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Opportunity for young regional artists

Gina Fairley

Funds, professional development and networking combine in the NSW Young Regional Artist Scholarship.
Opportunity for young regional artists

Photo Norman Toth; image cc Unsplash

For young artists working in regional areas, isolation is a constant challenge. It’s not just a matter of stepping over the threshold and through the door; but the difficulty of finding that door in the first place.

Kelly Doley, an artist, curator and arts administrator, remembers what it was like.

‘I remember as a young creative teenager I really craved more artistic activity around me and a critical dialogue, so I self-initiated; I created pop up exhibitions, did performances, and volunteered at the local radio station to really try and make my own scene,’ she said.

‘I think this grass roots DIY ethos is something that potentially defines regional arts practice and it is something that I have carried throughout my whole career, but at times we need that extra boost – those contacts – to allow you to sustain it.’

15 young regional artists will have the opportunity to get that boost through a NSW Young Regional Artist Scholarship (YRAS). The last round of these scholarships for 2016 opened this week. 

A YRAS is an opportunity for young artists, performers and cultural workers to get a $10,000 step-up to advance their career, together with vital mentoring and professional networking to help navigate that path forward. 

The Scholarships are open to 18-25 year olds from regional NSW for proposals across all art forms, including dance, design, digital arts, history, Aboriginal arts, literature, music, theatre, screen, curatorial and the visual arts.

Why apply?

Musician Freya Hooper, a recent YRAS recipient, described the experience as ‘brilliant’.  She travelled to Boston to participate in a 5-week Summer Intensive Program majoring in Drums at the Berklee College of Music.

‘Berklee allowed me to learn under the guidance of world-class musicians as well as meet and network with other young like minded musicians from around the globe.  I’m still in contact with a number of the students and am about to release an EP with singer / songwriter Angie Hudson who also studied over there with me.  

‘From my experience in the States I’ve come back to Australia with more drive and fuel to pursue my creative practice of collaborating and writing with musicians,’ she added. 

Hooper told ArtsHub that a strong application takes effort, particularly in creating a clear budget. ‘I would highly recommend young regional artists to apply for this scholarship, no matter what your creative practice is. Set a plan, make some steps, complete your application and keep aiming for what it is you want to achieve.’  

Loren Ryan is also a musician funded this year under a YRAS. She told ArtsHub: ‘This scholarship enabled me to take my professional development to the next level. I used my scholarship to record my debut video clip and promote the release of my second single through Ditto Music. I was approached by a lot of media outlets; one in particular was NITV. They did a "day in the life of" segment with me and debuted my video clip on their channel. These are things that would not have happened to me without the scholarship.’ 

More than money

Key to the YRAS is its capacity to build professional networks and career skills. The recipients will gather in Sydney for a two-day professional development workshop where they will create new networks and a peer pool to call on.

Hooper said of the networking program: ‘There are so many incredible up and coming artists from around Australia and it was truly brilliant to meet and network with the other successful applicants of YRAS and inspire each other.’ 

James Farley, a Photomedia artist from Wagga Wagga, used his YRAS for a residency and workshop in Broken Hill. He found the professional development opportunities most valuable.

‘One big lesson that I learnt was don’t try and do too much too quickly. I killed myself delivering five workshops, making work and creating an exhibition in two weeks – pace yourself,’ said Farley.

‘That lesson has carried on to new things that I am doing, and the professional development program was really important for me because it put a face to the organisations that I had known about but felt too stupid or intimidated to contact.’

He said the course developed his confidence to call people and ask for help. ‘I would never have done that before.’

A range of opportunities

YRAS can be applied to many kinds of educational and development opportunities including:  

  • mentorships or internships with recognised arts organisations
  • residencies at institutions/organisations
  • short-term courses, workshops or other training (note: the Scholarship is not available to support study which will result in formal tertiary qualification such as a degree)
  • creation of new work
  • periods of research and development
  • skills development
  • experimentation

A number of arts organisations and festivals have agreed to host Scholarship recipients for work experience. Among them are: Sydney Festival, Carriageworks, Biennale of Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Australian Museum, State Library of NSW, Sydney Writers Festival and others.

Applicants for the Young Regional Artist Scholarship are encouraged to contact Arts NSW on (02) 9995 0646 and discuss how they might tailor their application to include a residency, mentorship or internship with one of these key organisations.

‘You can really stretch the limits of what you thought your art practice could be,’ said Bethany Thornber, who received a YRAS in 2015 and works in Aboriginal Arts and Crafts in Albury.

Ryan offered the advice: ‘Really think about what it is you're striving for and make a fail proof plan with steps to get there. Reach out to friends and organisations for letters of support. Show your passion for your art in your application. Take the leap.’

Your Application

To apply, you must submit a completed online application form and the required support material. Applications must be submitted through the Arts NSW online application system before 20 February 2017.

As soon as you begin an application, Arts NSW will be in touch to provide information to help you plan your scholarship program and complete your application. Walking across that threshold to the next step in your career is always easier when you have support, and YRAS offers that gateway.

A list of participating organisations offering work experience opportunities are located in the downloadable Frequently Asked Questions document.

Applications close: 20 February 2017 (Midday, AEST – Sydney time)

For more information

About the author

Gina Fairley covers the Visual Arts nationally for ArtsHub. Based in Sydney you can follow her on Twitter @ginafairley and Instagram at fairleygina.