

New fund to provide relief for devastated arts sector

In the midst of one of the most challenging times confronting the nation’s artists and artistic companies, a new collaboration of funders has come together to offer some relief and support.

The one-off program, developed by Philanthropy Australia’s Arts Funder Network, will provide emergency relief to potentially hundreds of artists across the country. 

The collaboration brings together a range of funds and individuals who have strong connections to the cultural sector, including the Spinifex Trust in Western Australia, the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation in Adelaide and the Inner North Foundation in Melbourne. 

Donations to the pool of funds range in size and the collaboration brings together the expertise that ensures the application, approval and granting process can be done promptly. 

Jennifer Darin, of the Darin Cooper Foundation, said the program enabled her small foundation to be part of a larger pool of resources that would potentially have a bigger impact on the crisis enveloping the nation’s cultural industries. 

“This is not just the amount of funds available but it’s also about being able to take advantage of the sector knowledge to have a broader effect,’’ Jennifer said.

“We hope this collaboration is a vote of confidence and a vote of belief in the Australian arts sector.’’ 

The collaboration will have access to $1.4m in funds. The program will provide one-off grants of $1,000 each based on need, experience and talent. Applications will be assessed by alumni of the Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship program and the funds will be distributed only days later. The timeframe reflects the difficult circumstances many artists are confronting.  

Neil Harvey, chair of PA’s Arts Funder Network, said the program was the result of a co-ordinated effort that brought people together to create a mechanism that enabled funds to flow. There was, he said, already a desire and a will among the arts funders to provide some assistance. 

 “In supporting those efforts, the group of philanthropists have collaborated to provide support to some artists and arts workers who might not be able to access already-announced support initiatives,’’ Neil said.

 “In co-ordinating our efforts, we hope to provide immediate relief for some artists and arts workers experiencing hardship.’’ 

The impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s cultural sector has been dramatic and wide-ranging, impacting stand-up comedians, bands, orchestras, road crews, writers, publishers, booksellers, visual artists and some of the larger cultural organisations, including art galleries. It was announced this week that Carriageworks, a large performance and exhibition space in Sydney’s old Redfern railyards, had been placed in voluntary administration. In separate media reports, it was revealed Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art has lost 40 per cent of its income because of the COVID crisis. 

Sophie Chamberlain, of the Spinifex Trust in Perth, said the Trust contributed $50,000 to the program. The Trust is a well-known cultural supporter in Western Australia. 

"Individual arts practitioners have been hit hard by the lockdown, no performances, no exhibitions - no money coming in to pay the bills. We want to help them to survive a bit longer," Sophie said. 

The Inner North Community Foundation in Melbourne has committed $5000 to the pool, in what executive officer Ben Rodgers describe as …solidarity with local creatives.’’ 

“Our artists have stood up for a lot of people in our community for a long period, and now many of them are feeling isolated and vulnerable,’’ he said. 

Jennifer Darin said the package was timely. “This collaboration brings together the right supporters, for the right people at the right time,’’ she said. 

“The collaboration demonstrates the passion and value each of these funders places on the cultural sector. Everyone understands that the sector and the individual artists are at risk because of the restrictions imposed by this health crisis.’’ 

Philanthropy Australia CEO, Sarah Davies said: “Philanthropy has a unique and critical role to play in times like these, giving strategically and collectively to support the efforts of community and government to generate positive outcomes.  

“The National Assistance Program for the Arts is a brilliant example of collective philanthropy in action, with philanthropic funders and entities coming together at this critical time to support the cultural sector.” 

Neil Harvey forecast a long and complex recovery. 

“We know the need in the community exceeds our capacity, but we will do what we can to help those who need it most,’’ he said. “The recovery will be long, multi-dimensional and multi-layered.’’ 

Participating Philanthropists and Philanthropic Entities: 

Andrew Myer AM & Kerry Gardner AM 
Ann & Warwick Johnson 
Berwyn Roberts & Jennifer Mackenzie 
Carrillo Gantner AC and Ziyin Gantner  
Creative Partnerships Australia 
Darin Cooper Foundation 
Day Family Foundation  
Doc Ross Foundation 
FWH Foundation 
Inner North Community Foundation 
James and Diana Ramsay Foundation 
Kathryn Fagg AO 
Kim Williams AM 
Lindisfarne Foundation  
Minderoo Foundation 
Nunn Dimos Foundation 
Robert Bishop 
Sarah Myer and Baillieu Myer AC 
Sidney Myer Fund 
Simon Mordant AM and Catriona Mordant AM  
Spinifex Trust 
Stephen Shelmerdine AM and Kate Shelmerdine                                                          
Tim Fairfax AC 
The Skrzynski Family Sky Foundation 
Yulgilbar Foundation 

For more information about the National Assistance Program for the Arts, please visit

You can read our media release in this new fund here.

Philanthropy and COVID-19

Philanthropy and COVID-19

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