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Arts Tasmania - History

The formation of an agency

The agency name Arts Tasmania was created in 1991, but the catalyst for getting there started back in 1985 when the then Director of the Tasmanian Arts Advisory Board (TAAB) outlined options to the then Minister for the Arts to regularise the TAAB’s position under the State Service Act. The Director’s recommendations included; the establishment of a new department; independent agency status; inclusion of the board in the Department of Premier and Cabinet or under the Education Department’s agency; and more staff to assist the board.

Tasmanian Parliament debated these matters and in the following year it asked for a clear distinction between the work done by the board and the work done by the director of the board that was outside of the parameters of the board but directly related to the administrative functions carried out for the Minister for the Arts. In the first instance it was suggested that was to be done by using separate letterhead, one with ‘Tasmanian Arts Advisory Board’, the other with ‘Office of the Director, Tasmanian Arts Advisory Board’ written on it. The Secretary of the Tasmanian Department of Public Administration weighed into the debate showing concern of the legal implications of doing this and suggested that ‘a legal opinion’ be sought from the Solicitor-General in relation to the TAAB Act 1975 and Tasmanian State Service Act 1985.

In late 1986, due to the non-resolution of inadequate staffing for the board and ambiguities as to the position of staff working for the board or for the Minister for the Arts, the Department of Public Administration reviewed the ‘Office of the TAAB’ and a cabinet submission was prepared. But it wasn’t until 1989 that these matters were resolved with the formation of the ‘Office of the Arts’ as a separate entity to the TAAB.

Then in 1991, the agency name ‘Arts Tasmania’, was created and used as an umbrella name by the Tasmanian Government when referring to the TAAB, and the Office of the Arts within the Department of Education and the Arts. The name was publicly launched, along with a newsletter and brochure of the same name, on 18 December 1991 by the Minister for the Arts. The title, Office of the Arts, lasted until late 1992, upon which Arts Tasmania has been used thereafter.

Some of the significant projects and policy development undertaken by Arts Tasmania

In 1993, Arts Tasmania co-produced, in conjunction with ABC TV, Fridge Door, a 13-week half hour series on the arts in Tasmania, with some segments shown nationally on ABC’s Review arts program, as well as in sixteen Asian countries including Hong Kong and Indonesia and on Qantas flights.

In 1995, Arts Tasmania established a ‘World Wide Web site on the internet with the working title of the Tasmanian Cultural Web,’ and sought expressions of interest from parties wanting to be promoted through it. In the same year, an Arts Tasmania office was established for the first time in Launceston and staffed part-time, thereby providing more direct and cost effective services for northern artists and arts organisations.

In 1996, Arts Tasmania implemented the Wilderness Residency program in partnership with Parks and Wildlife Tasmania. Two residencies were initially offered and commenced in 1997 at Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair. The program instantly attracted great interest and continues today, but has been expanded to offer even greater opportunities for Tasmanian artists to respond to their unique natural environment. The program has supported many artists from diverse backgrounds with each artist responding to the experience of living and working in close proximity to the wilderness and heritage of Tasmania in very different ways. For a short period from 2006 until 2009, the program hosted a number of international artists from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Taiwan, Germany, USA and France.

Two new funding programs were explored in 1996/97 that continues to be operated today. First offered within the 1997 grant round was the Start-up grant program, a youth orientated policy allowing grants to be made to individual practitioners 26 years and under who had not previously received an Arts Tasmania grant to be used towards the purchase of essential equipment normally excluded from grant assistance, and in 1997, the TAAB discussed Artflight, a funding program offered by ArtsWA that assisted artists with travel costs, however Arts Tasmania didn’t implement its own travel assistance program until the launch of Artsbridge, in 1999 with a two-year financial partnership between themselves and international airline carrier Qantas.

In 1999, the Tasmanian Department of State Development conducted a cultural industry audit. The audit recognised the significance of the arts as a key contributor to the State’s economy and cultural life and in early-2000 the Cultural Industries Council of Tasmania (CIC) was established with the outcome being the development of an industry plan aimed at providing, ‘a clear direction for Tasmanian cultural industries for the following ten years.’ 

