Image: Hotshop Demonstration, Winter Glass Market 2016 Photo: Sean Davey
Versatile, flexible, makers, responsive, creative, family, are great words to describe Canberra Glassworks. I am very proud to manage this small-to-medium, not for profit arts organisation. Canberra Glassworks is a professional working glassworks which provides artists from across Australia with access to state of the art equipment, studio and working spaces through its Artist Access program. Our little arts organisation manages a unique ACT Government arts facility housed in the historic Kingston Power House building. Operating 7 days per week, we have 80 – 100 artists hiring the facility and more than 50,000 people visiting each year to see them at work and to enjoy our annual exhibitions, professional workshops, education and community engagement programs.
We’re a member of the Australian Craft and Design Centres (ACDC) network. Its members include Australia’s leading craft and design organisations providing support for artists and a range of programs. They are primarily membership-based organisations and Canberra Glassworks is very niche within this group. What binds us is our commitment to supporting the development of artists and contemporary craft and design in Australia. We have a strong focus on craft and making, and this is our strength, our point of differentiation. We seek opportunities for artists through showcasing their work, commissioning, production, market development, providing residencies, interest-free loans, providing them with heavily subsidised studio and highly specialised working spaces.
This vital industry sector operates on very limited resources. It is small-to-medium organisations such as ours (the versatile, flexible, creative) which are the most capable of positively responding to new opportunities, to change and evolve. People can get close to us and we can respond quickly to requests. We operate with highly committed, well-connected Boards who provide governance and are able to bring us together with the business community and broader industry sectors for the benefit of artists.
One of the key challenges for ACDC organisations is that the core of our operations is very lean. New artist development, market development and showcasing opportunities are incredibly attractive and offer great opportunities for the families of artists working around us. We want to say yes to everything and it’s is hard to say no when you can see the long-term benefit for artists. However, new sponsorship and funding are often linked directly to programs or projects that provide very little financial return to core business and in fact often come at a cost. Without increased operational funding it is difficult for small-to-medium organisations like ours to maintain our core business.
The ACDC network and the artists it supports from across Australia have incredible reach and diversity. There is huge benefit in our loose affiliation which allows us to work together, to share our knowledge, expertise, networks and new opportunities for the benefit of Australian craft and design.