Friday, November 23, 2012

A letter to Arts NSW

Update: Stoked to hear that common sense has prevailed. Arts NSW is giving HotHouse Theatre transitional funding for 2013 (at the amount originally requested) so HotHouse can continue making and presenting locally and nationally significant work. Also goes to show that writing rantypants letters (see below) can help.

It was amazing to see the surge of support from across the country and the good folk at HotHouse reckon the enthusiastic and widespread letter and email writing campaign to Arts NSW and Arts Minister George Souris had a definite impact on this decision. They sincerely thank the local community in Albury Wodonga and the national industry for their support during this tumultuous time.

Well done to everyone at HotHouse and chookers for the 2013 season launch next week!

I am writing to express my outrage at the appalling decision of Arts NSW to defund HotHouse Theatre in 2013.

Beyond the concerning absence of fair process and transparency from Arts NSW, this decision further undermines the value of the arts in Australia and isolates people living in regional Australia.
Wayne Swan said no Australian should be disadvantaged because of their postcode. Growing up in the postcode of 3691, I experienced the isolation, social exclusion and lack of opportunity that the federal Government has worked so hard to tackle in the past few years.
I wasn’t good at sport, so I didn’t fit in. I was so shy and socially undeveloped that my primary school had me tested for autism. In secondary school, I felt acutely disadvantaged because even with distance education, my school of 1000 students was unable to offer the same curriculum as metro schools.
Then I discovered drama. Through the arts, I learnt how to express myself, think critically, interact with others and other crucial life skills; I wouldn’t be where I am today without theatre.
At 16, I did work experience at HotHouse and saw how it was doing so much with so little. Telling local (and national) stories, providing emerging artists with their start, and building an organisation of influence and high regard. Transforming a tin shed into a significant arts venue.
The effect of arts may not be easily quantifiable or tangible and that is precisely why government funding is so vital.
Denying funding to such a key organisation is not only emblematic of the recently popular myth that the arts don’t matter in a country where sport is king—it’s heartbreaking.
The fact is, HotHouse has experienced sustained growth and remains a valued institution, by the local community, by artists, and nationally.
Art is not fat that can be trimmed. 
If you’re not willing to put a price on it, then how can artists? By devaluing the work of a vital Key Organisation you set a dangerous precedent for a slide into a cultural wasteland. A far call from the vision for a creative Australia that had bi-partisan support at the Australia 2020 Summit.
Here’s my stake: I’m an emerging playwright who has spent 2012 developing a new work through the Australia Council JUMP Mentorship program.
HotHouse, which remains one of the few remaining companies specialising in the development of new work and supporting emerging playwrights, was to produce this new work.
In fact, just a few days ago, I was delighted to proofread the publicity artwork.
Today, I was devastated to learn that once again regional Australia has been sidelined. The message seems loud and clear: you don’t matter.
Emma Gibson

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