At the time of the 2011 Census, 36.1 per cent of the state’s population (2.61 million people) resided in regional NSW.
Regional NSW is serviced by a network of cultural facilities including regional galleries, regional conservatoriums, writers centres, performing arts centres and museums. These venues offer a mix of locally produced and touring arts activity. To complement this infrastructure Arts NSW supports 14 Regional Arts Boards that employ Regional Arts Development Officers (RADOs) to promote arts development across the State. Regional Arts NSW is the peak advocacy and support organisation for arts in the regions.
As part of our commitment to ensure the state-wide delivery of arts and creative industries programs and services, Arts NSW supports arts in the regions in a number of ways. In 2011-12 the Arts Funding Program provided over $6.8 million for local governments, community and cultural organisations in Regional NSW to support 167 programs/projects. This complements the role of local government which collectively is the largest investor in cultural programs and facilities in the state.
Local government funding for arts and heritage
In 2010-11, throughout Australia local government funding for cultural activities was $1,102.9 million. Of this, the largest share was spent in NSW ($356.3 million).
Regional Arts NSW
Regional Arts NSW, which receives funding from Arts NSW, provides a range of services to and represents the state-wide network of Regional Arts Boards in the key areas of advocacy, capacity building, communications and support. They also administer Arts NSW Small Grants Program for Local Arts under the Country Arts Support Program (CASP) and funds sourced from the Australia Council under the Regional Arts Fund (RAF).
Regional boards and development officers
There are now 14 Regional Arts Boards in NSW (with the 14th formed in 2010), each providing strategic direction for sustainable arts and cultural development in their region. Arts NSW contributes over $1 million annually to support the Regional Arts board network.
Boards include representatives from local government, tourism, education, arts councils and other community arts organisations and community members. Each employs a Regional Arts Development Officer (RADO) and, in most instances, other staff who co-ordinate a cultural development program across the contributing local government areas in their region.
There are 24 regional galleries outside Sydney which contain significant local collections and offer exhibitions from around the country and from overseas, working with local artists and communities and providing a strong network supporting the visual arts in the State.
The Regional Conservatoriums of NSW occupy a unique position within the state’s cultural framework. They connect with the community in providing education and training and performance opportunities. They also present concerts by local or visiting professional musicians. Arts NSW provides funding to regional conservatorium projects that enhance regional diversity, excellence and innovation in musical performance.
Regional music festivals
There are over 100 diverse music festivals spread across regional NSW. Major commercial festivals include Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival, Splendour in the Grass and Tamworth Country Music Festival. Other festivals cover a range of styles and regions, for example, Camden Haven Music Festival, Bangalow Music Festival, Four Winds – Bermagui, New England Back Festival and the Sound Summit.
Writers’ Centres based in Armidale, Broken Hill, Byron Bay, Katoomba, Newcastle, Orange, Sydney, Wagga Wagga, and Wollongong form a statewide infrastructure for literature. They assist emerging NSW writers and also run projects partnered with libraries, bookshops, reading groups, film clubs, local history groups and various other segments of the community to promote writing and reading.
Regional performing arts organisations
Some of the state’s most dynamic performing arts companies are based in regional NSW.
These organisations include:
State cultural institutions – regional activities and services
The State cultural institutions engage with regional NSW with a focus on increasing organisations and communities access to the resources, expertise and collections of the cultural institutions. Institutions also draw upon the knowledge of regional communities and organisations and the collections held by them.
The cultural institutions tour exhibitions to regional areas and loan objects for inclusion in local exhibitions, develop exhibitions in conjunctions with and provide advisory curatorial services to regional organisations. They also have websites that are specifically aimed at increasing access to services to off-site visitors, and provide development opportunities for staff and volunteers of regional cultural organisations and specific cultural communities, such as internships and mentorship programs and offering skill development workshops in regional areas.