Also in 1999, after lengthy debate and review, the Tasmanian Premier announced the appointment of the ‘Film, Television, and Multimedia Council and Board’ and advertised for an Executive Officer. The Council, located within the Department of State Development, had an initial annual budget of $1 000 000 and essentially cut all film and screen funding from Arts Tasmania’s agenda. The new Government agency was to be called the Tasmanian Film, TV and Multimedia Office but was later changed to Screen Tasmania.

Other key areas of the arts explored by Arts Tasmania, and the TAAB, in the 1990s included: a Cultural Tourism policy, a Community Cultural Development fund titled the Creative Communities Fund, a Directions for the Arts paper, Youth Initiatives, Arts in Isolated Areas Strategy, New Technologies, a Tasmanian Theatre report, The Hodgman Report, A Crafts in the 90s review, a further review and public consultation for the Art for Public Building Scheme, and Youth Theatre report. It also advised on Film and Multi Media and Major Festival (1997) taskforces, and a major Arts Industry Audit.

In 2000, Arts Tasmania offered the Small Museums and Collections Program consisting of $50 000 in funding to create a new fund to assist with curatorial and collection management practices of smaller public and private collections and museums. 2000 also saw the first Aboriginal Arts Project Officer employed. 

arts@work was launched in September 2001 as part of the then Department of State Development, working from 27 Tasma Street, North Hobart. The creation of arts@work enabled a diversification into industry development from the traditional roles of Arts Tasmania: funding and policy advice. A presence was also established in Launceston and Burnie through arrangements with key partner organisations in both locations.

Notable initiatives developed between 2001 and 2014 include Young Designers Month, Design Island, Tasmanian Living Artists’ Week and Tasmanian Living Writers’ Week, the Tasmanian Monograph Series, Amplified, the COLLECT Art Purchase Scheme and smart map tasmania.

Recognising its industry development focus, in 2014 the activities of arts@work were integrated into the operations of Arts Tasmania with key ongoing management of the COLLECT Art Purchase Scheme, the public art program, Tasmanian Arts Guide and industry and professional development.

The first Arts Tasmania office was at 161 Davey Street. It moved from Davey Street in 2001 to 22 Elizabeth Street Hobart and once more in 2009 to 146 Elizabeth Street Hobart, where it is presently located. Currently, it houses an operational staff of over 20 people, provides office space for several arts businesses and also includes five artists’ studio spaces and two exhibition spaces.


(Executive Officers or Managers)

  • John Tydde – Executive Officer TAAB (1975–1976)
  • Alan Harvey – Executive Officer TAAB (1977-1979)
  • Jon Fogerty – Executive Officer/Director TAAB (1979–1983)
  • Lee Prince – Acting Director TAAB (1981-3) then Director TAAB (1984–1991)
  • Lynne Uptin – Joint A/Manager (1990-1991) then Manager (later Director) from (1991–2007)
  • Katherine Hough – Director, (2007– present)


(Tasmanian Arts Advisory Board (TAAB) and Arts Tasmania has come under)

  • Under direct Ministerial control of the Minister for the Arts from 1974 to 1989 
  • Department of Education and the Arts - 17 July 1989 - 27 March 1996 
  • Department of Education, Community and Cultural Development - 27 March 1996 - 6 May 1998 
  • Department of Education, Training, Community and Cultural Development - 6 May 1998 - 18 September 1998 
  • Department of State Development - 18 September 1998 - 9 August 2002 
  • Department of Tourism, Parks, Heritage and the Arts – 9 August 2002 – 5 April 2006
  • Department of Tourism, Arts & the Environment - 5 April 2006 - 11 February 2008 
  • Department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts - 12 February 2008 - 30 June 2009 
  • Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts - 1 July 2009 – 30 June 2014
  • Department of State Growth - 1 July 2014 – present