What you need to know about Arts Impact WA

2 December 2021

Applications have opened for $100,000 arts grants from WA’s new philanthropy collective. Arts Impact WA chair Paul Chamberlain answers your questions.

Grant applications are open for Arts Impact WA’s inaugural funding round. The philanthropic giving collective has invited artists and art organisations with bold and ambitious projects to apply for the $100 000 grants.

Perth entrepreneur Paul Chamberlain is a founding committee member of Arts Impact WA, which launched last month and has already raised $200 000 in funds for the arts in 2022. Paul explains how the collective started and who should apply for the grants.

Rosalind Appleby: You hail from England but have resided in Perth with your family for 27 years. What is it about Perth that enticed and retained you?

A man with a black shirt and short grey hair smiles, in front of a black backdrop
Paul Chamberlain is the chair of Arts Impact WA. Photo: Adam Nalapraya

Paul Chamberlain: I did a “gap year” in my thirties and met Sophie, my wife, in Fiji. Sophie was born in Perth but left when she was only a few years old, however still had connections to the city as her family first came out in the late 1800’s. As we had both enjoyed our time in Australia, we decided to try life in WA for a couple of years after we got married in 1994. It obviously worked out!

Although Perth was a very different place back then to what it is now, we realised what a great place it would be to raise a family and how unique the lifestyle was. Apart from feeling a bit homesick during the first year, I have never seriously considered living anywhere else. A part of me misses Bristol and its energy but regular (pre-COVID-19) trips meant that I could get my fix every now and then.

RA: You’ve been involved in collective philanthropy and giving circles before, specifically you were instrumental in establishing the original Impact 100 WA in 2012. What is the appeal of collective giving, and why have you now initiated Arts Impact WA?

PC: Impact100 WA began after discussions with a few family friends who had enjoyed participating in philanthropy and were wanting to come together to support a different not-for-profit organisation each year.

We learned from James Boyd (from Creative Partnerships Australia) that a similar model existed in the US called Impact 100. We were the first Impact 100 group to launch outside of the US in 2012 and since then over $2m has been granted directly, as well as at least $1m granted indirectly by the members. There are now seven other chapters (including Impact100 Fremantle) in Australia.

The main attraction is that it offers donors (minimum $1k) the ability to create greater impact than a single, smaller donation. It also enables donors to engage more deeply with some of the small to medium sized not-for-profits out there. I also love that we rely on the wisdom of the crowd, as the programs that get funded are the ones that most of the donors vote for.

Our aim is to back courageous and talented West Australian artists and arts organisations to realise ambitious and unique projects that benefit our local community.

Paul Chamberlain, Arts Impact WA

Some of the donors from Impact100 WA were keen to do more for the arts as it was a common interest area for a group of us. The COVID-19 pandemic had a massive impact on the arts sector, and we wanted to try and help the sector by creating new arts philanthropists as well as introducing existing philanthropists to more grassroots arts organisations.

The idea for Arts Impact WA really came about in February. Since then, we have been blessed with a high level of support from both the WA philanthropic and arts/culture communities. The quality of those we have been able to attract to the assessment panel for this first year is testament to the desire out there to help during these difficult times.

RA: The response to Arts Impact WA has been impressive with at least 20 local private foundations and donors pledging support, already underwriting the first three years of Arts Impact WA! Were you expecting such a strong response? Why do you think people are so keen to be involved?

PC: From previous experience with Impact100 WA, we knew sustainability would initially be an issue, so members of the committee reached out to our contacts asking for support. This led to 25 foundations/families/individuals offering to support us for 3 years for amounts between $5-10k to help make the organisation sustainable.

In total we now have at least $170k per year committed from our “Founder Champions” to help us establish a strong base for the organisation. We’re now looking to our $1k donors to help us build our support base and hopefully build an organisation of substance that will continue to have impact into the future.

Our initial target was $50k a year, so I believe the current level of commitment shows how compelling our case is. COVID-19 has caused massive changes in our community and our mindset, and I believe the true value of our arts and cultural sector is now being appreciated as never before.

RA: The focus of Arts Impact WA’s funding support is on working artists and smaller cultural organisations. Why is that?

