In one of Townsville best-loved independent galleries, amid pieces that took labour-intensive weeks of passion and lifetimes of carefully honed technique to complete, hangs a standard yellow Post-It note bearing three hurriedly scrawled words.
While the artist proudly boasts it took him no time at all, and while the materials used amount to nothing more than 90 square millimetres of paper and a biro, the message is clear and the context complex:
“Sorry – on strike”
Alan Junior, the artist behind the charmingly rebellious piece, says he was driven by the battering The Arts have suffered in recent years – both in funding and reputation.
“I first noticed it in Campbell Newman’s time as Premier of Queensland when The Arts budget was severely cut, and some arts organisations were left to die off,” says Alan.
“Then there were federal cuts to the whole-of-Australia Arts statutory body – The Australia Council for the Arts. As if it weren’t enough, at the local level, we recently lost our Manager of Gallery Services for Townsville, Shane Fitzgerald.
“I have a unique perspective being also employed at Umbrella Studio, which receives part of its income from government, and seeing [the affects of] that cut, and one of my co-workers disappear.
“The chance came up for me to do an artwork in a group exhibition, and I wanted to express my frustration by going on ‘an artist strike’; so I quickly scrawled “Sorry – on strike” on a Post-It note and framed it.”
Alan believes one of the biggest threats to Townsville’s Arts scene is a lack of vision and a lack of understanding of the importance of a vibrant Arts community to our city.
“In my relatively short time in the Arts industry, I have seen countless calls for an arts/cultural hub in Townsville which have never amounted to anything. I have seen plans drawn and then shelved. Meanwhile projects like the V8 tracks and the Super Stadium get fast-tracked. As artists we feel the town is becoming more and more like a sort of hicks-ville – where we celebrate burning rubber and pollution while attacking anything we don’t understand.
“The Arts promote empathy and humanity, which is what the world so desperately needs right now.”
3 Ways to Support The Arts1. Attend events and fundraisers
Check out the Get Cultured guide in our March/April magazine for some ideas on where to start
2. Make a donation
They help funding organisations see where the need and community support lies
3. Use the services provided by arts organisations
Classes, workshops, equipment hire and studio/function space are just some of th services available locally
But there are some silver linings amidst the stormy skies.
“Despite the constant let downs and battles, most of us [artists] are hopeful and just waiting for the penny to drop in policy-makers’ minds,” Alan says. “I believe things will turn around. In fact, some things I’ve outlined have turned around: Annastacia Palaszczuk has brought the Arts budget back to a more sensible amount and through Arts Queensland has funded many organisations for a guaranteed four-years. This gives those funded organisations time to really focus on their impact and not get snowed under by constant funding applications and acquittals.”
The threat has also strengthened Townsville’s Arts community.
“We have connected with other arts organisations across the country in our cry for reason, and even locally some advocacy groups have formed. I like the feeling of comradery, and working together, and I hope that can continue right into times when things are good again.”
And does Alan truly believe that an artist trike could be a catalyst for change?
“I think it could. It would be egotistical for me to think my short strike would change anything, but sure – if all artists went on strike we could make change. The thing about artists though, is that we are all so different and opinionated. I shudder at the thought of trying to organise artists for a strike. The term ‘like herding cats’ comes to mind!”