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The Role of the Arts in Rebuilding Community

An evaluation of Arts Victoria's and Regional Arts Victoria's Bushfire Initiatives

As part of the government's contribution to the recovery efforts in communities affected by the devastating bushfires of February 2009, Arts Victoria and Regional Arts Victoria jointly supported two key initiatives - the Arts Recovery Quick Response Fund and the employment of an Arts Recovery Project Officer in the Murrindindi Shire.

The Arts Recovery Quick Response Fund was an immediate response to the need for small arts projects during the recovery phase offering grants of up to $2,500 for artists to work on projects in their communities. The program provided $100,000 in support for 46 projects. In addition, an Arts Recovery Project Officer role was created to facilitate projects and supplement community capacity which was severely diminished by the bushfires, particularly in the Murrindindi shire.

There is growing evidence in current literature and research that the arts play an important role in disaster recovery and this publication adds to the body of evidence. It presents the findings of an evaluation of both of these initiatives conducted in 2010. The initiatives contributed to personal healing, re-building communities, bringing new order where so much else signified disorder and was an effective way of galvanising community support and unity. The evaluation also found that:

  • the small scale of the grants available through the Arts Recovery Quick Response Fund was appropriate, the process simple, turnaround was fast and the projects could start immediately;
  • the modest funding of up to $2,500 was manageable (particularly in a disaster recovery environment) and supported artists to take risks; and
  • the Arts Recovery Project Officer played a critical role in supporting artists to successfully realise their projects; this included support and encouragement in conceiving, planning and running their projects, brokering useful connections and locating and leveraging resources.

Details from Kathryn Portelli's ceramic mural AFTER- Art From The Extended Region