Gunnedah Two Rivers Arts Council set to split amid funding row

Gunnedah visual arts sub-committee chairperson Shirley Urquhart.
Gunnedah visual arts sub-committee chairperson Shirley Urquhart.

An “untenable” situation in Gunnedah’s leading arts association has forced a proposed split in funding and the formation of a new autonomous group.

Two Rivers Arts Council (TRAC), a not-for-profit association supporting art and culture in the community, has mutually agreed to part ways with the visual arts subgroup, pending Gunnedah council endorsement on Wednesday.

Council described the situation as “untenable” in its April business paper, and the new proposal as the “best chance of a productive way forward”.

TRAC receives a $12,000 contribution from council to support its subgroups which include FilmTRAC, DramaTRAC and the Saturday Markets. But the visual arts sub-committee is seeking greater say on how those contributions and small profits accrued from community events, are reinvested in the group.

The proposed changes include redirection of $3300 of TRAC funding to the visual arts breakaway group and same in-kind support offered to TRAC, granted to the new group for use of the Creative Arts Centre.

Visual arts group chairperson Shirley Urquhart said the move seeks greater autonomy of available resources.

“We have been working independently for a few years now,” Ms Urquhart said.

“We have our own executive and keep our own minutes.

“We want to be an autonomous body in control of our finances.” 

If the endorsement is made, the “separate incorporated body” would elect a new committee, be run under a new name while encouraging new and specifically younger membership.

“We’re quite excited and there’s lots of people prepared to join,” she said.

TRAC president Trish Conway said the proposed parting of ways was a mutual decision after a “change of views” on funding issues.

“The way our model works has worked successfully for some time,” Mrs Conway said. “Any profit we make goes back to the funds pool so we can do more.”

She said TRAC was in a “good a financial position” and any funding allocation sought the “best value for the dollar”.

“Visual arts have decided to do it alone and we wish them all the best,” she said.

Council described it as “unfortunate” that a compromise could not be achieved to keep the TRAC group intact, highlighting anticipated increased costs in overheads such as insurance, currently covered by TRAC, and accounting fees that “do not deliver the best value for community”.