Metro Arts in West End Faces Federal Arts Funding Loss

Metro Arts West End
Photo Credit: Metro Arts/Google Maps

Metro Arts, a prominent multi-arts organisation based in West End, has recently faced a major setback as it failed to secure four-year funding from Creative Australia, sending ripples of distress through the artistic community that heavily relies on its support.

Despite its deep historical roots in Queensland’s cultural landscape and a track record of supporting emerging artists, Metro Arts is now grappling with an uncertain future beyond 2025.

In 2023, Metro Arts provided support to over 400 artists, contributed to the development of 32 new Australian works, and welcomed more than 32,000 patrons to its gallery and theatre spaces. Although Metro Arts’ leaders say this funding loss won’t shut them down, it’s a big setback that limits their ability to support artists beyond 2025.

A Transition in 2019

Metro Arts underwent a significant transition in 2019 when it relocated from its historic CBD venue to a new development in West End. This move injected substantial funds into the organisation. However, within a volatile six-month period, the sale of the CBD building, securing four-year funding from the Australia Council, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented both opportunities and challenges.

To deal with financial challenges, Metro Arts started the Metro Arts Future Fund in 2020, with over $6 million to start. The portfolio grew in 2021, but there were big losses in 2022. Executive Director Genevieve Trace says they need to protect the main money and reinvest earnings for long-term sustainability, a strategy common in the philanthropic world.

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The Metro Arts Future Fund

Former CEO Jo Thomas and current Executive Director Genevieve Trace are puzzled and frustrated by Creative Australia‘s decision. This situation raises worries about small to medium arts groups’ financial future, how federal funding is assessed, and what it means for Queensland’s art scene.

Creative Australia’s change from using “peer assessors” to “industry consultants” in the latest funding round has Metro Arts leaders questioning their methods. They say this doesn’t match the needs of the arts, especially groups that promote interdisciplinary work.

Metro Arts West End
Photo Credit: MetroArts/Facebook

Queensland’s share of federal arts funds is part of the problem, with the state getting only 8 per cent of the total funds compared to Victoria and New South Wales. The leaders are frustrated and want a more equal distribution of resources and more involvement from Creative Australia with states other than Sydney and Melbourne.

In response to Creative Australia’s criticism, Executive Director Genevieve Trace wrote an open letter defending Metro Arts’ impact. They are now planning for the future, focusing on resilience and adapting while still supporting Brisbane artists, even if it’s on a smaller scale. Board Chair Fiona Hawthorne stresses that their organisation remains artist-focused.

Metro Arts’ legacy in the Queensland arts scene is rich, boasting notable alumni such as Wesley Enoch AM, Vernon Ah Kee, Gemma Smith, Robert Andrew, Liesel Zink, The Farm, Dead Puppets Society, and Dan Evans. This organisation has played a vital role in nurturing talent across various artistic disciplines, including theatre, visual arts, and contemporary and interdisciplinary practices.