Belt-tightening to blame for fragile arts

The shock collapse of Kulcha, one of the State's oldest and most significant arts companies, has exposed the fragile state of the arts beneath the surface of Perth's party festival month.

Kulcha, the trading name of Multicultural Arts of WA, blamed its immediate closure yesterday on the shaky economy and the State Government's refusal to extend its funding.

The Oz Concert for Harmony Week next month and all other Kulcha events have been cancelled. Its Fringe World shows have been shifted to the Fremantle Arts Centre.

Kulcha, which has operated for 30 years, gets about $180,000 of its nearly $1 million turnover from the Department of Culture and the Arts.

The State Government last month rejected the Kulcha board's call for between $150,000 and $200,000 in extra funds.

Kulcha chief executive Jon Cope also cited a lack of support from the Office of Multicultural Interests and reduced sponsorship and philanthropy in the tightening economy.

"The big frustration is that this Government has committed to massive physical infrastructure projects but is not prepared to invest in social infrastructure," he said.

"Culture is the perfect mechanism for connecting people.

"Beneath the watery grave of Elizabeth Quay lie the skeletons of many great community organisations."

Based at its performance venue in Fremantle, the not-for-profit organisation has been the main promoter of multicultural arts in WA since starting in 1983 as the North Perth Ethnic Music Centre.

The Chamber of Arts and Culture said the closure should remind policymakers that many arts organisations were existing hand-to-mouth.

Chamber executive director Henry Boston said Kulcha was one of the few bodies mainstreaming multicultural voices at a time when the State's population was growing more diverse.

Singer-songwriter Gina Williams said Kulcha's closure meant one less venue for those "who don't fit the mould" in Perth.

"It seems we're great at supporting diverse artists who descend during Fringe and the Perth Festival but not so good when it comes to our home grown talent," she said.

Culture and the Arts Minister John Day said there had been no Government cuts to Kulcha, which was an independent organisation whose financial management was the sole responsibility of its board.

"Funding is intended to provide a base from which organisations can generate additional income to support their independently planned program of activities," Mr Day said.

The West Australian

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