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First Nations Artists: Arts Council Study – Creating Art Part 1

Posted by APATA | Aug 25, 2020

Creating Art Part 1 is the latest study in a three part series commissioned by the Australia Council with the aim of supporting the First Nations arts sector to connect more Australians to First Nations arts experiences and grow opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the research provides vital insights that can inform the recovery and future sustainability of the First Nations arts ecology.

The research identifies a growing appetite for First Nations work, alongside a continued need to challenge narrow perceptions of what constitutes First Nations theatre and dance. To ensure appropriate presentation of First Nations performing arts in Australia, First Nations decision-making is key.

The common theme of the study is that First Nations performing artists are mainly self-reliant and self-funded, creating their own opportunities, pathways and structures in response to insufficient channels for development. The study is a comprehensive examination of the First Nations Artist experience and highlights key factors across Building Audiences, Showcasing Creativity and Creating Art.

Key findings include:

  • There is a growing appetite among audiences, presenters and makers for meaningful engagement with diverse First Nations work. However, First Nations artists still face barriers in bringing their work to audiences.
  • First Nations work can still be perceived as ‘risky’ to program and audience interest is underestimated. These assumptions must continue to be challenged and tested.
  • First Nations artists and creatives working in dance and theatre are creating many of their own opportunities, pathways and structures in connecting a wealth of diverse storytelling to audiences.
  • Artists highlight opportunities including: a whole-of-sector response to the skills gap in off-stage roles; resourcing for mentoring and specific cultural consultant roles; and development of pathways for First Nations companies.
  • First Nations artists make a powerful contribution to the performing arts industry and were touring internationally to great acclaim prior to COVID-19.


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