Greens push for funds to help 'struggling artists'

The Greens are calling for room in the federal budget to help young artists make a living and support risk-taking art.

While attending events such as underwater drumming at Hobart's MONA FOMA arts and music festival, Greens leader Christine Milne announced three Greens initiatives, worth around $10 million, to support the arts.

Senator Milne said that the package would help ensure that artists were paid for their exhibitions and performances.

''I think that in Australia it's the usual story where so many artists struggle to make a living and they're trying to work two or three jobs in order to be able to keep a roof over their heads, while they pursue the love that they have for their art,'' Senator Milne told Fairfax Media.

Senator Milne said that while arts funding needed to focus on the ''excellence'' end, it also had to support up and comers.

''During the Howard [government] years there was a tendency to focus more and more on established artists [but] we need to be encouraging the next generation.''

The Greens arts policy includes a $3 million a year Artists Fund, ''to assist in the payment of artists' fees and help artists make a living from their art''; $5 million a year for an Art and Research Development grant program to support experimentation and risk-taking; and $2 million for Playing Australia - the body which administers grants for performing arts tours.

This would increase funding available to help groups travel around Australia and go overseas. ''Reputationally, its critical that [groups] are able to tour,'' Senator Milne said.

The Greens will advocate their arts policy as the 2013-14 Budget is developed in coming months. If it doesn't make the cut in May, the party will take the policy to the federal election.

According to Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport, Labor currently spends more than $740 million annually ''directly'' on arts and culture.

The Gillard Government has promised a National Cultural Policy, which will ''set the framework for Australian Government support for arts, culture and creativity for the next ten years''. Arts Minister Simon Crean ''anticipated'' that the policy would be finalised in 2012, but it has not yet been released.
Senator Milne said that Hobart's internationally-renowned art gallery MONA - and its corresponding festival - showed what arts investment could do for communities.

''Hobart is abuzz with the MONA FOMA, everybody should be extremely jealous that they're not in Hobart right now,'' she said.

''If anyone ever needed to be reassured about the significance of a major investment in art and culture in terms of economic returns as well as the livability of cities, you only have to look at what's happened in Tasmania.''

Senator Milne said that MONA had given Tasmania global recognition and meant people now flew in to the state just for the weekend to see the gallery.

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