PC: Our aim is to back courageous and talented West Australian artists and arts organisations to realise ambitious and unique projects that benefit our local community. With high-impact grants of $100k, we’re supporting unfunded excellence at a grassroots level to help create real impact. Small to medium organisations are one of the most important sources of cultural and artistic diversity, as well as an incredibly vibrant and innovative part of the sector.

Although for many this is a massive amount of money, we could not create real impact with these grants if we were open to projects from larger organisations.

RA: Grants have opened and the deadline is 7 February 2022. Who would you encourage to apply?

PC: We are looking for artists that have a professional track record of a minimum of 3 years, and organisations with a turnover of less than $3m p.a. Potential applicants can now look on our website for more information including our eligibility guidelines. We encourage our applicants to think big and to be ambitious. Those projects that create the greatest impact and best outcomes for our WA community have the best chance of success.

RA: A successful applicant will be awarded $100 000. What is the assessment process, how are you ensuring a rigorous and transparent process for the allocation of these funds? 

PC: Initial applications are relatively brief as we don’t want to ask for lots of information up front. We have an assessment panel comprised of 12 members from the arts and philanthropic sectors (our panel changes each year). The panel creates a shortlist and these applicants (6-10max) will be asked to complete a full-length application, including financials, which will then be further scrutinised.

The finalists will then be asked to host or attend an event with any interested donors, so they can find out more about the project prior to the grant awards night.

At the grant awards night, each of the finalists will make a short final pitch to the donors (with the support of a pitch-making 101 session with our partners at the Centre for Entrepreneurial Research and Innovation). The donors then vote to decide who will be awarded the grant(s).

We are confident that we will award 2 x $100k grants this year and our big dream is to give away 3 grants, if we can garner enough support in the coming months.

RA: What do you think the impact on the arts sector will be, with $200-300k of extra funding going into the industry each year?

PC: We hope our grants will be a catalyst to provide greater opportunities for collaboration and employment to our creative sector workers.

Our experience with Impact 100 WA has shown that, if enough impact is created by these grants, other philanthropists and the Government become more interested, as the projects have a proven track record and are therefore less risky for them to invest in.

Overall, we hope that this leads to more opportunities and more engagement with the sector, enabling us to hold on to talented West Australians as well as making it more attractive for them to return.

RA: Do you have a favourite art form? (I am guessing it is the visual arts as you have a collection of work by various street artists, and you are also the Chair of the AGWA foundation council!).

PC: Rock music was my first great passion and I attended concerts and festivals from a relatively young age when living in Bristol. There was no shortage of opportunity and some weeks I would go to three separate gigs (I still remember fondly my first backstage visit with Thin Lizzy at the age of 18). Since moving into my first home, I developed an interest for the visual arts as I wanted something interesting to hang on the walls and make my house a home. I loved the surrealists, particularly the works of Salvador Dali from my early 20’s and enjoyed visiting galleries whilst travelling.

My passion for Street Art really started after visiting the “Banksy vs Bristol Museum” exhibition in 2009 and experiencing first-hand the community impact created by the Upfest and See No Evil festivals in 2011. This led directly to my involvement with FORM, initially with PUBLIC.

Developing friendships with a number of Australian and international artists over the years meant that I had an opportunity to engage more broadly with the arts and to marvel at their incredible creativity and skill. I am fortunate to own works by a number of artists, many of whom it has been my privilege to spend time with. From an emotional and economic perspective, I have witnessed the positive impact these talented individuals have had on the community and, through Arts Impact WA, I hope others have the same opportunity for engagement and access as I have been able to enjoy.

Apply for a grant or become a donor at Arts Impact WA.

Seesaw Magazine is an exclusive media partner of Arts Impact WA.

Pictured top: The founding committee of Arts Impact WAare L-R: Iris Koornstra, Jimmy Murphy, Paul Chamberlain, Kendell Terrell and Rob Morrison. Photo: Adam Nalapraya.

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Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She was co-managing editor and founding board member of Seesaw Magazine 2018 – 2023, is author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine (UK). She loves park percussion instruments.

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