behind the scenes

Emerge Already – a debrief

It was at the first YPAA symposium I heard someone say it:

“Funding bodies don’t want to NOT give money away. They just need to create parameters with which to do it.”

Nicely put.

Ah funding land. It’s the space where words like ‘emerging’ stop being just nice descriptive words, and become implicated as definitions. And definitions continue to vary from funding program to funding program. ArtsHub has turned a Google search about it into an article here.

Emerge Already, programmed as part of Brisbane Festival’s Under the Radar last month, was a conversation I’d been wanting to have ever since 2009, when YAQ took on ultimate responsibility for how a fair chunk of new Australia Council mentoring funding was to be distributed around the country. When “unfortunately, you’re not eligible for this program” became something I was routinely required to say directly to the hopeful faces of people still finding their feet in the industry.

And as it turns out, the Emerge Already discussion panel was pretty clear about where the importance of the ‘emerging’ artist definition begins – and ends.

Respected industry panellists Renai Grace, Michelle Miall and Katrina Torenbeek highlighted the following:

• That the term ‘emerging’ is an opportunity – use it, rather than letting it define your entire practice
• That at times throughout your career, you won’t get the funding you applied for – and you will absolutely go ahead and make the art you proposed anyway
• That outside of funding definitions, you could consider describing yourself using the broader title of ‘early career artist’ – or not, it’s up to you
• And (truly without having briefed my panellists at all) that having a mentor is a great way to keep your eye on the way-past-emerging prize – identify someone who’s somewhere you want to be and follow in a judicious selection of their footsteps.

And with that, I begin to wind down my role with the JUMP mentoring program, firmly knowing this:

• That the distribution of emerging artist funding is just as fabulously competitive as any other funding program I’ve been involved in
• That the emerging artists who are funded are truly outstanding
• And that a significant number of truly outstanding emerging artists also sit below the funding cut off line in each funding round.

There’s never going to be quite enough funding, but that’s no reason to sneeze at what’s there, and whatever shape and size it comes in.
Not to mention the amazing outcomes that raw, emerging artist hopefulness creates. With or without funding. Time and time again.

With thanks to Britt and Toshi at UTR who made Emerge Already possible, and to all the emerging artists, mentors and stakeholders who have made JUMP a success.

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