Tasmania's only art prize just for women under threat from lack of funding



July 02, 2017 13:53:26

Tasmania’s only art prize just for women is unlikely to continue beyond this year due to State Government funding cuts.

Material Girl has become a casualty of the axing of Tasmanian Regional Arts (TRA), which closed on Friday after losing its operational funding from the State Government.

The travelling exhibition was administered by Tasmanian Regional Arts and there are now calls for the Government to step in and save the women’s art prize.

Women’s advocacy group Zonta is one of Material Girl’s sponsors.

Spokeswoman Betty Reeve said about $10,000 was needed to continue the art prize.

“To support women now is more important than ever, because we have the vote in our country, doesn’t mean people’s lives are happy or that emerging women’s lives are easy,” she said.

Material Girl was opened in 2002 by the Tasmanian government spokeswoman for women, Labor’s Fran Bladel.

Its aim was to showcase and foster the talent of emerging women artists in the state.

The name Material Girl is a nod to the idea that textiles were a so-called traditional female art form.

Launceston-based Material Girl finalist Sylvie Wylie said art prizes were disproportionately won by men.

The famous Glover Prize has only been awarded to one woman since it began in 2004.

“The loss of Material Girl is obviously a loss for women artists across Tasmania,” she said.

Ms Wylie said finding the confidence to show her art to others had not been easy.

“I was working as an artist on my dining room table, and it wasn’t until I became a member of TRA that I had an opportunity for exposure, for an audience,” she said.

Tasmanian Regional Arts life member Lee Cole said he hoped the hole left by TRA would be filled.

He said TRA’s legacy included the Junction Arts Festival in Launceston and bringing art to remote places including Flinders Island and Yola.

“It gave the community the opportunity to have those cultural experiences that perhaps they would not have had otherwise,” he said.

Some of TRA’s work will be taken over by Arts Tasmania including the administration of the Regional Arts Fund.

“But at the same time people will be hurting because they’ve looked to relying on TRA as the go-to organisation, for advice, for support, even for resources,” Mr Cole said.

Interweave Arts in Launceston is one of the organisations hurting.

Director Kim Schneiders said Interweave would not receive the same level of support from Arts Tasmania.

She said TRA had bridged the gap between regional galleries and government funding bodies.

“The arts is a huge contributor to society but it is very lean, lean times,” she said.

“For us to lose that support is quite devastating, it supports us with finances for projects, with all that support gone it will be a huge loss for us. It is quite devastating.

“Now we have a got a huge gap and ultimately that will affect us and what we can put out in our community.”

Ms Wylie said she was hopeful a solution would at least partly be found.

“I really hope that somehow we can get funding if not for the whole of TRA, or selfishly for the Material Girl award, because I would like to be involved again, it was just such a great opportunity,” she said.

In a statement, a State Government spokesman said Arts Tasmania would ensure support went to the regions.

The spokesman did not say whether Material Girl would be funded.







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