FLASHBACK: Tingoora artist Robyn Dower packing a trailer that carried her “Sense Of Wonder” installation exhibition to galleries in Biloela, Bundaberg, Gympie, Chinchilla and Tambo last year; the exhibition had debuted at the Wondai Regional Art Gallery in December 2014 to public acclaim

September 22, 2017

The South Burnett Regional Council will have to recruit new faces to its Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF) advisory committee following the resignation of two members.

The resignations have thrown the committee into disarray and its next scheduled meeting is likely to have only one of its remaining three members in attendance, with one ill and another away on vacation.

RADF is a partnership between Arts Queensland and 59 Queensland councils.

Its aim is to promote the professional development of artists, arts groups and art-related projects in regional Queensland, with Arts Queensland contributing 60 per cent of the funds and Councils making up the balance.

A volunteer committee made up of arts practitioners is supposed to advise whether applications to receive RADF funding for arts projects are worthwhile or not.

The RADF advisory committee used to meet several times each year to assess the program’s three funding rounds and assist applicants with their grant proposals.

However, changes to the structure of RADF which were passed by the Council in January have not met with the approval of some committee members.

The changes cut the number of grant rounds from three per year to two, and severely restricted the types of projects that could receive funding.

Maximum funding for any project was scaled back to 50 per cent.

The Council also slashed the amount of money it was willing to invest in the program by almost 90 per cent, from $40,000 in 2013-14 to $5000 in 2017-18.

The number of advisory committee meetings was cut to two per year, and members were no longer able to advise applicants how to improve their proposals.

Artists Dot Rowland and Robyn Dower said they felt the changes meant the advisory committee had become a pointless exercise, and recently tendered their resignations.

At least one other person on the advisory committee is thought to be considering the same thing.

Both artists said they regretted having to resign but found the Council’s attitude towards the arts “very disappointing”.

“Over the past decade RADF-funded professional development workshops have significantly lifted the quality of art produced in our region,” Robyn Dower said.

“We have produced exhibitions that have toured the state and encouraged more tourists to visit our area, and just a few years ago the Council won a State award and generated hundreds of thousands of dollars of positive publicity for the South Burnett with the Tractor Tattoo project.

“To see us drop from being one of the most arts-friendly regions in the state to one of the most arts-unfriendly in just 18 months is very disappointing.”

Robyn said all the region’s art galleries are now run by volunteer groups and are popular stop-off points for tourists, as well as locals.

“Study after study shows there are more Australians involved in the arts and crafts than there are in sports,” Robyn said.

“I knew the Council was in tight financial straits after it was forced to cut thirteen staff positions this year, but I think it’s at risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

“Even when we ranked near the top for arts support, the Council’s investment was just $40,000 a year and it brought in an extra $60,000 a year from Arts Queensland, which is a 150 per cent return on investment.

“It was also a positive contribution to improving the quality of life we can offer our residents, and I think that’s being overlooked.”

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