NSW Arts Director Don Harwin has funnelled two thirds of the annual arts funding, a little over $400,000 to a single special project while 11 other applicants recommended by an expert panel missed out according to a document obtained through the Freedom of Information Laws requested by the ABC.
The Arts Director approved only 6 of the recommended applicants going against an expert panel who recommended how the share of total funding would be split up.
An email chain revealed shows a frantic rush to secure funding for that single project that was also topped up with $220,000 from other parts of the arts portfolio bringing the total to $624,000 in total funding so far.
This explains the record low funding when successful applicants were announced earlier this year by the arts funding body Create NSW, although the department claims they were working within revised budgets.
The independent panel recommended in total 17 projects involving hundreds of artists share the $660,000 budget with only 6 making the cut and of that, only $256,000 on hand once the chunk of money was redirected to the special project. This is dwarfed by Create Victoria who funded a diverse number of applicants to the tune of $500,000.
Although the names of the projects were redacted, its largely considered the major beneficiary of the funding was the Sydney Symphony Orchestra with the timing around the ”promise” of up to $1,000,000 in funding at precisely the same time.
While not against any laws it appears the Arts Director has personally overruled the recommendations by the independent body and pushed through his own preferences going against even his own department who are worried about the ”loss of trust” according to Create NSW investment director Sophia Zachariou.
The toughest part is the lack of funding for crucial projects such as Sydney Fringe Festival that aimed to use the investment to allow artists from rural areas to showcase their work as part of the annual event as well as other music and arts programs that help support and grow the contemporary sector that often brings with it serious economic benefits over its classical sibling.
These grants often take days if not weeks to complete and require heavy amounts of resources, quotes and supporting evidence to get over the line so to have any opportunities, especially when recommended by experts is a really tough for small organisations who look to wholeheartedly believe in supporting the arts.
There are still some questions to be raised over the connection between Create NSWs executive director of Investment and Engagement Elizabeth Scott and her partner, Emma Dunch, the CEO of Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
More to come.