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Canberra arts community shocked by 'unprecedented' arts funding drop

Canberra's arts community says an "unprecedented" cut to grants funding will drive artists out of the city and see some projects put on hold indefinitely.

More than 80 Canberra artists have written to the ACT government in protest of drop in funding of almost $500,000 since last year.

Fourteen projects will share in about $250,000 of funding through artsACT in 2017, compared to around $730,000 in 2016.

Canberra author Nigel Featherstone said it was the biggest drop in arts funding in at least a decade.

"It's a shock.The drop in funding for the project round is unprecedented, I've been following arts funding for 10 years and this is probably the biggest drop by far in at least a decade if not a decade and a half," Featherstone said.

However Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay said the territory government had increased funding to key organisations over the past five years.

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"While this has improved the facilities our artists create, collaborate, perform and exhibit in, it has meant less money was available for the project round this year," Mr Ramsay said.

"My goal as the new minister is to see more money go direct to artists. The election commitments included more grants to artists and I will work with my colleagues through the budget process to increase funding for the arts."

But Jack Lloyd said the cuts followed a decade-long trend of dwindling funding opportunities for artists.

"Since 2005, the newly announced cuts leave us at 15 per cent of previous funding levels," Mr Lloyd said.

"While not all artists rely on project funding as part of their development process, many do. Without opportunities for excellent work to be supported, artists will go elsewhere."

Mr Lloyd said the "lack of transparency" around the cuts would lead to fewer applications in the next round.

"These artists simply can not afford to wait six months to find out that their application was unsuccessful due to the funding pool being reduced in size by two thirds without notice," Mr Lloyd said.

"Without opportunities for excellent work to be supported, artists will go elsewhere. Drastic cuts to project funding will, over time, drain skill and experience from the ACT."

Comedian Chris Endrey, who created the Between One Ferns skit with Chief Minister Andrew Barr just before the ACT election, said the funding decision "sucked".

"It's not huge a huge amount of money [that we've lost] but we don't get much money anyway," Endrey said.

"Every GWS game is double what the arts budget was this year. Surely they could give that money to people here instead of paying people to come here and play football.

"For an individual artist having shifting goal lines and no communication on the changes makes it go from borderline viable to punishing to have your practice in the ACT."

Canberra Liberals' arts spokeswoman Vicki Dunne said it was convenient ACT Labor waited until after the election to "slash the heart" out of arts funding and the arts community.

"Labor says it wants a cool little capital but it can never have one if it won't invest in the arts," Mrs Dunne said.

"This will be a test for Labor's coalition partner, the Greens, will they just rubber stamp these cuts or stand up for the community."

Featherstone said many Canberra artists would have put their projects for the next year on hold indefinitely due to the funding shortfall.

"A lot of projects take a few years to come to fruition so a lot of those projects will be put on ice. Will they come back in 2018? Some will, some won't," Featherstone said.