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10 - 12 July 2020


CIAF…creating income for artists and Art centres

14 July 2018

My view submission by Vanessa Gillen, General Manager, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair

With kick off to our ninth annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) just a week from now, we are well and truly at the ‘business’ end of preparations and therefore its timely to highlight our event and the significant impact it makes – not just to the economy but the artists and performers it showcases.

While events are about activating a destination, highlighting a person, place or thing – they are also about celebration and instilling goodwill in a community. CIAF is about heightening profiles, nurturing talent and keeping local businesses in business.  And while it takes a good deal of money – all praise to our wonderful funding organisations, corporate partners and donors – to present an annual event - it is not what we ‘make’ but ‘give back’ that is a measure of our success.

And when it comes to money and CIAF there does seem to be a misconception in the community that I wish to address before we head off to Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal tomorrow and put the finishing touches in place.

The misconception relates to the amount of money CIAF has to work with.  I was chatting to someone the other day who made the comment to me that CIAF was so lucky to be both well-funded by government in addition to its lucrative sales from art generated each year.   While this is true, in terms of art sales – it is actually untrue to believe this is CIAF’s money to keep and use.  Understandably I was surprised by this comment when all the money generated by art sales is returned to the art centres and artists, not CIAF.

Key to our strategic plan is how CIAF supports and develops the artistic movement of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples using a focussed and long term, global perspective.

Our strategic plan states, “CIAF is a public interface for Indigenous artists from around the state, providing an opportunity to extend their skills, promote their culture, and sell art work in an ethical environment. The event offers participants and visitors a celebratory and authentic experience of Indigenous cultural exchange, presenting an integral element of life in Queensland.”

Since inception nine years ago, CIAF has generated strong outcomes locally and nationally. In the past five years, over 185,000 people have participated and/or attended CIAF; over 1,000 Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists have been represented; over $2.9 million in Queensland Indigenous art has been sold; and approximately $7.29 million has been injected in to the Queensland economy.

In 2015 CIAF attracted 50,000 visitors/participants and generated over $350,000 in artist revenue and in 2016 had 51,207 visitors and generated $630,000 in sales.  Last year 47,700 people were recorded attending CIAF events while art sales increased by 20 per cent from 2016 sales to tally $760,000. Notably, major acquisitions were made by the National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Logan City Council and the Premier of Queensland.

These sales, with exception of opening night and fashion performance revenue, is wholly returned to the artists and art centres. CIAF Is funded to present these events and our earned revenue of course is not nearly enough to create the extraordinary event that provides a platform for Queensland artists and performers to shine.  Yes, money talks but we all know that outcomes should not always be valued in this way.  For instance, CIAF has provided a platform of opportunity to many artists and art centres.  In 2015 Pormpuraaw Art Centre received an invitation and achieved funding take their incredible ghost net artists to Monaco and around the world. 

When all is considered, it is hard to ignore the facts and stats – CIAF is a worthwhile event whose success has not happened by chance but the dedication and effort of its committed and passionate Board and team.   When it was launched in 2009 by Arts Queensland it was fully funded by the state but paused in 2013 to become a non-profit organisation with a Board of Directors who now steer the organisation and oversee its management and sustainability.  Fundraising, corporate partnerships and resourceful management of limited funds are all priorities for the day to day running of CIAF both now and well into the future.  It’s not easy and it’s no mean feat.

Utilising valuable research and the benefit of experience we have drawn from the state’s plethora of talent, both emerging and established, traditional and contemporary, to create an all-inclusive event that shines the spotlight on Queensland’s cultural riches while plugging into its drive for cultural tourism.

CIAF is at a stage where its reputation precedes it.  All of a sudden, we have people and organisations coming to us, asking to share our limelight.  This year we have welcomed several new corporate partners while providing a vibrant platform for peak Indigenous arts organisations like Screen Australia and APRA to meet and discuss issues impacting their industry’s future.  

The beauty of CIAF is in its broad appeal and single ability to embrace people from many cultures.   Ours is an event that provides a harmonious environment resonating with goodwill and cultural integrity.  We take pride in offering a joyful, sharing experience that hits as many high notes for locals and visitors as it does for the world’s most discerning Indigenous art collectors and curators.

CIAF begins next week with satellite events underway from Tuesday 10 July.   For more, www.ciaf.com.au



Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Ltd is a not-for-profit company with Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) and Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC) Status. All donations to the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) are greatly appreciated and will contribute to CIAF operational costs. Your support assists CIAF in continuing to attract and nurture national and international recognition for the appreciation of the vital cultural contribution of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

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