Our free course is teaching artists how to build a sustainable practice

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Our free course is teaching artists how to build a sustainable practiceBy Stephanie Eslake

For David Sudmalis, the arts go straight to the heart of “what it is to be human, to dream, to be”.

“That power is at the core of our industry. Art can change people,” David says. “And yet, there is a need for artists to sustain themselves so they may continue to develop and deliver such experiences.”

David is one of 11 industry experts who have joined forces for Growing Pains in the Arts – a free skills development course designed to educate local arts practitioners about how to manage a creative business.

These seminars, presented by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra with the Tasmanian Community Fund and Arts Tasmania, deliver insights into fundraising, marketing, and governance.

David will co-present a session called Public Support for the Arts on 2 November. The director of Arts Tasmania – a composer who has also held major managerial posts at the Australia Council for the Arts and University of Tasmania – will draw from his experiences as a creator and facilitator.

Having worked on both sides of creative practice, David understands the key questions artists must address when looking to develop their career:

  • How can I ensure that my passion and love for my practice sustains me financially, emotionally, and artistically?
  • What do I need to develop in order to have an arts-focused career in Tasmania?
  • What do I need to do and learn to improve the probability of this occurring, and am I prepared to do it?

They’re confronting questions, David says, and the answers will be different for everybody.

“But, as often as not, the answers might point to areas that require skills development – and these skills are not necessarily going to be in artistic practice. That’s where Growing Pains in the Arts comes in.”

The ongoing course includes eight modules, each demonstrating the practical skills needed to successfully facilitate an individual or larger-scale arts business. David’s session – presented with his Arts Tasmania colleagues Ashlee Davis, Kate Mackie, and Courtney Webber – will reveal strategies to use when applying for public support.

“Significant public money is allocated to the arts and cultural sector every year, so it is important that it is distributed wisely and efficiently,” David explains.

“It is useful to know at what points in budget processes consultations occur, how opportunities are timed and decisions made, and why programs are designed the way that they are.”

The four presenters will even host a mock grant assessment, helping participants develop the skills needed to navigate public funding opportunities.

“Our grants process is guided by legislative instruments and instructions, with recommendations made by peers and decisions made by the Minister for the Arts or a delegate for the Minister,” David says.

“But this only part of what we do, so the session presented by Arts Tasmania will actually outline the grants process from beginning to end – from legislation through to acquittal – including a brief demonstration of what a grant assessment looks like.”

Though grants can form a major stream of funding for artists at all stages of their careers, there are many other sources of income for individuals and arts organisations. Ten Days on the Island CEO Jane Haley discussed one such source in her Growing Pains launch session, Building Philanthropic Support for your Creative Practice.

“Over a long career in the arts, I’ve been the great beneficiary of knowledge and insights from others – and I feel it’s only right to share what I know,” Jane says of her involvement in the seminar.

While grants are highly competitive and require an artist to submit a formal application package, philanthropy relies heavily on interpersonal skills and community connections. In other words, it’s about forging relationships that will be meaningful for artist and donor alike.

Of course, this means asking a donor for their help – and while it may feel intimidating at first, it’s a process Jane feels is worth pursuing with confidence.

“The reason most often cited as to why people don’t give is because they’ve never been asked,” Jane says. Donors won’t always answer “yes” when asked for help: it takes a lot of work before the question is posed.

“If you have confidence in the value of what you’re doing for creative or community benefit, then you are well on the way to securing donor support.”

Jane has extensive experience in not-for-profit and private arts organisations, having managed Arts Access Victoria, directed policy and programs of Arts Queensland, and been named CEO of the Australia Business Arts Foundation, just to name a few of her achievements.

In 2015, Jane was appointed CEO of Ten Days, which has secured State Government funding. If there’s one thing Jane has learnt through her years in leadership positions, it’s the value of listening to the needs of others – even when building support for your own practice.

“To be successful, you must be able to hear what your potential supporter really cares about, what they want to achieve by supporting you, what they expect in return for their support,” Jane says.

“Success requires strategy, commitment, and investment of the whole organisation. Everything you do influences and affects your donor relationships.”

While financial sustainability is essential to artistic practice, the Growing Pains in the Arts seminars explore equally valuable skills in audience development, engaging Members of Parliament, festivalisation, and branding and promotion. The full program is available online.

Book now for your free place in Growing Pains in the Arts. Seminars conclude 30 November. 

Growing Pains in the Arts is facilitated through the support of Arts Tasmania and the Tasmanian Community Fund.

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