Richard Watts  |  | 

The Australia Council CEO Tony Grybowski has provided more details about the new five year plan he describes as the biggest change in the Council’s history.

The new OzCo model will simplify the grant application process. Image: MONA interior, Hobart. Credit: ArtBlart via

Addressing about 260 delegates from around Australia, gathered in Hobart on Monday for the first day of the 2014 Marketing Summit: The Art of Connectivity, Australia Council CEO Tony Grybowski described the organisation as being on the cusp of ‘a major transformation’.

‘In fact it’s no exaggeration to say we are undergoing the biggest transformation in our 42 year history,’ he said.

In the coming months the Australia Council will release a new five-year strategic plan, Grybowski said: ‘The outcome of hard work and deep reflection on behalf of many people across the last two years. At its heart will be a vision for a culturally ambitious Australia.’

‘With this next chapter in our history, the Council is redefining its role as champion and advocate for the arts in this country, and as a keen investor in artistic excellence. Our work will respond to the fact that we believe that the arts should transcend borders of all kinds; that they should be part of daily life, no matter where in Australia that is; that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture is to be cherished, and that Australia should be known around the world for its great artists,’ he said.

‘This means we’ll be engaging in and encouraging more diverse collaborations and exchange with international partners. We’ll be supporting arts organisations who are invested in initiatives that drive community developments as well as innovation and artistic vibrancy. We will partner with different tiers of government on targeted arts development in metro and regional areas, and we will be looking for initiatives which give more Australians the chance to engage meaningfully with arts and culture.’

The Australia Council’s new structure  will include a flexible new funding program, greater focus on small to medium arts organisations, and more emphasis on documenting the beneficial impact of the arts on the lives of Australians.

‘Firstly, a key aspect of our transformation is the complete redesign of our grants model. The new model will be announced in August, and will open for applications in January 2015. It is structured to support a more diverse range of artists, artistic practice, organisations and artistic activity, while making it easier to navigate the practical process of applying from grants. It means that instead of artists and organisations having to squeeze their visions into a narrowly defined category, they could pitch the projects they would want to do.

‘We’ve also spent a lot of time on how best to support small to medium arts organisations … and we have to continue working with you to promote sustainability in the arts ecology but also flexibility and responsiveness,’ Grybowski said.

‘To support these new models we’ve called on the expertise of you and your colleagues as artists and arts professionals, not only to keep peer assessment central to what we do but to strengthen it, rotating membership on assessment panels, a much larger and more diverse pool of peer assessors from across the country to ensure we mirror the diversity and respond more flexibly to evolving arts practice and the needs of each artist. Indeed we’ve got over 400 arts professionals from right across the country in the pool from which we draw at the moment, making funding decisions every week.’

New arts marketing and audience development initiatives, and a renewed commitment to research, would also feature in the reinvigorated Australia Council model, the CEO continued.

‘There are a lot of unfortunate myths about the role of the arts in Australian life including lingering negative perceptions that the arts don’t really matter to most Australians, or questions about the need for public investment. Our “Arts in Daily Life” surveys emphatically dispel some of these myths but we need to do more to explain and demonstrate the powerful and beneficial role of the arts in Australia and better understand the health and the evolving shape of the sector.

‘So in a significant new initiative, the Australia will report annually on the “State of the Arts” and provide a snapshot of sector growth and sustainability; and the first “State of the Arts” report will be launched in November this year and we look forward to your feedback as we continue t enrich and refine it each and every year. It will be an annual report. This work should, we believe, provide a valuable resource for everyone in the arts community; indeed, our enhanced research program more broadly will contribute significantly to the evidence base which informs arts policy development, supports marketing, and develops and informs a more informed public dialogue about the arts.’

The Australia Council’s Marketing Summit: The Art of Connectivity continues today at the Museum of Old and New Art.

IMAGE: MONA interior, Hobart. Credit: ArtBlart via