Creative support

Local arts organisation Octapod has supported experimental and emerging artists throughout the pandemic. Now they are ready for a new chapter.

There is no denying it has been a tough time for everyone, with artists and arts workers continuing to experience significant challenges. Local not-for-profit arts organisation Octapod has been working hard behind the scenes, making sure their services align with their community’s needs. As a result, they are ready to hit the ground running in 2022 with a renewed focus on supporting experimental and emerging artists across the Hunter.

Octapod Chair Kate Baartz says 2021 was a year of user research and service design for the organisation, leading to ideas to prototype and an exciting new strategic plan.

“It’s a bold vision to help every creative take off or take a risk. It sounds like a lofty goal but we want to position the Hunter as the go-to region to experience experimental art in Australia. To do this, we need to support practitioners to create art.

“Our mission is to provide professional services, support and investment for experimental and emerging artists and arts workers across disciplines in the Hunter region, so they can make art and learn the business as they grow. In the latter half of 2021, we were able to take some great strides towards this goal.

“With continuing cancellations of festivals, exhibitions and events during rolling lockdowns across NSW, we decided our priority was supporting artists to create art by presenting our This is Not Art (TiNA) Festival.

“Our Executive Manager, and TiNA Festival Director Lauren van Katwyk did an outstanding job of programming and managing the festival remotely from country Victoria!”

Lauren explained, “presenting the 24th iteration of TiNA, a micro festival reimagined in a COVID world, meant we were still able to commission artists. Taking the festival online gave them an additional challenge of considering how the audience would experience their pieces remotely, changing the experience for both the artist and the audience.

“The 25th installment of the TiNA festival is happening in October 2022 and we are looking forward to supporting as many artists as possible in a month-long showcase of experimental art from across the country.”

Octapod also took the opportunity to prototype small grants developed through its service redesign process. Called Income Lost Small Grants, the program aimed to support emerging and experimental practitioners by providing a half day or full day’s pay for those who had postponed, rescheduled and cancelled festivals, gigs, commissions and exhibitions.

Octapod was able to support 92% of the applications received, with 23 recipients in the community sharing in just over $8,500 in funds. “The program was funded through Create NSW’s Arts Rescue and Restart Funding Package and by generous donations from Hunter businesses with just over one-fifth
of the grant pool funded by donations,” said Kate.

“This was a really great result and put us in a great position to run an even bigger grants program specifically targeted at practitioners in Port Stephens and Cessnock.” Octapod is in the process of merging into a single entity, to be known as TiNA.

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