Regional gallery faces shadow of uncertainty

Since its establishment in 1992 KickArts Contemporary Arts has earned a reputation as a vital entity within Australia’s creative ecology. It has done so by consistently delivering over 25 exhibitions and projects yearly from emerging and established artists.

Image: Sophie Cadman, Giant Jelly Babies, 2004, fibreglass.

Moreover the organisation has aided the development of the careers of many Far North Queensland artists. Viewed as accessible and encouraging by the region's artists KickArts has enjoyed significant community support throughout its tenure.

In recent years, austerity measures instituted at a State level has had a pronounced impact on the delivery of our programs. However, KickArts has continued business as usual working with over 580 artists in the past three years alone. Through the exhibition program and retail outlet we contributed positively to the state economy injecting over 90% of our operational budget into Queensland businesses in the last year.

The hope garnered by the Australia Council’s six-year funding program, although knowingly competitive, brought a palpable sense of relief. For the first time in recent years the contraction felt by organisations like KickArts stood a chance of being stopped. The recent announcement of the suspension of the six-year funding program and the withdrawal of funds from the Australia Council is a disappointing continuation of the status quo. This diversion will no doubt further alter the nation’s creative ecology already under stress from a perceptible lack of investment. The continued deep community engagement that is KickArts' modus operandi faces a shadow of uncertainty, as there will be fewer in the ecology left to engage with.

At a regional level, due to the changing Federal funding models, there will be greater competition for lesser-funded grants such as Regional Arts Development Funds. Emerging artists from the regions wishing to make ambitious career defining work will achieve little success with these limited grants. Needless to say established artists will also be competing through similar funding bodies to extend their practices, leaving ever-smaller pieces of the pie from which to cut.

The slowing of artistic and cultural activities will also be inevitable. The gap traditionally filled by organisations to ensure audience expectations and participation levels are met can no longer continue as organisations face growing competition for a shrinking funding pool. For Far North Queensland this begs the question of whether the region will feel these funding changes more acutely than elsewhere? There is an uncertainty that this may be the case, and Far North Queensland is not alone in feeling this.

Sadly defunding is not an unfamiliar state of affairs. We need to dig deeper, to continue to punch above our weight, to deliver strong programs, and to make the most out of what we have. KickArts has long had the support and goodwill of the Far North Queensland community and will continue to build cultural capacity at a national and international level in order to promote our region's artists. We are determined to remain resilient in spite of recent circumstances.

Justin Bishop


KickArts Contemporary Arts