Government details its plan for backing Indigenous artists

Queensland Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch has announced details of the Government’s targeted funding support for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts sector, including a new online marketplace and shopfronts in Brisbane and Cairns.

Jul 24, 2020, updated Jul 24, 2020
Housing Minister Leeane Enoch. (Photo: AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Housing Minister Leeane Enoch. (Photo: AAP Image/Jono Searle)

The Backing Indigenous Arts Initiative, part of the State Government’s $22.5 million Arts and Cultural Recovery Package, will help grow the market for works produced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and support Indigenous Arts Centres in their efforts to generate economic opportunities for artists.

“We’re in a very unique position because we are the home of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and so that’s reflected in the arts,” Enoch told InQueensland.

“And to be able to support those artists even further through the Backing Indigenous Arts Initiative provides not just an economic opportunity in terms of recovery at the local level for artists and arts workers but it gives a competitive edge for Queensland coming out the other end of COVID as people start to re-encounter the arts.”

The First Nations Commissioning Fund and Indigenous Art Centres Launch Fund will invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performing and visual arts and IACs, and the minister said this would help ensure Queensland’s Indigenous arts sector emerged from the COVID-19 crisis in a strong position.

Enoch said artists in some remote areas had been particularly impacted since the emergence of COVID-19 due to both the massive downturn in tourism and additional restrictions that had been placed on their communities.

“During the highest restrictions around COVID, there were biosecurity restrictions, particularly on discrete communities, and that has had a massive impact,” she said.

“So right now all of the Indigenous Art Centres that we’ve been supporting for many years, they were all impacted by those biosecurity restrictions, and didn’t have tourists coming through, so they’ve lost all of that market and it’s been very difficult, because the business model has been very much about supporting artists through the sale of their products to tourists.”

The minister said the First Nations Commissioning Fund would include opportunities for the creation of new visual and performing arts works and – along with the Indigenous Arts Centres Launch Fund – was about supporting artists on the ground.

She said a new online marketplace and shopfronts in Brisbane and Cairns, which would be procured later this year, would help support year-round sales of First Nations arts and craft and grow access to new markets.

“The new online marketplace and the shop fronts in Brisbane and Cairns will give us the opportunity to do a bit of hub and spoke approach,” she said.

“So being able to tap into those markets where more and more people are reconnecting with the arts and as we start to see tourists come back, being able to lean on like a business model that supports the promotion of their work in those two shop fronts.

“I think will give us a really great opportunity to keep those artists employed and doing the great work that they do but also speaks to you know what the market is asking for, and what it continues to ask for and that is unique Indigenous product.”

She said the shop fronts in Cairns and Brisbane and would also help counter the ongoing supply of inauthentic products.

“There’s been a lot of coverage around the fake art issues and there are First Nations artists who are absolutely trying to fight against that – and rightly so.

“This gives us some an opportunity to hopefully have an impact on the fake art market and legitimise in many ways that the works are safe purchases [and the revenue will] absolutely flow to the artist – and the artist is a First Nations person.”

Enoch said the arts sector was “the first industry to go down during COVID, and it’s going to be one of the last to emerge”.

“We’re now at $42.5 million worth of relief measures for the arts sector,” she said. “I want to be able to look at post-COVID, and see the emergence of the arts in a way that is stronger than ever and well-positioned in terms of being able to get the market share of what’s going to come back to the sector in the future.”

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