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Funding programs offer $1.25 million boost for COVID-affected sectors

Two street art festivals will help draw visitors into the city centre, increase spending with local businesses and showcase the talents of local artists, thanks to support from City of Newcastle.


The large-scale murals of Big Picture Fest will return to Newcastle in 2022 as one of 16 projects awarded a share of almost $800,000 through the City Centre and Darby Street Special Business Rate funding program, while the inaugural Little Festival will bring miniature street art to hidden locations across the CBD as one of 59 projects sharing in more than $450,000 of Community Support and Infrastructure Grants.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the funding being distributed across a range of grant programs will support industries hardest hit by COVID-19 and ensure that as restrictions continue to lift the city is ready to respond.

"City of Newcastle is committed to supporting our city as it emerges from the social and financial impacts of this pandemic and will continue to direct much-needed funds into developing opportunities in the local economy," Cr Nelmes said.

"Supporting initiatives such as Big Picture Fest and Little Festival will not only provide a welcome influx of commissions for artists, it will also drive visitors into the city centre, increase expenditure at local businesses and help create more vibrant, activated spaces throughout the course of the events and beyond."

Councillor Carol Duncan said Newcastle's arts sector had been hit hard by the impacts of COVID-19, with lockdown restrictions curtailing opportunities for creatives, visual and performing artists.

"Newcastle is known for its thriving arts scene, but the challenges presented by COVID-19, including the recent lockdown restrictions, have had a massive impact on our creative communities," Cr Duncan said.

"I can't wait to see our creative communities emerge from the lockdown to deliver some of the fantastic initiatives being supported by these funding programs."

Little Festival organiser Jacinta Fintan said the event would feature 40 tiny street art installations that would transform everyday city spaces into a canvas for storytelling and interaction, encouraging visitors to experience Newcastle on a different scale.

“City of Newcastle’s financial support for Little Festival has been a crucial step in turning my little idea into a brave new festival. After 18 long months of the pandemic flatlining the arts industry, it is really heartening to see bold and enterprising art funding underpin Newcastle’s arts recovery process.”

The Community Support and Infrastructure Grants assist a wide variety of projects across diverse funding streams including business façade improvements, recreational facility upgrades, sustainability and environmental programs and social inclusion initiatives. Arts, culture and heritage projects are also funded under this program, with successful applicants including the National Young Writers Festival, the next instalment in the Stories of Our Town documentary series, the Newcastle Music Festival and a multidisciplinary program of exhibitions and live events at The Lock-Up.

Special Business Rates are collected from businesses in Newcastle City Centre / Darby Street, Hamilton, Mayfield, New Lambton and Wallsend for the promotion, beautification and development of those precincts.

Other successful projects under this round of City Centre and Darby Street funding include the mouth-watering return of Newcastle Food Month, the inspiring creations of Chalk the Walk Newcastle, and a new project by Makers and Traders Newcastle.

Festival Director Katerina Skoumbas said Big Picture Fest is looking forward to bringing even more of Newcastle's personality out onto the streets.

"This art is for everybody. It's so important to reflect our local culture and to include the artists in this phase of change, a time when Newcastle's urban landscape is shifting. There are so many blank walls throughout the city that we pass on our daily commutes and when you turn that blank wall into a canvas, you bring colour, joy and life to the whole community."

Pictured above: Little Festival organiser Jacinta Fintan, Cr Carol Duncan, Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Big Picture Fest organiser Katerina Skoumbas in front of murals created by artists Sophia Flegg, Mitch Revs and Tom Henderson during last year's Big Picture Fest.


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