Arts council to close doors

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Former ACDC chairwoman and artist Glenda Blyth and chairman John Gourley said the decision to close ACDC was not easy. The organisation will close on June 30 because of a lack of finance.
Camera IconFormer ACDC chairwoman and artist Glenda Blyth and chairman John Gourley said the decision to close ACDC was not easy. The organisation will close on June 30 because of a lack of finance. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian, Francesca Mann

After 43 years of supporting the local arts community, the Arts and Cultural Development Council of Geraldton will close its doors on June 30.

Formed by a committee of artists in 1975, ACDC quickly became a major and highly respected regional arts organisation.

But in recent years ACDC has been hit hard financially, with the City of Greater Geraldton cutting funding to the organisation last year.

As part of a one-year service agreement, ACDC was receiving $40,000 from the City, which was matched by Country Arts WA.

Although ACDC’s board members tried to find funding elsewhere, chairman John Gourley said $20,000 was needed just to keep the gallery doors open.

“The economic times are not as generous as they once were,” he said.

“We’ve made the decision to close while we’re still solvent.”

Since its inception, the not-for-profit group has had its headquarters at various locations and was once based in a toilet block in Maitland Park.

In 2016, ACDC moved into a vacant building on Marine Terrace, leased by Pollinators in the West End.

With a large gallery space in the CreativeHub, the organisation was able to hold group and solo exhibitions, often attracting hundreds of guests on opening nights.

Former chairwoman Glenda Blyth, affectionately known as the Basketcase Lady, said ACDC gave her the opportunity to develop her basket-making craft.

“I never would have continued if it wasn’t for ACDC,” she said.

“I was encouraged to put items in members’ exhibitions and sell them, and it wasn’t about the money but you realise you can do something.

“I’ve done two exhibitions.

“There’s no way in the world I would be able to do that without the nurturing environment.”

Mrs Blyth had been a member of ACDC for eight years and was on the board for 18 months.

She said the decision to close the organisation was not easy.

“It’s devastating — it took me a long time to come to terms with it,” she said. “But money available (in grants) is changing.

“It’s more for projects, not for keeping the doors open, paying administration, electricity, rent, insurance.

“It needs a new, sustainable model and we hope something will come out of the closure.”

ACDC founding member Jackie Gill said she was sad to see the organisation disband, but it was a chance to re-group and start fresh.

“It’s really sad to lose an organisation that’s done so much and been through so many iterations,” she said.

“The good news is that there is a movement emerging for a peak body for the arts.

“It’s been recognised for a while that we’re very fragmented and perhaps the time has come to really look and review the contribution arts can make to the society and the economy.

“I am positive something else will emerge.”

After significant State Government budget cuts to the Mid West arts and culture sector last year, the City took over operation of the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery.

As a result, the City refocused its arts funding into the gallery.

Chief executive Ross McKim said the City was “very conscious” of the role both ACDC and the gallery played in the community.

“It is never good to hear of a community-based organisation closing its doors,” he said.

“It is often a fine balance for an organisation to be able to maintain its financial sustainability.

“It is important for local artists to have somewhere to showcase their artwork as well as an organisation that is committed to supporting and developing artists in the region.”

With the City’s funding gone, Country Arts WA was unable to continue supporting ACDC through grants, as contribution was applicable only if there was support locally.

ACDC was receiving about $30,000 a year from CAWA and the Royalties for Regions Creative Regions Program.

CAWA acting executive director Philippa Maughan said the group was disappointed to hear ACDC was closing.

“ACDC has been an important regional arts organisation delivering community arts programs to Geraldton and the Mid West,” she said.

“The closure points to a greater problem facing the regional arts sector; there is simply not enough funding for regional arts.

“We also know from ABS statistics that volunteerism is dropping, and this is directly impacting on our sector.”

ACDC’s final, public exhibition, All Aboard, is currently on display.

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