In our last edition we interviewed Sam Gold: Bachelor of Contemporary Art graduate and recipient of two Helpmann Academy grants. Like me, a financially-deprived student pursuing a creative career, your ears may have pricked at the word ‘grant’. I looked into what it was all about, and discovered that Adelaide’s growing rep’ as a thriving artistic hub owes a lot to Helpmann Academy.
Helpmann Academy was established in 1994, in honour of Sir Robert Helpmann, an internationally-recognised actor and dancer from Mount Gambier. It was, and still is, the only Australian non-for-profit organisation specifically designed to support final-year students and graduates in creative disciplines. While Helpmann’s career spanned fifty years, his legacy will likely last much longer. In 2018, Helpmann Academy assisted over 460 students, and the support it provides continues to expand.
Olivia Power, the Academy’s Marketing and Engagement Manager, is one of just five personnel operating Helpmann Academy. Olivia and the rest of the team are passionate about the arts, and that’s exactly what underpins the organisation’s success in bridging the gap between study and professional careers. Without financial support, many would never successfully make this transition, so Helpmann Academy also help students and graduates draft their applications; whether its for the Academy’s own grants or for other institutions. “Writing a grant application isn’t necessarily something people learn at uni, but when they’re in the arts, they have to. It’s an absolutely essential skill for any creative practitioner,” Olivia tells me.
Financial support is just one type of assistance provided by Helpmann Academy. Through its many events and exhibitions, emerging artists can form connections with one another, and gain practical advice and affirmation. “That’s part of what we do, we acknowledge that it’s a valuable pursuit, it’s a valuable contribution to our society, to pursue a career in the arts,” said Olivia. She, along with the rest of the small team behind Helpmann Academy, also encourage people to come in for a chat. They’re there to help students and graduates navigate what isn’t “a very linear pathway.”
Thanks to Helpmann Academy, as well as her brilliant work that earned her the top undergraduate prize in the 2019 Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition, Sam Gold is currently undertaking a six-month residency at George Street Studios. Yusuf Hayat and Tamara Baillie are another two UniSA graduates that received rare opportunities through Helpmann Academy. Last year, they both completed three-month residencies at the British School in Rome, one of the Italian capital’s most prestigious foreign academies. Other international residencies offered by Helpmann Academy include a visual arts placement in New Delhi, India, and a handcraft placement in Jingdezhen, China; which is widely considered the porcelain capital of the world.
Until this year, Helpmann Academy have only financially supported tertiary final-year students and graduates in disciplines of visual arts, theatre, dance, music and film; for UniSA students, only those who have studied a Bachelor of Contemporary Art (formerly Bachelor of Visual Arts). However, the grants have recently been extended to a long list of degrees across all of South Australia’s four tertiary institutions. Under the UniSA banner, that includes media arts, performing arts, creative writing, illustration, animation, screenwriting and stagecraft.
Substantial financial support is only eligible to final year, or recently graduated, students in one of these disciplines at a South Australian tertiary institution. However for emerging students that don’t fit into this category, there’s a bunch of masterclasses and seminars offered throughout the year. They’re on a variety of topics, such as maintaining resilience and wellbeing in the struggling lifestyle of a creative, designing kickass social media to complement your work, or hearing from those who have successfully developed their practices into careers. These events are free for students of the disciplines listed above, or just $10 for anyone else.
To find out more, and to keep up with the awesome opportunities on offer, check out helpmannacademy.com.au and sign up to their mailing list. Or, drop them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words by Annabel Bowles
Photo by Georgia Matthews