Arts and culture has been one of the worst-hit sectors in the COVID-19 pandemic. So we should seek inspiration from arts institutions getting results from their fundraising and the organisations who are backing them.

The arts have suffered terribly as a result of the pandemic and the misery continues. This month, Victorian live music movement, Save Our Scene, launched a petition, asking the community to speak out against a road map that excludes the music scene and capacity restrictions that make operating unfeasible – “We may be open, but we will be bleeding out slowly,” says the movement’s organisers. Others in the industry have questioned how, in stark contrast, 10,000 people will be allowed to attend a horse race on 2 November… it’s difficult to wrap your head around.  

So, when we hear good news from the arts and culture sector, we want to share it. Especially when that good news has come as a result of excellent fundraising, well-considered programs and game-changing philanthropy.  

The National Institute of Dramatic Art – better known as NIDA – has recently announced a transformative grant that will enable them to expand their First Nations program, a pathway for First Nations students that encourages and supports them through their study at the institute. 

NIDA have announced The Balnaves Foundation as the Principal Patron of the program, with the foundation providing a generous donation of $530,000. 

Before we tell you how that funding has been allocated, let us introduce you to the partners in this special relationship.  

Who they are 

The Balnaves Foundation is a private philanthropic organisation established in 2006 by Neil Balnaves AO. For over 15 years the foundation has supported a diverse range of organisations with the aim of creating a better Australia through education, medicine and the arts with a focus on young people, the disadvantaged and Indigenous Australia. Arts nonprofits, such as the Adelaide Festival, Art Gallery of South Australia and Bangarra Dance Theatre, feature heavily as recipients of their generosity, but organisations such as the Black Dog Institute, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of New South Wales Indigenous Law Centre have enjoyed a piece of the proverbial funding pie too.  

The NIDA Foundation Trust exists as the funding arm for NIDA’s training, education and student scholarships.  

How the funding will be used and what an attractive proposition looks like 

Securing grant funding in an increasingly competitive space is no easy task, but when you look at the way NIDA has ‘packaged’ the activity The Balnaves Foundation has funded, you can start to see why they were successful.  

The program includes a significant $90,000 Bachelor of Fine Arts scholarship for three First Nations students and a six-month paid industry internship for each scholarship recipient at the conclusion of their study as a pathway to employment. 

In addition to this, scholarship recipients will be matched with a First Nations Arts Industry mentor, be supported with additional travel to home as required, and be provided with an ‘On Country’ experience during their studies. 

As part of the overall contribution to NIDA, the foundation will also provide funding to enable an Indigenous Elder in Residence to offer wellbeing support and mentorship to all First Nations students. 

What the impact will be  

NIDA CEO Liz Hughes has shared her gratitude for this milestone grant, saying, “We are hugely grateful for the generous support and collaboration of The Balnaves Foundation in creating this important next step in NIDA’s First Nations commitment and enabling more creative First Nations artists to undertake intensive learning, creative productions, be networked with industry partners, commence their employment, and at the same time have the mentorship of an Elder in Residence.”  

“NIDA has a long tradition of training and developing Australia’s future cultural leaders and we are proud to share the exciting vision and strategy to grow the representation of First Nations people in the arts and creative industries. We believe this new collaboration with NIDA and the First Nations Program will provide a sustained and positive impact that begins with students at the start of their training and continues while they develop creative careers,” says Hamish Balnaves, CEO of The Balnaves Foundation.  

Struggling the arts and culture sector may be, but let’s find hope in the pioneering work of organisations such as NIDA and the fact that philanthropy is ready and willing to support the future of the sector.  

For more information about applying for funding from The Balnaves Foundation, click here. 

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