Arts funding for west in spotlight

Friday, 27 February 2015

Council will be holding a summit with local artists and cultural representatives to identify opportunities to ‘close the gap’ and get more government funding for Penrith.

A report, launched by Premier Mike Baird in Western Sydney today and commissioned by Penrith, Parramatta and Liverpool councils and the Sydney Business Chamber has highlighted major inequity in government funding for arts and culture in Western Sydney.

Titled 'Building Western Sydney's Cultural Arts Economy - a key to Sydney's success,' the report found that Western Sydney, which is home to 10% of Australia's population, receives only 1% of Australian Government Arts Program funding and 5.5 per cent of state arts funding.

"I want Penrith's brightest and most creative minds to put a plan together on how we can take advantage of this new awareness and work together to create opportunities and incentives for our City's talent to stay in the local area and share their craft with local audiences," Penrith Mayor, Councillor Ross Fowler OAM, said.

"We welcome the Premier's acknowledgement of the need for more funding to arts and culture in western Sydney and the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta but the government needs to know Parramatta is just the gateway to the west; Western Sydney is so much more than Parramatta."

Cr Fowler said costs for arts and cultural programs in Western Sydney are predominantly borne by local councils.

"We have great facilities at The Joan and Lewers Bequest and Penrith Regional Gallery and despite operating within very tight budgets; they're successful because of the passion and commitment of the arts community and staff behind them. Imagine what we could do with more funding support. The report showed that $100 invested in cultural arts in Eastern Sydney subsidises only two visitors, but in Western Sydney that same $100 subsidises seven visitors - we make our facilities work hard, and effectively.

"And each year around 350,000 people come through the doors of Penrith's cultural facilities, including 400 performing arts students each week, some who travel from across the Western Sydney region, from Rooty Hill to Riverstone, for their musical education. Yet the operations of our Conservatorium remains supported solely by Council - and parents. This alone highlights a great inequality in arts funding to the west," Cr Fowler said.

"Our population and the region we serve is growing rapidly. Without additional ongoing investment by other levels of government we cannot meet community aspirations, growing demand or realise their artistic potential. We need our own programs to grow."

Nick Atkins, The Joan's Producer - New Work, grew up in Emu Plains and studied at McCarthy Catholic College before undertaking a degree at the University of New South Wales. He believes Western Sydney is home to an incredibly vibrant community of artists and story tellers.

"Western Sydney is home to a diverse range of people. Local artists and culture makers are the glue that brings our community together. They challenge us to resist complacency and support us to navigate the fast paced contemporary landscape within which we find ourselves. They address the elephant in the room and are willing to endure the awkward moments that pop up as a result. I'm deeply proud to be part of the creative community in Western Sydney and look forward to growing it with local artists and audiences."

Information contained within this news release was correct as at Friday, 27 February 2015.