Upcoming Opportunities to Support Independent Artists

Did you know there are some AMAZING opportunities to support independent Australian artists currently going on? To send you some inspiration on what to do this week and beyond, here’s a breakdown of what I am looking forward to:

Tuesday, 8th March: Continuing the Festival of Light and Art, Theatre Works, Black Hole Theatre and Duda Pavia Company present an Australian premier of BLIND. This solo work from internationally renowned dancer/puppeteer Duda Pavia showcases a rich theatrical tapestry of a dance, puppetry, audience interaction, sound and light creating a funny, moving and powerful performance. BLIND sheds light on childhood experiences of a young boy suffering an undiagnosed debilitating illness that renders him temporarily blind, and surprising discoveries throughout his search for healing.

Thursday thru Monday, 10th – 14th March: In its final weekend of performances, the Adelaide Fringe Festival has been bringing life to the small town for the past three weeks. During my first visit, I have packed my weekend to see three to four performances a night including theatre, cabaret, comedy, circus, and magic. During the light hours, I will be making my way to visiting visual exhibitions and participating in interactive events. Look out for reviews from all performances and events next week!

23rd March – 17th April: the Melbourne International Comedy Festival celebrates its 30th birthday by bringing
national and international comedians/comediennes together for a full three-weeks of golden entertainment. As one of the three largest festivals in Australia, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival keeps on expanding, and this year is no exception. With new venues, more late-night performances and comedy catered to anyone’s taste the festival will surely be a banging 30th birthday bash! Have you picked up your copy of the program yet? If not, get on it and start highlighting the shows that intrigue you!

So don’t wait! With so many opportunities to support Australian independent artists, I would hate for you to miss out. These artists look forward to entertaining you!

For more information about the Festival of Light and Art, visit www.fola.com.au.

For more information, or to purchase tickets to BLIND, visit www.theatreworks.org.au.

For more information, or to book tickets to the Adelaide Fringe Festival, visit www.adelaidefringefestival.com.au.

For more information, or to browse the Melbourne International Comedy Festival program, visit www.comedyfestival.com.au.

Take the Lemons and Make Lemonade

It is unfortunate to start the week on a devastating note: George Brandis’s new NPEA will distribute $20m in grant money to large arts organisations and purposefully exclude individual artists. Adding fuel to the flames, the budget cuts will begin to affect the arts sector as soon as 2015 funding rounds, leaving the Australia Council with only have $12m to stretch amongst two funding rounds in September and February. This is a massive loss compared to the 2013/2014 funding rounds, which allotted the Australia Council to distribute $46m amongst projects, fellowships, the touring programs and the artists with disabilities program. Finally, to tip the iceberg (so to speak), those organisations and artists who were expecting to receive funding from Australia Council for the next three years after the last competitive application process will lose that funding and are forced to reapply again but for smaller amounts.

Like the rest of Australia’s arts community, my heart is broken. However, being the optimistic that I am, I look forward to making lemonade out the lemons the government chooses to give us. I especially want to remind everyone that there are other options to funding projects and they’re not far away. BcauseARTS is a Melbourne-based company is committed to doing the legwork of finding atlernative funding solutions for the independent arts sector by approaching small businesses and individual community members interested in giving back to their community.  As founder of BcauseARTS, I enjoy speaking on behalf of this wonderful arts community – I have been advocating for the arts for over 10 years and have turned audience members into annual donors for several arts organisations.  Additionally, I believe that small gifting is the best way to offer support.

Don’t believe me?  Read Philip Thiel’s story from last Tuesday’s Arts Hub (for the full article, CLICK HERE). Thiel, a teacher and online blogger, decided to support the Australian arts community by committing $5,000 from his annual budget to build the Thiel Grant for Online Writing. At the end of two years and a lot of hard work setting up the fund, he launched his foundation and opened grant applications for writers to submit proposals in support of upcoming projects. Like BcauseARTS, Philip believes that every person is a philanthropist, if they only start small. That’s the key – small gifting adds up! To Philip Thiel, I say thank you. On behalf of the arts community, thank you for setting the example. May we all commit to small gifting for the arts.

