Fostering Australian-ness: the changing landscape of arts funding

Published:  January 18, 2016

In 2015, the arts sector saw significant changes to the arts funding models with a major reduction in Australia Council federal budget allocations. At a time when the philanthropic support of the arts is now more crucial than ever before, one of Australia’s most highly regarded philanthropic organisations the Ian Potter Foundation is leading the way in contributing to Australia’s creative capacity as a nation.

Stuart Gonsal
Director, Wolf Interactive

In the early years after Australian Federation, there was a recognition of a government responsibility in matters relating to the arts.  In the first official Commonwealth Year Book published in 1908, expenditure on the arts is grouped in with that of education and science under the heading ‘State Expenditure on all Forms of Educational Effort’. Acknowledgement, of the role of the arts in matters of public education.


Image: Wolf Interactive

Private support for the arts has typically come via business sponsorship, which yields a payoff to the sponsor. Also, via philanthropy, where individuals, corporations or foundations donate funds without seeking a tangible return.

In early 2015, changes to arts funding created a topical debate about the future of arts grant funding. $105 million over four years shifted from the Australia Council into a new fund called the National Program for Excellence in Arts. Critics of the decision argued the change would undermine the independence of arts funding.

Following a unified outcry from the arts sector, the Turnbull government has since reinstated $8 million a year in funding or $32 million over four years.

In the absence of the Australia Council’s previous funding amounts, a changing landscape of Australian Arts grant-making makes philanthropic organisations crucial to continued creativity and creative capacity as a nation.

The Ian Potter Foundation is an important philanthropic foundation that supports and promotes excellence and innovation, facilitating positive social change, and developing Australia’s creativity and capacity as a nation.

Last year the Foundation partnered with Melbourne digital agency Wolf Interactive, embarking on a digital evolution project for a complete rework of its four existing websites; The Ian Potter Foundation, The Ian Potter Cultural Trust, The George Alexander Foundation (launching Feb 2016) and The Ian Potter Moving Image Commission (launching March 2016). The project, which is still in progress has so far seen two websites go live in 2015, with the remaining two sites to launch in early this year.


Image: Wolf Interactive

Support for the arts has been a feature of the Ian Potter Foundation’s funding since it was established in 1964.  Sir Ian Potter was deeply involved in the Visual and Performing Arts; he helped to establish the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust.

In turn, the Trust created the Australian Ballet and the Australian Opera, both of which today are national treasures with international acclaim.

Since establishment, the Foundation has made over 700 Arts grants and contributed over $40 million to the sector, including an $8 million grant (over four years) to The Australian Ballet in 2009 and $15 million in 2001 to establish the Ian Potter Centre as a part of the NGV Australia.

Today, the Foundation seeks to support Australian cultural institutions and organisations that are distinctive in artistic achievement, imagination and innovation, and programs that work strategically to help such groups reach their goals.

Digital Evolution

The World Wide Web today is at the heart of the global economy, channelling interactions for close to half of the world’s population. The various ways we do business have indeed changed, including the ways we purchase, gift and donate.

So too, has the way in which the emerging artists within our country research, apply for and receive art grants.


Image: Wolf Interactive

The Ian Potter Foundation websites are their most important communication tool bar none. Acting as the first port of call for information about current funding priorities, applying for grants or seeking information about grantee projects.

The Wolf Interactive team worked closely with the Ian Potter Foundation team to strategize an online presence that would position the foundation at the forefront of Australian philanthropy, showcasing their vision, mission and success.

Wolf has developed fully responsive websites with sophisticated, large-format designs reflecting the truly unique grantmaking philosophy offered.

Designing for an Australian icon

The Wolf Interactive design team were excited by the opportunity to develop a new visual language for the foundation.

Throughout the iterative design phase of the project, the design team strived towards giving each unique facet of the organisation its identity.

Looking forward

While both teams continue to work towards completion of the project in early 2016, the undeniable passion and dedication to the field of Philanthropy from the Ian Potter Foundation has stood out from the onset.


Image: Wolf Interactive

In the current changing landscape of arts grants making, Australia may continue to see further changes to arts funding. Further transformation to the current system highlights the undeniable importance of philanthropy today to our society and our creative capacity and potential as a nation.

Make a donation to the Ian Potter Foundation

Support Australia’s most innovative projects through a donation to The Ian Potter Foundation. Your donation will support projects that address areas of particular need or opportunity, managed by credible organisations with solid track records in their particular fields.

Wolf Interactive

Wolf Interactive is an award winning digital agency based in Melbourne, Australia. Working with diverse clients, Wolf adopts an agile approach to providing digital services.

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