Young artists get a ride in the fast lane

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - By PENNY McLEOD

SIX young Aus­tralian artists will be in the run­ning for a $ 10,000 prize pack­age and a men­tor­ship with one of the na­tion’s best creative pro­fes­sion­als when Qan­tas launches its an­nual Spirit of Youth Awards this week ( July 21). The na­tion’s pre­mier arts award for Aus­tralians aged 25 and un­der at­tracted 40,000 en­tries last year and has fast- tracked the ca­reers of 30 artists since its in­cep­tion four years ago.

With the money I won I went on to make an album called About the Truth, which has since done amaz­ing things,’’ says mu­si­cian Sarah- Jane Wentzki of Princess One Point Five, who won the mu­sic cat­e­gory in 2005.

It got me a na­tional tour with two Aria nom­i­nees, more money to put into the next album and a cou­ple of li­cens­ing deals. It also got me heaps of me­dia ex­po­sure.’’

Other past win­ners have worked in Paris with cel­e­brated in­dus­trial de­signer Marc New­son; ex­panded a fash­ion la­bel into the Ja­panese mar­ket with the help of Peter Mor­ris­sey; toured over­seas with in­ter­na­tional mu­si­cians; and ex­hib­ited their work na­tion­ally and abroad.

Span­ning six cat­e­gories - Pho­tog­ra­phy, Pic­tures, In­dus­trial + Ob­ject De­sign, Mu­sic, Fash­ion De­sign and Mov­ing Im­age - the awards form part of the Qan­tas ini­tia­tive Shar­ing the Spirit, which helps Aus­tralians re­alise their dreams, and are run in con­junc­tion with na­tional arts youth fes­ti­val, NOISE.

They aim

to

recog­nise,

re­ward

and

nur­ture young Aus­tralian artists in their creative en­deav­ours, says Qan­tas Group Gen­eral Man­ager for Mar­ket­ing, Neil Ross.

Qan­tas is com­mit­ted to dis­cov­er­ing and fos­ter­ing young Aus­tralian tal­ent in a di­verse range of creative fields, and, through SOYA, can pro­vide a ma­jor boost for young peo­ple want­ing to achieve their goals.’’

Their con­tri­bu­tion to the creative de­vel­op­ment of young Aus­tralians in turn adds to the cul­tural and eco­nomic value of Aus­tralia by en­sur­ing our sto­ries and creative prod­ucts are ex­ported to the world, he said.

Win­ners of SOYA 2007 will re­ceive $ 5000 in cash and $ 5000 in flights, plus a men­tor­ship with a lead­ing creative in­dus­try pro­fes­sional like film di­rec­tor Phillip Noyce, fash­ion de­signer Peter Mor­ris­sey or art gallery di­rec­tor El­iz­a­beth Ann Macgregor.

The cash and flight pack­age helps win­ners on a prac­ti­cal level by pro­vid­ing a mone­tary in­jec­tion to al­le­vi­ate fi­nan­cial strain, record an album or tour over­seas, and build a profile and con­fi­dence.

Fash­ion de­signer Lang Leav was able to travel to Ja­pan af­ter win­ning the fash­ion cat­e­gory in 2005, and as a re­sult now sells her work there, un­der the la­bel Ak­ina.

I just knocked on a lot of doors in Ja­pan and man­aged to meet the buyer for a chain of bou­tiques who bought my en­tire col­lec­tion,’’ she says.

The 2006 win­ners in the mu­sic cat­e­gory, South Aus­tralians Wolf and Cub, were able to travel to Ja­pan for a one- week tour as the sup­port band for Wolf­mother. The money came in handy be­cause it was what de­ter­mined whether we could go to Ja­pan or not,’’ says lead singer Joel Byrne. The money made it hap­pen, it made it a re­al­ity. It helped us pro­mote our album in Ja­pan and height­ened our profile in the me­dia.’’

Win­ning an award like SOYA also boosts your con­fi­dence and val­i­dates what you’re do­ing as an artist at a time when you’re vul­ner­a­ble to set­backs, says Wentzki.

Af­ter win­ning SOYA, I started to take my­self a lit­tle bit more se­ri­ously,’’ she says. Un­til then, I’d never re­ally ad­mit­ted I was a mu­si­cian at all.

Some­one be­liev­ing in what I do, es­pe­cially since it was re­ally an ex­per­i­men­tal album, and for an amaz­ingly big com­mer­cial pro­ducer to go Hey, I think this de­serves to win’, is re­ally amaz­ing. It gave me faith in what I was do­ing.’’

How­ever, it’s the men­tor­ships that are prov­ing re­ally valu­able. A mix of ca­sual and more for­mal ar­range­ments, such as a di­rec­tor’s at­tach­ment on the set of Phillip Noyce’s next fea­ture film, Dirt Mu­sic, the men­tor­ship pro­grams help open doors and build net­works and con­tacts, and show artists how to run suc­cess­ful busi­nesses.

In­creas­ingly, what we are hear­ing back from the artists is that the men­tor­ship pos­si­bil­i­ties have been phe­nom­e­nal,’’ says NOISE’s Sharon Lon­gridge. It is a bit of a who- you- know game when it comes to as­cend­ing through the ranks of the arts and creative com­mu­ni­ties a lot of the time, and SOYA is a per­fect en­tree to open­ing key doors at an im­por­tant time in a young per­son’s ca­reer.’’

Leav’s men­tor­ship with Peter Mor­ris­sey was par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful. Al­though largely un­struc­tured - He gave me his de­tails and said con­tact me when­ever you need to’’ - the re­sults of it were sub­stan­tial: a Churchill Fel­low­ship; an ex­port busi­ness in Ja­pan; in­dus­try con­tacts; and a clear busi­ness plan.’’

Learn­ing about the busi­ness of de­sign was also im­por­tant for Ash­ley Marsh- Croft, who won the In­dus­trial and Ob­ject De­sign cat­e­gory in 2006.

Af­ter work­ing with men­tor Marc New­son in Paris ear­lier this year, he se­cured a job at a prod­uct de­sign con­sul­tancy in Lon­don.

I have had an in­sight into some very in­flu­en­tial de­sign stu­dios and my busi­ness skills as well as my de­sign skills are con­stantly be­ing chal­lenged and are im­prov­ing as a re­sult,’’ he says.

SOYA’s em­pha­sis on pro­fes­sional suc­cess re­flects the broader cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment in which many young Aus­tralians ac­cept that, to make a liv­ing out of art, a de­gree of com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion is nec­es­sary.

Our ex­pe­ri­ence is that the rea­son artists want to be on NOISE and want to be in­volved in SOYA is that they want to get work,’’ says Lon­gridge.

It’s not a fluffy side­line agenda. It’s fairly front and cen­tre.

They re­ally want to do the work that they love do­ing and that’s be­ing creative and of­ten us­ing tech­nol­ogy, and if they can make a sus­tain­able liv­ing out of that, which a lot of them seem de­ter­mined to do, then that’s life work­ing out.’’

he money en­abled them to tour Ja­pan and lift their

Di­rec­tor Phillip Noyce: Men­tor­ships are a valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence for award win­ners

Wolf And Cub: 2006 win­ners in the mu­sic cat­e­gory, t profile

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