If you are interested in supporting Thiel’s Grant for Online Writing, please CLICK HERE.

Similarly, if you would like to be introduced to an independent artist or small/medium arts organisation through BcauseARTS, please email bcausearts@gmail.com.

Presenting Professionalism Can Score Well With Your Audience

With professional experience as an Audience Development Director, I took great pride offering the best quality of hospitality and professionalism that demonstrated my sincerest gratitude to all audience members. As an Audience Development Director, I made conscious efforts to personally engage with each audience member to ensure that they felt welcomed and valued for investing their time with us. They were the most important people at the theatre.

Yet, this past weekend I was reminded that some independent artists and arts organisations could use a lesson in professionalism.   I booked two tickets to a production that I knew had a sold out, one-night performance hoping that people might cancel last minute. However, I was pleasantly pleased to receive an email from the company the next morning inviting me to attend the dress rehearsal the night before. I adore dress rehearsal performances! I think every company should open their final dress rehearsals to the public, at least to the press, so their word-of-mouth campaigns could start sooner and sell more tickets in their opening weekend. But I digress. I immediately responded to the email to confirm my interest in attending the dress rehearsal, and within a couple of hours, I received a confirmation email instructing that someone would find me in the theatre foyer to escort me before the start of the show.

The evening of the invited dress rehearsal, I met my friend (an avid arts supporter and certainly interested in connecting with artists through BcauseARTS) at the venue roughly 20 minutes before our scheduled “foyer escorting.” We decided to take our early arrival as an opportunity to catch up over a drink at the bar! Time flew by, as it always does when you are catching up with a dear friend, and the clock struck 6:30PM, performance time. But we could not find a staff member to escort us into the theatre. I allotted another 10 minutes, offering the team the benefit of the doubt that maybe technical difficulties were delaying the start. I even went so far as to double-check my emails again hoping that I missed a message from my contact informing me that the dress rehearsal was unfortunately canceled, or maybe I wasn’t waiting in the correct designated area. Soon enough, 7PM rolled around and still no sign of a performance. As my friend and I finished our drinks, I had to face the music that I had been stood up!

The experience broke my heart – though I felt anger for my time being wasted, more than anything I was embarrassed. I invited my friend, a potential sponsor through BcauseARTS, to come along for a great experience only to be let down. I am still trying to convince him that not all artists treat their audience members the way we were.

Luckily, my concerns for a lack in professionalism within the arts were redeemed two days later while attending a Red Stitch Theatre Ensemble production. I was highly impressed with the small St Kilda theatre space: a clean and clear layout decorated with signs throughout the lobby designating the difference between the box office and bar. At each area, signs informed patrons of ticket and bar item prices. Toilet facilities were clearly marked though they were tucked away in the far corner. And finally, past productions and cast pictures, a video collage displayed on a television screen and informational brochures were strategically placed on walls and ledges to invite patrons into the personal development of Red Stitch Theatre Ensemble. The space is a truly warm and inviting professional atmosphere. My hope for professionalism in an art company had been restored.

Side Note – I encourage you to check out Red Stitch’s latest production DEAD CENTRE/SEA WALL running through 15 August.  Outstanding performance from Ben Prendergast; haunting direction from Julian Meyrick and poetic writing by Simon Stephens.

The point I want to drive is that if the arts community, in general, wants to be taken seriously in business matters then it must act more like a business. Especially during a time when the government is questioning the value of the independent arts sector, we must go above and beyond our audience’s expectations. The best way to present more business manner is to demonstrate gratitude. Take extra care to ensure your audience is valued. Think ahead to their needs – ask yourself, what would make ME want to come back again and again to this production? Remember: without an audience, what good is art that is not shared?

Have you ever been let down by the attitude of an organisation or company? Leave your comments below, and let’s learn from others mistakes so improvements can be made.