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The 21st Century Artist Conference | Artspace

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Last month Regional Arts NSW supported an artist from the Southern Tablelands to attend The 21st Century Artist, a conference hosted over 2 days (24th – 25th October) by Artspace in Sydney. Hamish Ta-mé was the recipient of a Quick Response Grant. Made available under the Regional Arts Fund allocation for NSW, these are small grants of up to $1,500 that respond to arts development and professional development opportunities that have benefits to local regional communities, arise at very short notice, could not have been planned for and are not self-initiated. Here, Hamish shares his thoughts on this experience.

“I had been in a strategic planning mode. Dreaming and pondering and discussing endlessly with my network of fellow regional creatives about what it means to be an artist in a post conceptual world. Should we redefine ourselves as educators, as freelance guns for hire? Or, develop ourselves as brands, setting a marketing and communications strategy? Should we exhibit in real spaces in a time of virtual experiences and shifting modes of consumption for art? Or just retreat to our bucolic hamlets and make stuff ‘cause we need to…?

So, into this mélange of possibilities comes a two day event titled The 21st Century Artist  a discussion of the changing role of the artist today.

The range of speakers and depth of experience was going to be the perfect setting for my own thoughts and dreams on the subject. That very day I began writing up a business model for our first shopfront to sell the work of our regional initiative.  The only downside I could see was the expense of going to Sydney and attending the event. I called Ben at RANSW and asked about support to attend this kind of thing. We worked out that my request would meet the Quick Response Grants guidelines.

The grant process was relatively easy; a six page application and budget, two letters of support from the community (these were provided by my local RADO, Elizabeth Brown, and the cultural community officer from the local council) and an invitation from Artspace. Within three days I received an email confirming that the grant had been approved.

The 21st Century Artist program roughly followed a format of a keynote address followed by two panel discussions and an afternoon respondent. Sitting in a darkened gallery and listening to clever people talk about art for two days was brilliant. My notes covered many pages as well as an amazing breakthrough on a large scale piece I have been struggling with for two years. Some of the thought-provoking issues raised during the conference include diminishing and devolving institutions and philanthropy, an emerging trend to the local and reoccupying those cultural spaces, exploring macro and micro notions of utopia, the fetishisation of the ‘global’ versus a nationalistic rejection of the local, the organic urge of artists to self-organise and create meaningful structures, working commercially out of the ‘gift economy’, gender distribution in the arts and many more.

An event like this can impact on the participants in many ways. For me, it has strengthened my resolve to ‘own’ the local and yet be aware of the global perspectives and opportunities available. It reminds me of the positive influence of physically meeting and talking through ideas and having your precepts challenged alongside the friendships and connections an event like this can help forge.

Returning to regional setting after this experience, I feel affirmed in my push to create a physical space for our local artists group, and to continue the networking within the region. I would like to formally thank Regional Arts NSW for the support it provided to attend the event and the ongoing role it plays in forming bonds with artists in non-urban areas.”

For videos and resources from The 21st Century Artist, go to

For more information on eligibility and guidelines for Quick Response Grants (QUICKS), please go to 

or contact Ben Sibson, Regional Arts NSW’s Funding Manager on 02 9270 2502 or email